Here at the end of the trail you may sometimes hear a faint howling of red wolves. The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the world's most endangered canids. Once common throughout the eastern and south-central United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the early part of the 20th Century as a result of intensive predator control programs and the degradation and alteration of the species' habitat. The red wolf was designated an endangered species in 1967, and shortly thereafter the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated efforts to conserve the species.
A remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana. In 1973, red wolves were declared an endangered species. Efforts were initiated to locate and capture the remaining wild wolves found in the Louisiana and Texas coast area
Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful captive breeding program. The founding red wolves had to be a pure bred species, meaning not a mixed breed of wolf and coyote. Consequently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.
By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program by reintroducing them on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres. Today, in July 2014, there are approximately 100 red wolves living in the wild.
Today, more than 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina, and nearly 200 red wolves are maintained in captive breeding facilities throughout the United States. During summer months, the refuge provides opportunities to howl with the wolves during the Wednesday evening howling program.