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A New Ray of Hope: Second Consecutive Birth of Red Wolf Pups in the Wild

Thicket's first pup, born in 2016. Credit: SVNWR

While there’s been plenty of concerning news for wolves the last few weeks, we couldn’t be more thrilled to share the wonderful news of the birth of five red wolf pups in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. For the second consecutive year, a wild red wolf pair, known as 2225 (mother) and 2323 (father), have brought new life into this endangered species, affirming hope for the recovery of the red wolf.

This exciting news, announced by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Red Wolf Recovery Program, comes as a breath of fresh air in the ongoing efforts to save this remarkable species. The new litter, born in the second week of April, comprises three females and two males. This birth is particularly significant, as last year’s litter marked the first wild birth of red wolf pups since 2018. This second consecutive litter underscores the resiliency of these extraordinary animals, and each birth in the wild is a triumphant event for conservationists worldwide.

Cross Fostered Addition

But the family didn’t stop at five! The Red Wolf Recovery Program successfully integrated a male pup born at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, into the wild litter weeks after their birth. This strategic move increased the size of the family to a total of six pups, further boosting the genetic diversity and population of red wolves in the wild.

This process, called cross-fostering, has proven to be a viable option to reintroduce both Red and Mexican gray wolves into the wild. The way this works is that a wolf pup may be taken from its biological parents in captivity and placed with a wild pup litter. The wild mother wolf will then take care of the pup like it is her own, and we will have successfully added another wolf to the wild to help with reintroduction numbers.

The addition of new pups is indeed “a cause for joy and celebration in 2023,” as the Red Wolf Recovery Program declared. It’s a sentiment we echo at the Wolf Conservation Center, as every new generation strengthens the hope for the recovery and survival of the red wolf.

The Red Wolf Recovery Program estimates that there are between 23 to 25 red wolves in the wild, with 15 confirmed. The Association of Zoo and Aquariums’ SAFE program cares for an additional 278 red wolves, 10 of which can be found on-site at the WCC. The only known wild population of red wolves resides within five counties in Eastern North Carolina, making each birth in this region a significant victory.

Remarkably, the Wolf Conservation Center’s own red wolf, known as Tyke, is closely related to the new pups – he is their first cousin once removed. Tyke’s uncle, Thicket, who was born at the WCC in 2010 and released to the wild in 2014, is the grandfather of the new red wolf pups, making this an even more personal celebration for us.

We invite you to join us in celebrating this new ray of hope for the red wolf population. If you’d like to contribute to our continued efforts in Red wolf recovery, consider donating or joining Wolf Pass here. Your involvement can contribute to the story of recovery for these incredible creatures.