The red wolf (Canis rufus, formerly Canis lupus rufus) is a North American canid that once roamed throughout the Southeastern United States. Based on fossil and archaeological evidence, the original red wolf range extended throughout the southeast, from the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, north to Indiana and the Ohio River Valley and central Pennsylvania, and west to central Texas and southeastern Missouri. Historical habitats included forests, swamps, and coastal prairies, where it was an apex predator. The red wolf is morphologically midway between grey wolves and coyotes, and a 2011 genetic study indicated that it may be a hybrid species between grey wolves and coyotes. Re-analysis of this study coupled with a broader contextual analysis including behavioral, morphological and additional genetic information led to arguments that the red wolf is an independent species but has suffered from significant introgression of coyote genes likely due to decimation of red wolf packs with fragmentation of their social structure from hunting. The most recent comprehensive review (in October 2012) of the genetics studies concluded that the red wolf, eastern wolf, and gray wolf were three distinct species.
The red wolf was thought to be extinct in the wild by 1980. 1987 saw a reintroduction in northeastern North Carolina through a captive breeding program and the animals are considered to be successfully breeding in the wild.