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The Secret World of Red Wolves

The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America's Other Wolf

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Secret World of Red Wolves
    Book Description:

    Red wolves are shy, elusive, and misunderstood predators. Until the 1800s, they were common in the longleaf pine savannas and deciduous forests of the southeastern United States. However, habitat degradation, persecution, and interbreeding with the coyote nearly annihilated them. Today, reintroduced red wolves are found only in peninsular northeastern North Carolina within less than 1 percent of their former range. InThe Secret World of Red Wolves, nature writer T. DeLene Beeland shadows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's pioneering recovery program over the course of a year to craft an intimate portrait of the red wolf, its history, and its restoration. Her engaging exploration of this top-level predator traces the intense effort of conservation personnel to save a species that has slipped to the verge of extinction.Beeland weaves together the voices of scientists, conservationists, and local landowners while posing larger questions about human coexistence with red wolves, our understanding of what defines this animal as a distinct species, and how climate change may swamp its current habitat.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0808-2
    Subjects: Zoology, Biological Sciences, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Part I. The Red Wolf Today

    • CHAPTER 1 Red Wolves of the Albemarle Peninsula
      (pp. 3-15)

      Red wolves are cryptic animals. Some people believe they arose as a unique New World canid and loped through southeastern North America. To them, these mysterious creatures are living symbols of the region’s diverse natural heritage. Other people believe that red wolves are man-made constructs of nature that have interbred, for an unknown period of time, with another maligned and often misunderstood canid: the common coyote. Like wolves the world over, red wolves bear the burden of people’s myths and misinformation about them. Folklore has taught us that wolves are cunning killers, yet red wolves are viewed as unnaturally meek....

    • CHAPTER 2 A Morning at Sandy Ridge
      (pp. 16-28)

      It’s only sunup, but if I’m lucky, I might see my first wild red wolf by sundown. My mind buzzes with anticipation. Golden, late-summer morning light licks at the coastal marshes surrounding Roanoke Island. Wide expanses of cord grass and black needle rush create a textured canvas for the sun’s amber rays. The low, beige marsh grass is punctuated by mounded islands of green scrub, pine trees, and hardwood hammocks. Their presence indicates changes in elevation and soil just substantial enough (probably only an inch or two) for trees to carve out a living in the estuary. In the distance,...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Search for Spring’s Pups
      (pp. 29-42)

      Springtime brings a flush of new leaves and new crop shoots to the Albemarle’s woods and farm fields. It also brings a new batch of red wolf puppies. For the biologists of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, puppy season is akin to one giant and protracted Easter egg hunt. The five-member field team fans out across the peninsula for six to eight weeks and searches for small, well-camouflaged treasures stashed expertly in the deep woods.

      Red wolves form pair bonds in January and then mate in February or early March, and some sixty days later, pups arrive in April or...

    • CHAPTER 4 Howling Summer Nights
      (pp. 43-50)

      One Wednesday evening in late August, I pull my car into the parking lot of the Creef Cut Wildlife Trail just off Highway 64 and find that it is packed with people. Sunset is only about thirty minutes away, and so is the secondto-last red wolf howling session of the year. A golden-pink hue soaks the surrounding trees in a warm glow. Though most of the visitors milling around don’t know it, the parking area connects to a network of gravel refuge roads that lead to the penned red wolves of Sandy Ridge. Families and couples stand in clusters by...

    • CHAPTER 5 Tracking and Trapping in the Fall
      (pp. 51-64)

      When the mercury and humidity slide downward at summer’s end, it signals the red wolf biologists’ return to the field. Trapping is central to their fall fieldwork. Usually they start in late September, but a long summer, a late fall onset, and a host of rain showers put them well behind schedule in 2010. When they finally get going, their first priority is to catch red wolves, and sometimes coyotes, that are wearing failing radio collars. Usually, the culprit is dying batteries. Later in the season, they target the puppies born the previous spring to fit them with radio collars...

    • CHAPTER 6 Winter’s Bite
      (pp. 65-80)

      In mid-November, I receive a text message from Ryan: “Another day, another dead wolf—actually, make that two. This has got to stop.”

      Since the start of deer-hunting season, everyone has been on edge waiting to see which wolves will survive and which will succumb to hunters’ bullets. Ryan takes the deaths especially hard. It has become difficult for him to keep his heart in his work because this time of year, there is just so much heartache. “We need some changes in the regulations to help red wolves survive,” he says when I call him that night. “They start...

