PROTECTION STATUS: Listed in 1967 under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, the precursor to the Endangered Species Act; then listed as endangered when the Act was passed in 1973 (reintroduced population listed as an “nonessential experimental population” in 1986)

RANGE: Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, Washington and Beaufort counties in northeastern North Carolina

THREATS: Habitat loss, illegal killings and other human persecution, hybridization with coyotes

POPULATION TREND: Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild in 1980. In 1987 four captive pairs of red wolves were released in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County in northeastern North Carolina. The wild population steadily grew until 2006, when it reached its peak at 130 wolves, but then it began declining again —very rapidly in 2014. The next year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the population to be between just 50 and 75 individual wolves — and by the beginning of 2016, the agency stated it might be down to only about 45 wolves. There were 17 breeding pairs in the wild in 2012, but by 2015 there were only seven pairs.

Red wolf photo by B. Bartell, USFWS