Fewer than 30 Remain in the Wild
Mother’s Day came early this year at the Wolf Conservation Center!
Red wolf F2121 (affectionately nicknamed Charlotte) gave birth to four pups during the afternoon of April 19 and were followed by six pups, born to a different mother (red wolf F1858 or Veronica), just hours later.
With high pitch peeps and squeals, the adorable new residents announced their debut to a global community of onlookers via the WCC’s network of live webcams.
Beyond being cute, the pocket-sized predators represent the WCC’s active participation in an effort to save a species from extinction.
While the WCC has been a vocal and visible advocate in trying to protect and preserve critically endangered red wolves, the center is also active in physically safeguarding representatives of the rare species that have been entrusted to its care.
The WCC is one of 43 facilities in the U.S. participating in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) – a breeding and management program whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of red wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research.
Red wolves, native to the southeastern United States, were almost driven to extinction by intensive predator control programs and habitat loss.
In 1980, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) captured the last wild red wolves (just 14 animals) and declared the species extinct in the wild.
In 1987, USFWS released the first captive red wolves in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge as part of a federal reintroduction program under the aegis of the Endangered Species Act.
Although the red wolf recovery program once served as a model for successful recovery of wolves, political barriers and consistent mismanagement by the USFWS have seriously threatened the continued existence of this highly imperiled species. In its most recent proposal announced in September of 2016, the agency called to remove most of the last wild red wolves to put them in captivity. Beyond effectively undermining decades of wild red wolf recovery, scientists warn that USFWS’s proposal “will no doubt result in the extinction of red wolves in the wild.”
Current estimates put the wild population at the lowest level in decades, down from 130 just four years ago to fewer than 30 today.