The beautiful red wolf, featuring a tawny and red coat, has been classified as critically endangered since the 1960s. Like other wolves in the dog family, the red wolves were aggressively hunted in the 19th and 20th centuries. The red wolf population rapidly dwindled down, with these animals only being found in southwestern Louisiana and eastern Texas. Between 1974 and 1980, conservationists stepped in, taking 14 red wolves and creating a captive population at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Washington State.
By 1980, the red wolves were declared completely extinct in the wild. Thankfully, captive breeding allowed a slow, steady increase of red wolves, and in 1987 scientists were able to release four pairs back into the Alligator River refuge. A few years later, in 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attempted to establish a red wolf population in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as part of their American Red Wolf Recovery Program. However, due to a low density of prey for the wolves to eat, the establishment failed and the wolves began moving out of the park in search for food.
In 1998, the remaining red wolves were taken out of the Smoky Mountains and placed in a North Carolina refuge. By 2006, the population in North Carolina peaked to about 130, however it has since declined to between 25 and 35 wolves. In the end of April 2021, the North Carolina Zoo housed the birth of three red wolf puppy litters. A total of 12 pups were born over the course of three days, from April 28 to April 30.
The N.C. Zoo has been an essential part of the efforts to save the red wolves from complete extinction. Since 1994, the zoo has successfully bred 48 wolves, and leads the conservation efforts around growing the wild population of red wolves, as well as the population under human care.
Secretary Reid Wilson of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources said in a press release, “Congratulations to the North Carolina Zoo for playing an essential part in the survival of this critically endangered species. These births are important because many of our wolves, once matured, have been moved to other breeding packs to continue to help bring this species back from near extinction. Our hope is that more and more red wolves can soon be placed into the wild.”
Be sure to keep an eye out on the zoo’s Facebook page for a public naming poll to name the pups of one of the litters. To help other animals like the red wolf, sign this petition to protect critical habitats and endangered species by demanding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rollback the changes made to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) during the Trump Administration.Whizzco