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  • Writer's pictureWill Hedrick

The Red Wolf Crisis in North Carolina

A crisis is not an understatement. An estimated 15 red wolves are left in the wild (NC Wildlife Federation), and they are only found wild in a handful of counties in North Carolina.

Here's how we got to this point, what organizations across the United States are doing to help, and what you can do at home to help.

Red wolves roamed from Texas to New Jersey, down to Florida. However, settlers in the United States had different plans for this population of wolves.

Bounties were paid to hunters who would bring a wolf carcass to any magistrate in the city or town. Laws were passed that encouraged hunting of wolves. In 1818 a "War of Extermination" was declared in Ohio against wolves. Eventually, other states, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Colorado, followed suit as bounties were put on wolves.

"Civilians turned bounty hunters known as "wolfers" began killing ungulates in large numbers as bait, poisoning the meat in hopes of attracting unsuspecting wolves. It is estimated that between 1871 and 1875, this method killed thirty-four thousand wolves in Montana and Alberta alone. [38]"

*Quote from Wikipedia & Wise, Michael (Winter 2013). "Killing Montana's Wolves: Stockgrowers, Bounty Bills, and the Uncertain Distinction between Predators and Producers". Montana The Magazine of Western History. 63 (4): 53. JSTOR24419970. Retrieved 8 April 2021.

Before we knew it, the Red Wolf population had dwindled. Today, there is only a tiny population in five counties(Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington counties) of the Albemarle Peninsula of North Carolina.

Today, red wolves are critically endangered on the IUCN red list - the closest classification to extinction in the wild. In addition, they still face threats with habitat loss, gunshot mortality, and vehicle collisions.

However, there is hope.

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation is helping lead the charge on protecting, conserving, and reintroducing Red Wolves back into the wild. From trapping and relocating to partnering with other organizations and private landowners, NCWF strives to impact the Red Wolf population in North Carolina significantly. You can learn about all of their work here.


What can you do?

Connect with Red Wolves and their habitat.

In North Carolina, there are two wildlife refuges, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. There are educational opportunities at the Visitor Center, guided tours, and a wildlife drive where you can explore the refuge and potentially see Red Wolves in their natural habitat.

Support NCWF

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation has an extraordinary program dedicated to Red Wolves. Click here to donate and learn more.

Follow us at The Hedrick Project

We will announce Project NC soon - a project dedicated to bettering animal, human, and environmental life in our home state of North Carolina. We will choose our partners for this project soon and hope to have more announcements. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter to know when that project opens.


The Hedrick Project is a Charlotte, NC-based 501c(3) on a mission to better animal, human, and environmental life globally. We do this by using media and storytelling to raise awareness and fundraise for our extraordinary partner organizations.




Organizations mentioned:


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