In the entirety of the world, only 20-30 wild red wolves remain, all of which live in Eastern North Carolina. The critically endangered species is experiencing new hope, however, thanks to the North Carolina Zoo’s American Red Wolf SAFE Program, which welcomed 9 pups this spring!
“The first litter, born to parents Marsh and Roan, has three pups,” the NC Zoo said in an Instagram post. “The second litter, born to Denali and May, has six, for a total of 9 pups!”
Rather than encouraging breeding to increase the red wolf population in captivity, the zoo is taking careful measures to ensure each pup born at the facility is a candidate for release into the wild.
To do so, they keep the wolves in a secluded area away from the public eye. This minimizes their interaction with, and acclimation to, humans.
Now, the pups do have a small amount of human interaction. These encounters, however, only occur every two weeks and are only long enough to allow the zoo’s veterinary staff to monitor the babies’ health.
Immediately after birth, veterinarians checked the red wolf pups “for heart murmurs and a cleft palate.” This helped to “ensure they have the suckle reflex so they can nurse properly,” the NC Zoo explained in their post.
“Each pup is weighed, sexed, and identified by its white blaze chest patch. The veterinary staff checks the litters every two weeks to ensure everyone remains healthy!”
Another litter of red wolf pups born in NC wildlife refuge
About 250 miles east of the NC Zoo lies the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Like the zoo, the refuge is hard at work reviving the world’s most endangered wolf population and enjoying great success.
For the second year in a row, female red wolf 2225 and male 2323 have added to the Milltail pack with a new litter of pups. In mid-April, the canine couple welcomed five new additions to the family, including 3 females and 2 males.
The pair had another litter of five in 2022, marking the first documented wild births in five years. This brings their brood up to 10 pups, the eldest of which are expected to help raise their younger siblings.
With so many healthy babies under their belts, conservationists entrusted 2225 and 2323 with an adoptive pup as well. The sixth pup, a male, was introduced into the pack just a few weeks after the birth of their second litter.
Two parents and 11 pups bring their pack number to 13 individuals. This makes the Milltail pack the largest known red wolf group in the wild!
“A cause for joy and celebration in 2023, much like we experienced in 2022,” the Red Wolf Recovery Program gushed in a Facebook post. “Every generation yields a newborn hope for recovery of the Red Wolf!”