Red Wolves In The Winter (Staying Warm, Finding Food, Surviving)

The red wolf (Canis rufus)is a rare species found only on the North American continent. Due to habitat loss and excessive hunting, the canid’s wild population is now limited to the eastern Albermarle peninsula in North Carolina.

There was a time when the historical range of the red wolf reached the cold areas of the US and Canada.

One might wonder: How would the red wolf fare in cold regions? Do they have the capabilities to survive the harsh environment? Are there behavioral changes among red wolves when it comes to the habitat they live in? These are just some of the questions we’ll answer in this article.

Join Floofmania in discovering the behavior, adaptations, and skills the red wolf possesses in order to survive the winter and thrive in cold habitats. Let’s get started.

Do Red Wolves Live In The Cold?

The red wolves’ current habitat (North Carolina) still gets the occasional snow during winter. Temperatures can drop below 30°Farenheit on a bad day. This is not a problem for the red wolf, though, as they have skills and behaviors that can help them adapt to the environment.

There was once a time when red wolves lived in cold climates up north. Packs of red wolves were living as far as Canada and across the US mainland up to the early 1900s.

Moreover, DNA studies have shown that the red wolf is closely related to the Canadian Eastern wolf. It seems that red wolves were indeed interacting and breeding with other wolf species in the north.

The red wolves of today prefer the warm, temperate climates in the southeast parts of North America (with the seasonal snow). In fact, due to overhunting and loss of habitat, there are only a few red wolves left in the wild. 

Are Red Wolves Active In The Winter?

Yes, red wolves are very active during winter. The cold nights and days of the winter season are treated as another regular working day by the red wolves. They are even more active during this time of the year than during summer, spring, or fall.

As a matter of fact, these nocturnal animals can even be seen during the daytime hunting for prey in winter

The winter season is also special among red wolves. The cold months signal the adults in the pack that it’s time to make baby red wolves! Red wolves breed during the winter season and pups are born in spring.

Do Red Wolves Like Cold Weather?

Well, we don’t know if red wolves actually like the cold weather. However, these canids are surely active during this time. What we know is red wolves love to hunt when the area is covered in snow. Why? Their prey has nowhere to hide!

How Do Red Wolves Deal With Cold Climates?

Red wolves are very resilient and can survive even the harshest winters. The animals are highly adaptable whatever the climate and environment they are in. As you can see below, their ways of adapting to different climates are entirely different and unique when you compare them to other mammals.

Do Red Wolves Hibernate?

Red wolves do not hibernate. They are carnivores that stay active during cold winter nights in search of food. Instead of hibernation, the usually nocturnal canid changes its behavior and becomes active during the day as well in order to compensate for the shorter days in winter. 

Do Red Wolves Migrate To Warmer Places In Winter?

There are two answers to this question. Like other wolf species, red wolves do not migrate to protect themselves from the cold.

The canids are not in any way, affected by the cold. They stay within their territories during the winter as long as there is food available. However, if food becomes scarce, they will migrate to warmer places just because there are more prey animals there.

How Are Red Wolves Adapted For The Cold?

Wolves in general are extremely well adapted to cold climates. The red wolf is not an exception. The canid has acquired various ways to counter the cold through millions of years of evolution.  

Do Red Wolves Grow Thicker Fur In Winter?

Red wolves do, indeed, grow thicker coats in the winter to adapt to the colder season. In addition, their fur actually holds the secret to how red wolves are adapted to the cold, among other abilities. (Keep reading…) 

The Secret To How The Red Wolf Copes With The Cold

The Red Wolf’s Fur

The red wolf’s fur has two layers. These layers play a very important role in protecting the animal from the cold.

  • The outermost layer is called the guard hair. This layer is composed of hairs that are about 4 inches in length. The guard hair protects the animal from the chilly effects of snow, wind, and rain, making its fur more water and windproof.
  • The secondary or inner layer of the fur is called the undercoat. This thick, soft layer acts as an insulator that retains body heat and keeps the red wolf warm despite the cold environment.

