The red wolf, once native to southern Indiana, could become extinct as soon as 2026. Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a report last month stating that there are now only 40 left in the wild.
Paul Strasser is the founder of The Red Wolf Sanctuary in Rising Sun — which no longer has red wolves. The last one died about eight years ago. There are now no red wolves in Indiana, not even in captivity.
“We’ve been doing this for 40 years," says Strasser. "People rarely have ever even asked about a red wolf because nobody knows about it and that’s the biggest problem.”
Strasser says there are a number of reasons why the red wolf’s numbers aren’t bouncing back. He says few facilities can afford an application to house red wolves other than zoos and they’re running out of space.
Strasser says releasing wolves into the wild is also often met with criticism.
“We need passion," he says. "We need people who have power or money or land to step up and say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to let this go extinct.’”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the agency is not doing interviews on the red wolf at this time, but it’s working on next steps for the species.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.