January’s full moon is named for the wolves that hunt both prey and mates at this time of the year. But Wolf Moon is the closest to any kind of wolf you’ll see in this neck of the woods, though it hasn’t always been so.
Red wolves once roamed the coastal prairie. Archaeological evidence shows the original range of the red wolf was throughout the Southeast, including the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, and into central Texas. In 1973 in an effort to save the breed from extinction a captive breeding program was begun by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Out of 400 animals captured in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas from 1973 to 1980, only 17 were identified as full-blooded red wolf. The others were either coyotes or coyote/ red wolf hybrids. In 1986 the wildlife agency began a reintroduction program in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, releasing four male-female pairs. Since then the experimental population has grown and the recovery area has expanded to include 1.7 million acres of land with an estimated 150 wolves. The total estimated red wolf population today is around 300, though most are in captivity. Whether the red wolf survives or not only time will tell.
Looking around at the heavy urban development in this area it is hard to imagine a time when the red wolf roamed. We get hints of what the area was like pre-development from places like nearby Armand Bayou Nature Center, the Nassau Peninsular, and the Dr. Ned and Fay Dudney Nature Center. And on nights like this, when the Wolf Moon is rising, if you listen quietly you can faintly hear the melodious howls of the red wolf calling.