National Geographic Society Newsroom

Zoo-born Red Wolf Pups Are Headed for the Wild

Lincoln Park Zoo veterinarian Owen Slater examines a one-week-old red wolf pup held by lead animal keeper Erin Hennessy. Photo courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo This critically endangered wolf, and three of her litter mates, was to be released to the wild in North Carolina later today, where they are to be fostered by a pair...

red-wolf-pup-picture-1.jpg

Lincoln Park Zoo veterinarian Owen Slater examines a one-week-old red wolf pup held by lead animal keeper Erin Hennessy.

Photo courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo

This critically endangered wolf, and three of her litter mates, was to be released to the wild in North Carolina later today, where they are to be fostered by a pair of wild adult wolves as part of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. (See details of this program below.)

They are first wolf pups born at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo to be released in the wild, the zoo said in a news statement.

The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids, the statement added. “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,” Lincoln Park Zoo said.

Remaining Red Wolves Rounded Up

“After being declared an endangered species in 1973, efforts were made to round up as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful managed-breeding program.”

By 1987 enough red wolves were bred in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan to begin a restoration program on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina.

Since then the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, Department of Defense and state-owned lands and private property, totaling 1.7 million acres, Lincoln Park Zoo said.

“The main threats to the wolf’s survival remain loss of habitat due to development and persecution by humans”

red-wolf-pup-picture-2.jpg

Photo courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo

Red Wolf Facts

(text and photo courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

red wold picture.jpg

  • There are two species of wolves in North America: gray wolf and red wolf.
  • Historically the red wolf roamed as a top predator throughout the southeastern United States.
  • Aggressive predator control programs and clearing of forested habitat reduced the red wolf population to 17 wolves by 1980.
  • In compliance with the Endangered Species Act, the first red wolf recovery plan was completed in 1973; implementation begins.
  • Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild between 1980-87.
  • Red Wolf Recovery Program located in Manteo, NC, at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR) office.
  • Restoration began with 4 pairs of red wolves released into the ARNWR in 1987.
  • Today 100-120 red wolves call northeastern North Carolina home. This is the world’s only wild population of red wolves.
  • Over 40 Species Survival Plan captive facilities. Many have viewing opportunities: Visit the FWS Web site for details.
  • Restoration area consists of 1.7 million public and private acres in Dare, Tyrrell, Hyde, Beaufort and Washington Counties.
  • Approximately 20 packs in the wild–a pack consists of an adult pair and often pups.
  • Pups born annually in April and May.
  • Life span in the wild: 7-8 years/in captivity: up to 15 years.
  • Red wolves are wary animals and rarely seen in the wild.

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of the world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Meet the Author

David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn