North Carolina is the only place in the world where you can find red wolves in the wild. They once roamed the entire eastern seaboard from New York State to Texas. Due to habitat destruction but most importantly killings, the species is on the brink of extinction. They were listed in 1973 as an endangered species. So in the 1980s the US Fish & Wildlife service gathered close to 20 pure red wolves and created a breeding program. By the late 80s there were enough wolves to be released. The area was in the eastern part of the state, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
The 23rd of April, my birthday, a friend of mine, Tim Faulkner & I decided to take the day off and spend it out photographing wildlife. We set our sights on Alligator River NWR. The goal anytime I head east is to photograph a Red Wolf, or at least see one. Like usual we were skunked for most of the morning. Only seeing a few songs birds and other small mammals. So just before noon we decided to take HWY 264 and try our luck at Lake Mattamuskeet. We began our trek down the 264 looking for all kinds of wildlife.
As we began to close in on Lake Mattamuskeet, we came around a small curve in the road and I noticed something in the field to our right. My first thought was a deer due to its size but almost instantly I released this was no deer. Then I saw it, the large collar around it's neck. "Red Wolf!" I exclaimed. We pulled over to the side of the road, grabbed our cameras and started photographing him.
When we exited our truck, he crouched down to hide. He stood still for a few moments hoping we would move our way. When we didn't he eased up to the top of a canal and ran down it. Knowing this may be my only opportunity at photographing a wolf in the wild, I kept photographing.
This was one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had while photographing wildlife. Definitely one of my bucket list shots. I've been photographing wildlife in the eastern part of the state since I was around 10, started pretty heavily around 2011. I will keep making my trips east & I hope I will see more wolves but their future is in jeopardy. We need to help them as much as possible. Here are couple links you can learn more about Red Wolves and you can donate to the Red Wolf Coalition. So if you're ever in the area, I wish you the best of luck & I hope you can have an experience like we did.
These images, are why I photograph. To help educate & inspire you to explore, respect and help create an appreciation of our beautiful world.