Although the red wolf (Canis rufus) was once found throughout the southeastern United States, indiscriminate killing and habitat destruction reduced its range to a small section of coastal Texas and Louisiana. Wolves trapped from 1973 to 1980 were taken to establish a captive breeding program that was used to repatriate 2 mainland and 3 island red wolf populations. We collected data from 320 red wolf releases in these areas and classified each as a success or failure based on survival and reproductive criteria, and whether recaptures were necessary to resolve conflicts with humans. We evaluated the relations between release success and conditions at the release sites, characteristics of released wolves, and release procedures. Although <44% of the variation in release success was explained, model performance based on jackknife tests indicated a 72-80% correct prediction rate for the 4 operational models we developed. The models indicated that success was associated with human influences on the landscape and the level of wolf habituation to humans prior to release. We applied the models to 31 prospective areas for wolf repatriation and calculated an index of release success for each area. Decision-makers can use these models to objectively rank prospective release areas and compare strengths and weaknesses of each.
Additional publication details
Predicting red wolf release success in the southeastern United States