Once occurring throughout the southeastern USA, red wolves were decimated by predator-control programs and habitat degradation. Remnant populations of red wolves were further threatened by hybridization with expanding coyote populations. To protect the red wolf from extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extirpated the red wolf in the wild and established an ex situ breeding program with plans to restore the species to a portion of its former range. Only 14 individuals would reproduce to become the founding ancestors of all red wolves existing today. Successful ex situ reproduction prompted a re-introduction of red wolves in northeastern North Carolina (NENC) in 1987. A second re-introduction was initiated in 1991 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but later terminated because of disease and low pup survival. The restored population of red wolves in NENC has expanded to included 90-110 wolves occurring over more than 6000 km2. Nearly 200 red wolves are maintained in more than 40 zoos/nature centers throughout the USA that participate in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan. The red wolf is federally listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and IUCN Critically Endangered D.
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