Rare Red Wolves Heading From Ohio to South Carolina To Prevent Extinction

by Lauren Boisvert
(Image Credit: Mark Newman/Getty Images)

One of the world’s rarest animals is coming to South Carolina, and residents will have the chance to see them at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet next spring. Three red wolves are coming from a zoo in Ohio to live new lives at Brookgreen Gardens. The move is part of an initiative to protect and revitalize endangered species in South Carolina and elsewhere.

Brookgreen will breed red wolves for zoos and also for release into the wild in North Carolina and possibly in the South Carolina Lowcountry. There are less than 300 red wolves in the world, and most of them live in captivity, according to a report from The State. There are only about 21 living in the wild, with 10 collared for research and population tracking. The North Carolina red wolves are the only wild population left. The rest are in captivity because of the Red Wolf Recovery Program with US Fish and Wildlife.

“These animals are disappearing and if we don’t do something to help them, you’re going to just be looking at pictures or cadavers in a museum,” said animals curator at Brookgreen Gardens Andrea DeMuth. “You’re not going to be looking at the real thing.’’

Brookgreen Gardens was established in 1931 and is mostly known for its incredible gardens. But, there are animals on display as well. The red wolves will join alligators, eagles, otters, deer and so many other species native to the Carolinas.

Recovery Program Aims to Release Red Wolves Into the Wild and Revitalize the Population

For years, the Red Wolf Recovery Program had made steady progress on a wild population at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. But about seven years ago, the wolves started having conflicts and encounters with humans, and the program suffered. Red wolves were shot by wary homeowners or hit by cars. There were also fears that they were breeding with coyotes.

US Fish and Wildlife stopped the program at Alligator River, which put a halt in the program for some time. But, in April 2020, the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2) and USFWS Recovery Challenge awarded Brookgreen Gardens with a $275,000 grant. This will help rebuild the population.

The recovery plan was last revised in 1990, so a new Red Wolf Recovery Team was assigned by US Fish and Wildlife in 2021. The plan involves a Species Status Assessment, a Recovery Plan, and a Recovery Implementation Strategy. According to US Fish and Wildlife, the plan will be complete in February 2023. Then, hopefully, the red wolves will come to South Carolina and live in their new, one-acre enclosures. This rare animal was close to extinction in the 1970s due to habitat loss and hunting. But, now there’s hope for this amazing species.