Representatives from over 40 facilities participating in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) have “packed up” to attend the annual Red Wolf Species Survival Plan meeting in Florida’s Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park! This meeting brings together Fish and Wildlife Agencies, many zoo representatives, endangered species reproductive specialists, and Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) curator Rebecca Bose to tackle the all issues associated with conserving the other species of wolf, the red wolf.
The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids. Once common throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the 1960s due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat. A remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana. After being declared an endangered species in 1973, efforts were initiated to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful captive breeding program. Consequently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.
By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina. Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres.
An estimated 90-110 red wolves roam the wilds of northeastern North Carolina and another 200 or so comprise the captive breeding program, still an essential element of red wolf recovery. The WCC is currently home to five red wolves, 8-year-old F1397 lives on exhibit with her two 3-year-old sons, M1803 and M1804, and ten-year-old F1291 lives off exhibit with her 8-year-old mate M1394.
We’re looking forward to hearing Rebecca’s reports from the meeting so we can update you on all aspects of the program including all red wolf breeding plans, transfer recommendations, and how to best recover a sustainable population in the wild. Stay tuned!