Critically Endangered Red Wolf Pups Celebrate First Birthday!
On a breezy afternoon last April, red wolf F2121 (affectionately nicknamed Charlotte) quietly gave birth to four pups and was soon followed by red wolf F1858 (Veronica), who gave birth to six pups hours later. Over the next few months, the growth of these rare wolves was monitored by a global audience via live-streaming webcams that allowed the public to observe animals they might otherwise never see.
Although the pups are no longer the potato-sized predators viewers fell in love with, they’ve matured into robust, intelligent yearlings with different personalities and names. Three of Charlotte’s pups (Ben, Deven, and Marley) were bestowed nicknames in honor of children who greatly value their role as a keystone species, while their brother (Maple) was named by a New York student who believes each red wolf is as unique as every maple leaf.
Veronica’s litter of six was named in honor of a family of fierce environmental advocates – Martha, Rich, Hunter, Max, Shane, and SkyRae – in the hopes that each pup would grow to be as wildly independent as their namesakes.
Beyond celebrating their birthdays, the (now) yearlings are celebrated for the role they play in the effort to save red wolves 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 a few years ago to just 24 known wolves today.