Red Wolf Re-Introduction: The 5-County Area

My last post about red wolves ended on the topic of re-introduction into the wild. In 1987, four breeding pairs were released at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR), located in eastern North Carolina. This was a monumental step in the recovery program for the species; if these 8 individuals were successful at holding territories and reproducing, there was a good chance that a wild population of red wolves could be established once again. To improve the odds of their success, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) set up a 5 County Recovery Area that they could monitor closely while this new wild population grew and established itself.

This area was based around ARNWR and includes the counties of Dare, Hyde, Tyrell, Washington and Beaufort. The original concept of the re-introduction was to have the wolves first establish themselves in the county furthest east (Dare County), and move westward into other counties as their population grew. This would allow the USFWS to monitor the red wolves more closely as they moved, as opposed to having them scattered throughout all 5 counties at once. It also made it easier to deal with coyotes in these areas (usually by removal or spay/neuter) as the red wolves pushed over, since interbreeding of the two species would be detrimental to the recovery program.

So far the re-introduction plan has produced good results, and the wild red wolf population has grown to over 100 individuals that now inhabit about one and a half million acres! Although it is unknown how many red wolves the entire area can sustain, there is hope for more growth. The 5 County Recovery Area is also split into three different zones that the USFWS uses to reference the movements of the population instead of using the county names. Below is a map of the recovery area split into the three zones. Try to compare it with the map above and figure out which county is in each zone!

5 County Recovery Area map courtesy of

Adaptive Management Zones map courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Red Wolf Recovery Program.

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