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Critically Endangered Red Wolf Pups Born at NC Zoo

This red wolf pup, just a few days old, was born April 21 at the North Carolina Zoo. (North Carolina Zoo)
This red wolf pup, just a few days old, was born April 21 at the North Carolina Zoo. (North Carolina Zoo)
May 13, 2020

ASHEBORO, N.C. -- The North Carolina Zoo has welcomed the birth of five red wolf pups, as part of its American Red Wolf Recovery Breeding program.

Zoo officials say the pups and their mother all are healthy. The species once roamed the continental United States, but the Albemarle Peninsula in northeastern North Carolina now is the only place in the world where red wolves can be found in the wild.

While these pups won't be released into the wild, Heather Clarkson, southeastern program outreach representative for the group Defenders of Wildlife, said future litters potentially could be fostered or adopted by wild packs to help boost this critically endangered species.

"Each new litter born in captivity is really exciting because, not only is it adding individual wolves to our total population, but with each new litter we're learning more about these animals," she said. "And then, we're also diversifying that genetic component."

With its new arrivals, the North Carolina Zoo's breeding program now is caring for 25 red wolves. There currently are around 240 wolves in captive breeding programs throughout the United States, but fewer than 20 remain in the wild.

The pups were named after plants native to North Carolina. The names for the males are Oak, Cedar and Sage, and the females are named Lily and Aster. Clarkson said red wolves, which typically have three to five pups per litter, have strong family bonds =- not unlike humans.

"What's really cool to me is the family aspect of wolves, and how the puppies stay with mom and dad," she said, "and that's something that we never see in domestic animals."

A 2016 poll by Defenders of Wildlife found 73% of North Carolinians say they support red wolf recovery. Clarkson added that hunting is a threat to the survival of the wild population, as red wolves often are mistaken for coyotes.

More information is online at nczoo.org, and the Defenders of Wildlife poll is at defenders.org.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC