The beautiful red wolf is native to the southeastern United States and has been on the list of endangered species since 1967. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started a captive breeding program since the 1970s. With great success and dedication, this program has become a wild population in North Carolina.
However, one challenge still remained. For the past four years, these beautiful wolves haven’t brought any new pups into the world to grow their population, until this year. The Red World Recovery Program joyfully announced in a post on Facebook about the birth of six wild red wolf pups.
These magnificent wolves have seen a drastic decline in their population, in 2012 their population was tallied at just 120 wolves and that drastically declined to a mere 20 in 2021. However, these four females and two males born in April, give new hope to this wild population. In the photographs posted, the pups are seen piled up together as one staff member gently assessed their general health and microchips them.
According to the post, the mom of the adorable new pups, was close by and even moved aside for the team to inspect the den. The visit was perfectly timed for the moment when the father was out hunting.
Back in time, these beautiful red wolves populated a large part of the United States. They reached all the way to the southern New York and stretched all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. However, due to threatening events such as habitat destruction, strict predator-control habits, and interbreeding with coyotes, red wolves were nearly extinct by the mid-1900s.
By the time the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, there were a total of only 17 red wolves in the wild. However in order to try and save them, fourteen of these wolves were taken out of the wild as were used to start a captive breeding program. The captive breeding program had seen success, but unfortunately the red wolf species left in the wild were officially declared extinct by 1980.
But due to the success of the captive breeding program in 1987, some of the captive population were placed back into the wild in a designated area within North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. But even with the captive population standing at 241 in 2021, the number of the red wolves back in the wild has declined to 20 in 2021. This is due to tragic losses of wolves killed either by vehicles or private landowners when they wander too far afield. At this time breeding is essential to keep the population going.
And having four years without any ‘breeding’ and new pups, these six recent additions is a sign of hope for a new generation.