The Wolf Conservation Center participates in the federal recovery and release programs for two critically endangered wolf species - the Mexican gray wolf and red wolf. The WCC's two 'ambassador wolves' reside on exhibit where they help teach the public about wolves and their vital role in the environment. Through wolves, the WCC teaches the broader message of conservation, ecological balance, and personal responsibility for improved human stewardship of our World.
Wolves have been demonized and misunderstood for much of human history. Because wolves are highly politicized animals, common misconceptions about wolves can cause real harm. Helping to correct misinformation is an effective way to help wolves. The Wolf Conservation Center's (WCC) two Ambassador wolves help open the door to understanding what wolves really are. Alawa and Nikai inspire our guests onsite in South Salem, NY and inspire thousands more around the world via live webcams.
Alawa (meaning "sweetpea" in Algonquin, and pronounced "ai-lay-ewa) is brown and gray and her temperament matches her name. She and her litter-mate, Zephyr (meaning "light or west wind"), were born on April 20 and arrived at the WCC on May 27.
Nikai (meaning “Little Saint” or One Who Wanders”) is a tan and gray wolf who joined the Wolf Conservation Center family in May of 2014.
Wolves in the Species Survival Program
Since 2003 the WCC has played a critical role in preserving and protecting these imperiled species with through carefully managed breeding and reintroduction. To date, the WCC remains one of the three largest holding facilities for these rare species and seven wolves from the Center have been given the extraordinary opportunity to resume their rightful place on the wild landscape.
Mexican Gray Wolves
The Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of gray wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only a handful remaining in captivity. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act. Today in the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising 186 individuals.
The red wolf (Canis rufus) 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 (USFWS) declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980. As of October 2021, there is a single wild population comprising only 8 known individuals.