Wolf Conservation Center Red Wolf Embarks on Wild Adventure, Flies to St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge
Most red wolves born in captivity spend their lives there, but one lucky red wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center is destined for a semi-wild life! On Thursday, red wolf Tom (M2208) left his home at the WCC in South Salem, New York, bound for St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) off the coast of Florida. Tom took to the skies in a private plane flown by a generous donor and pilot from Lighthawk, a volunteer aviation organization, and soon touched down in Florida.
After traveling to St. Vincent NWR, Tom was placed in an acclimation pen where he’ll remain for the next few months – this will allow him to adjust to his new home before being fully “released” to the island. St. Vincent NWR is currently home to two female red wolves and biologists are hopeful that Tom will pair with one of the females upon his release from the acclimation pen. With only 8 red wolves known to remain in the wild, and all red wolves descending from 14 founders, a fruitful pairing that culminates in pups would be an important contribution to their critically endangered species.
The Role of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge in Red Wolf Recovery
St. Vincent NWR is known as a “propagation island” for the North Carolina non-essential experimental red wolf population. Located just offshore the Florida panhandle, the island is home to endangered wildlife such as bald eagles; loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtles; migrating wood storks; and numerous prey species.
Red wolves (Canis rufus) are protected as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act and are classified as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. As of October 2021, there are currently 8 known to remain in the wild in North Carolina.