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Recovering a Species - The Red Wolf Part 1

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Published on May 4, 2011

This is the story of the red wolf, an animal nearly wiped off the face of North America by hunting, trapping, and human development.

In the 1700's, red wolves roamed free across most of the eastern and southeastern United States. The animal was almost hunted into extinction, and hybridization with coyotes threatened the few remaining pure wolves. By 1967 the red wolf was America's most endangered animal. So in the mid-1970's biologists began capturing the last remaining wolves in search of purebred animals before they were all lost. All they found were 17.

Using ingenuity and good science, biologists developed a captive breeding program and a plan to return red wolves to the wild. In 1987, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina was selected as the site for the wolves' return. The refuge had plenty of wild lands on which the wolves could roam and it was free of coyotes that could poison the genetic stock.

Nearly 30 years after a captive program began, almost 300 red wolves live in North America in zoos, breeding facilities, and in the wild. But as the wolf faces new threats of hybridization from migrating coyotes, and human development continues, so does the battle for existence. Challenges remain, but with the help of many people, efforts continue to bring the red wolf back from the brink of extinction.

For more information about the Red Wolf Recovery Program visit http://www.fws.gov/redwolf.html.

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