In the video below, the pair of red wolves seem unaffected by the cold. Look at the cute wolf licking the snow from its partner’s fur—just like a popsicle!

The Red Wolf’s Paws

The red wolf’s paws protect the animal from the intense cold. Their paws are rich in blood vessels which help in regulating the temperatures especially when the ground is freezing. 

To fully understand how this works, it is best to know how frostbite occurs. The animal’s body naturally reacts to the cold environment by narrowing the blood vessels. There will be a shifting in the flow of warm blood to the more important internal organs which prevents the lowering of temperature to dangerous levels. 

In other animals, including humans, the shift in blood flow leaves the limbs unprotected and is followed by the freezing of the fluids. When the fluids in the feet are converted into ice crystals, the tissues and cells will be deprived of oxygen—thus the frostbite effects.

This doesn’t happen in red wolves and other canines. The shifting of blood flow has minimal effects on these animals. Due to the rich and extensive network of blood vessels in their paws, a process called counter-heat exchange occurs. 

Instead of decreasing the flow to the red wolves’ limbs, the opposite happens. Thus, there will always be a rich supply of warm blood to protect their feet. Happy feet for the red wolves!

Moreover, if you look closely at the red wolf’s paws, they have a wider area compared to other wildlife animals. This provides the wolf an advantage in running through the snow when chasing its prey.

Check out this video in which the red wolf is playfully scent-rolling in the snow. The cold does not seem to bother him!

Do Red Wolves Change Their Color In Winter?

Well, it would be cool if red wolves could change their fur color every time the season changes. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The red wolves retain their tannish brownish to reddish coat color all year long. 

When wolves do change their fur color, it is due to the following reasons:

  • Aging
  • Stress 
  • Injuries
  • Genetics

The only time the fur color of red wolves changes naturally is when they age. Older wolves will gradually lose their dark color as they grow old. The reddish tint on their fur is replaced by a greyish to white color.

Stress is said to be the biggest contributing factor to why the fur color of wolves changes. Young red wolves that have undergone a lot of stress or injuries are said to change their fur color as a response to their situation. 

Fun fact: There’s one “red animal” that changes its coat color during the winter season— and it’s the red fox.

Can Red Wolves Get Frostbite, Or Seriously Affected By The Cold?

Nope, red wolves do not get frostbite or get seriously affected by the cold. Their paws protect them from extreme temperatures. According to scientists, the reason for the canines’ frostbite immunity is the placement of their blood vessels on their paws.

The arteries and veins at the animals’ paws are closely situated to each other. As a result, the temperature at the feet remains balanced and is rarely affected by the environment.

The continuous flow of warm blood prevents frostbite. This ability also protects the red wolf from losing too much body heat because the majority of heat regulation is just concentrated on the limbs. 

What Do Red Wolves Eat In The Winter?

Red wolves are mostly carnivores that eat other animals—almost exclusively. Their staple food is rodents, rabbits, and raccoons with the occasional berries and insects which are readily available all year but become scarce during the winter

Their diet will change during the winter. When their staple food is not available, the red wolves will switch to opportunistic mode and will prey upon other meat sources—even fish, birds, and carrion

They will also try to hunt larger prey like deer, moose, and elk. These animals are too large for a single red wolf to take down; which is why red wolves more commonly hunt in packs during the winter.

Will Red Wolves Fatten Up Before The Cold Months?

Unlike their larger and bulkier cousins, red wolves do not purposely fatten up before the cold months. They also only require about 2 to 5 pounds of meat daily to keep up with the spent energy.

In general, the choice of prey of the red wolf prevents it from “over-feasting” and getting too fat. Very rarely will they hunt large prey and will just stick with the easy-to-catch smaller animals.

Author: Jomvie Reyes

Jomvie has been a writer for over 10 years and animals and wildlife are among his favorite topics. Learning and writing about the vast and diverse wildlife from all over the world, is more of a hobby than a job for him. Jomvie loves to watch and observe these remarkable species up close and personal.

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