Red wolves are a genetically distinct species, according to a study published in late March by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Congress ordered the genetic testing because of claims that red wolves were no longer a distinct species due to their interbreeding with coyotes. This study settles the debate that red wolves, considered critically endangered, are a unique species and can be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The only habitat for red wolves in the wild is on the Albemarle Peninsula in Eastern North Carolina, home to less than 30 wolves. In 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a plan to reduce the wolves’ protected habitat by nearly 90 percent. This plan was blocked by a federal judge in November 2018, along with a proposal that would have allowed people to kill the wolves outside of their preserves.
Despite the small amount of wild wolves, there are over 200 red wolves in captivity around the country. A litter of six pups was born in Durham, N.C., on Earth Day. — By Jen Kirby