Cades Cove
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

the Red Wolf
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In 1991, the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced the red wolf to the Great Smoky Mountains. Only 350 red wolves remain in the world, and they roam free in the Great Smokies and the Alligator Wildlife Refuge in coastal North Carolina. Today about 25 animals live in the Park. They are not a threat to humans. Most of the red wolves live between Cades Cove and the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Adult red wolves weigh from 45-80 pounds. Although they do often have reddish cast, they can be gray, yellow, or black. Their diets include most anything from persimmons and insects to birds, small mammals, and an occasional deer. Raccoons and ground hogs are common prey.

Red Wolf Re-Introduction Centers of the Cove Area

 

 

Wolves are native to the Smoky Mountains. Hunting and habitat loss eliminated wolves from southern Appalachians in the late 1800s. While gray wolves survived in Canada and Alaska, the red wolf populations shrank until 1973. Then the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured the world's last 14 red wolves.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's red wolf program provides three release areas. Alligator National Wildlife Refuge, in coastal North Carolina has more than 70 red wolves. Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains is the second area. It has about 25 red wolves. The third site is in the selection process.

The Cades Cove reintroduction program began in 1991. Successes and setbacks mark the program. The wolves reproduced in the wild, and a few pups reached adulthood. A poacher killed one wolf, and another died of anti-freeze poisoning. Tracking studies show the wolves prefer areas outside the Park boundaries. If people in the surrounding communities do not support the effort, problems will follow.

It is difficult to see a red wolf. They are shy and nocturnal. Although rarely seen, people often hear them howl.

The red wolves are not pack-oriented like the gray wolf. Red wolves give birth to five to seven pups in April, but a few usually die. Parents raise the family together. As the pups mature, the family may remain together and appear to make a small pack. When hunting, they look for rodents, rabbits, groundhogs or raccoons. They also eat deer, taking the weaker animals.