The Wild Release of Red Wolf Tom

Born on April 28, 2017 at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, North Carolina, red wolf Tom (M2208) quickly became a "celebrity" when he and some of his siblings briefly escaped from their enclosure. After a short adventure, museum officials were able to safely reunite the escaped pups with their parents.

Later that year, the escape artists and their loving parents, Sam and Veronica, arrived at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York. Tom had a few months to settle in to his new home before embarking on a new adventure - that of an older sibling! Sam and Veronica welcomed six pups in April 2018 - Rich, Shane, Martha, Hunter, Max, and SkyRae. Tom's new role allowed a global audience of webcam watchers to witness his compassionate, caring nature - he played with his siblings, watched over them, and reminded us how devoted wolves are to their families.

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In the fall of 2021, Tom was presented with his biggest adventure yet - the chance to live a semi-wild life on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), an island propagation site for the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

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.

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.

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.