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Are There Red Wolves in Arkansas?

The red wolf is one of the most threatened species in the United States, with fewer than 50 left in the wild. Conservation efforts must continue to be made to ensure that this species does not become permanently extinct.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history of red wolves in Arkansas and what conservation efforts are being made to help protect this endangered species. We’ll explore their habitat, behavior, and the challenges they face due to human activities. Join us as we learn more about the plight of the red wolf in Arkansas and how you can help the red wolf population.

Are There Red Wolves in Arkansas?

Red wolf staring
Red wolf staring | image by Jean via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

While the range of the red wolf historically covered Arkansas, they were extirpated from the state by the early 1940s so there are no wild red wolves in the state. The last red wolves lived in the Ozarks and were hunted and killed during the era in history when citizens were paid for killing wolves.

What States Have Red Wolves?

North Carolina is currently the only state with a wild red wolf population. Historically, the range of the red wolf included parts of Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

In 1980, the US Fish & Wildlife Service began a captive-breeding program with red wolves that were captured in 1973 to help save the species from extinction. The red wolves released in North Carolina, and any red wolves in captivity, are descendants of 14 wild red wolves captured in eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana along the Gulf Coast.

There are red wolves held in captivity at zoological parks and wildlife centers in 23 different states across the country, inside and outside of the historical range of red wolves. These captive breeding centers all work together with the Red Wolf Recovery Program to produce new wolf pups that can eventually be released into the wild.

What Types of Wolves Live in Arkansas?

Before their extirpation, the red wolf was the only type of wolf native to Arkansas. While the gray wolf is native to parts of the United States, Arkansas is not one of the states where you have been able to find the gray wolf- historically or presently.

Will Red Wolves Be Reintroduced to Arkansas?

Male red wolf staring
Male red wolf staring | image by Red Wolf via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Probably not. Red wolves, a species of wolf native to Arkansas, have been extinct in the state since the 1970s. Despite numerous efforts by conservationists and wildlife experts to reintroduce them back into the wild, it has proven difficult due to accidental shootings.

The resemblance to coyotes, far greater than the resemblance between coyotes and gray wolves, was a contributing factor to their initial extinction and has continued to make it difficult to re-establish the red wolf population. Hunters don’t hesitate to shoot what they think is a coyote because coyotes are notorious for the way they thrive and reproduce.

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Another factor that could make it difficult to reintroduce the red wolf to Arkansas is the habitat loss that has occurred over the last 75 years when they last lived there. Solitary creatures who prefer their distance from humans, red wolves need large habitats to survive.

What is The Red Wolf Recovery Program?

Captive male red wolf
Captive male red wolf | image by Red Wolf Recovery Program via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

The Red Wolf Recovery Program is a species recovery effort spearheaded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The first red wolves were released back into the wild in 1987 by the program, with the goal of restoring a self-sustaining population of red wolves to their historical range in the southeastern United States.

The program involves reintroducing captive-bred red wolves into portions of eastern North Carolina, which is the species’ core recovery area. The program has also tried to reintroduce red wolves in new areas, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As of today, the entire red wolf population is concentrated in eastern North Carolina and is estimated to be about 15 animals.

How Does a Red Wolf Look Different From a Coyote?

Red wolves are larger than coyotes, standing between 26 and 33 inches when measured at the shoulder. They have distinctive russet-colored fur on their back and sides, while the rest of their coat is usually gray or black. The tail has a dark tip.

In contrast, coyotes are typically smaller, with fur that is usually gray with some white on their throats. Their tails are black-tipped, but the underside is not yellow-brown like a red wolf’s. Furthermore, red wolves have long ears that set them apart from coyotes whose ears point forward and are usually shorter in length.

Finally, while coyotes often have a more slender, dog-like appearance, red wolves have a more robust frame. The red wolf’s dog-like howl, often done in unison, is quite distinct from the coyote’s higher-pitched yipping.

Is The Red Wolf Its Own Species?

It is important to note that the red wolf is a distinct species from coyotes, and differs significantly in size, appearance, and behavior. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to distinguish these two animals in order to help protect red wolves.

Two of the biggest threats posed to red wolves are how easily they are mistaken for coyotes and interbreeding with coyotes. While red wolves are taxonomically their own species, they are still similar enough to coyotes to breed with them.

Whether or not the red wolf was a standalone species or not was and is still hotly debated. However, recent research has revealed that the red wolf is indeed its own species, distinct from both coyotes and gray wolves. Scientists analyzing genomic data found that the red wolf diverged from other canids between 5 and 1 million years ago.

Are Red Wolves Aggressive?

Captive red wolf
Captive red wolf | image by Dave Pape via Wikimedia Commons

Red wolves are generally shy, reclusive animals that rarely interact with humans. Though they can be aggressive when defending their territory or cubs, they typically avoid contact with people.

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Reports of red wolf attacks against humans are extremely rare and usually involve a person provoking the animal. For example, if a person gets too close to a den site or attempts to capture or harm a wolf, it may become aggressive.

In some cases, red wolves may be mistaken for coyotes and killed in response to perceived livestock depredation. As with any wild animal, it is best not to approach them and always keep a safe distance away.

Focusing On The Future

The red wolf’s absence in Arkansas serves as an important reminder of the necessity of conserving and protecting endangered species. By understanding more about this animal’s behavior, genetic differences, habitat requirements, and range, we can all contribute towards protecting red wolves and their efforts to re-establish themselves in the wild.

When we work together, we may be able to ensure that future generations will have the chance to enjoy and appreciate this unique species in its natural habitat.