Researching the Ecological Role of Red Wolves

The Wolf Conservation Center hosted Dr. Ron Sutherland of Wildlands Network on May 15, 2024 at 8 PM ET for a webinar about the potential ecological role of red wolves.

Despite the fact that red wolves were returned to the wild in North Carolina 8 years prior than gray wolves were returned to Yellowstone, we actually know far less about the potential ecological role of red wolves in southeastern ecosystems than we do about gray wolves out west. This discrepancy has major repercussions for conservation, as Canis rufus has been the target of active misinformation campaigns (e.g. "the wolves are eating all of the deer!") over the past decade that have left only around 20 red wolves left in the wild.

Wildlands Network stepped in to start studying the red wolf and its associations with other species back in 2015, the start of their long-term camera trapping program at Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuges. Led by Dr. Sutherland, the camera work has yielded some interesting insights (such as, deer remain quite common!) even as the red wolves fell perilously close to a second extinction in the wild. In 2020 and 2021, Wildlands Network also included bobwhite quail surveys in their fieldwork, as there is some chance the wolves actually protect the quail from otherwise overabundant populations of nest-raiding mesopredators like raccoons and opossums. Dr. Sutherland reviewed this exciting research and highlighted some new directions for field studies that could be undertaken now that the red wolf population is growing again.

About The Speaker:

Dr. Ron Sutherland serves as the Chief Scientist and Southeast Program Director for Wildlands Network, a conservation group dedicated to reconnecting, restoring, and rewilding nature across North America. A native of North Carolina, Ron received his BS in Biology from NC State, his MS in Conservation Biology from Wisconsin-Madison, and his PhD in Environmental Science from Duke University. In addition to his research and advocacy work with red wolves, which dates back to at least 2012, Ron has also helped lead Wildlands Network's wildlife corridor mapping and road ecology work. He also co-led a successful campaign to save the 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest from destruction.

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