Changing Planet

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 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”


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.

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David 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. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs 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. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • nasia

    i feel so sad 4 them

  • josh webb

    so cute i wish i could have one as a pet because i feel really bad for the red and grey wolfs and i care for the wolf population.

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