    • CHAPTER 7 People of the Albemarle Peninsula
      (pp. 81-102)

      Today, the Albemarle Peninsula contains some of the poorer and more sparsely populated counties in the state. But this does not mean that the people here are without resources or a strong sense of community. Kelly Davis is a farmer’s wife in her early fifties who lives on the southern shores of Lake Mattamuskeet. Her husband, Blythe, is one of the many farmers in the area who grow field corn, soybeans, and winter wheat. In his fields, he fosters wild quail for hunting. Other crops in the region include cotton, cucumbers, string beans, cabbage, and sweet corn. Kelly is in...

  5. Part II. The Red Wolf Yesterday

    • CHAPTER 8 Tracing the Origins of Red Wolves
      (pp. 105-123)

      Three theories, each very different, have attempted to peg red wolves’ elusive origins. The first theory asserts that a prototype of the red wolf arose in Eurasia from a common ancestor shared with gray wolves. In this scenario, these proto–red wolves were early biological invaders into North America that then completed their speciation into what we now know as the red wolf in the Southeast’s forests. The originator of this theory is mammalogist Ronald Nowak. His concept is dubbed the unique-origin theory.

      In marked contrast, a second theory states that red wolves are a relatively recent product of hybridization...

    • CHAPTER 9 “Dogs of the Woods” and Their Decline
      (pp. 124-141)

      When Europeans first settled the Eastern Seaboard, they encountered wild, wolflike canids almost immediately. Sometimes they spotted them from their ships. The journals, letters, and books of these early explorers and colonists offer a snapshot of the New World’s rich flora and fauna. They wrote of deer, elk, hummingbirds, possums, raccoons, skunks, panthers, bears, bobcats and, yes, creatures they called wolves. In the Carolinas, most records mention wolves as an animal that existed somewhere in the background of life. They were heard “singing” from the woods more often than they were seen. Wolves, it seems, did not play a very...

    • CHAPTER 10 A Biologist’s Zeal for Recovery
      (pp. 142-156)

      Curtis J. Carley was a stickler for doing things right; “shortcut” was not in his lexicon. However much time and elbow grease a project took, that’s what he gave. Carley became involved with endangered species eight years into his Fish and Wildlife Service career. History rarely credits Carley for the groundwork he laid to save the red wolf, perhaps in part because he never sought praise. ButCanis rufusbenefited in a timely and dramatic way from Carley’s personality traits and knowledge. His meticulous attention to detail, systematic problem solving, and analytical critical thinking coalesced with his deep knowledge of...

    • CHAPTER 11 Wild Island Adventures
      (pp. 157-164)

      With the captive breeding program on firmer footing, Curtis J. Carley and the red wolf project team set their sights on broader horizons. He wanted to test reintroduction outcomes and come up with a safety net for ensuring that some of the wolves kept their wildness. After all, what was the point of investing time, money, and resources on breeding red wolves in captivity unless the Fish and Wildlife Service was sure the animals could be successfully reintroduced to the wild? Carley envisioned setting up a series of experiments to test release and tracking methods and to gauge the spectrum...

    • CHAPTER 12 North Carolina’s Reborn Native Wolf
      (pp. 165-195)

      The first time that Warren T. Parker laid eyes on a red wolf, it hung lifelessly from a federal trapper’s hands. It was the 1960s, and Parker was a new employee with the Fish and Wildlife Service. His first task was to survey wildlife of the Red River, so he spent three weeks at a stretch living the rough life deep in the bottomland forests of southwestern Arkansas near Texarkana. He worked from a canoe and curated his notes in a tent. The forest animals were his only companions. One day, as Parker counted birds along the Sulphur River, he...

  6. Part III. The Red Wolf Tomorrow

    • CHAPTER 13 The Long Road Ahead
      (pp. 199-212)

      Red wolves and humans are now inextricably, perhaps irrevocably, entwined. Humans were the cause of red wolves’ near demise, but we may also be the engine of their future survival. Our country’s early pioneers and settlers decimated what may have been the red wolf by transforming their forest habitat and pursuing them with wolf hounds, traps, poisons, and every sort of wolf-killing method imaginable. But concerned biologists, naturalists, and citizens also worked to save the last wild red wolves from sure extinction when hybridization and genetic swamping would have been the final death blow to their kind. Like the recent...

    • CHAPTER 14 A Dire Threat from the Sea
      (pp. 213-228)

      The area where red wolves are being restored is entirely flat, low-lying coastal habitat that is surrounded on three sides by sounds that connect to the Atlantic Ocean. Large swaths of the recovery area’s eastern section are no more than two or three feet above current sea level. If the sea rises in the future, as anticipated, what will happen to the red wolves of the Albemarle? The effects of sea-level rise here are not limited merely to higher water levels. Already, saltwater intrusion into the region’s extensive canal system is poisoning peat soils and transforming former forests to salt...

    (pp. 229-230)
    (pp. 231-242)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 243-256)