First wild-born litter of endangered red wolf pups since 2018 in North Carolina

First wild-born litter of endangered red wolf pups since 2018 in North Carolina



A litter of red wolf puppies was born in the wild for the first time in four years. Last week, the six pups were discovered in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

The good news gives the species, which is now designated as endangered, some hope.

“As the sights and sounds of spring began to emerge on the Alligator River NWR in April, something historic was also taking shape on the landscape… a new litter of red wolf pups, and new hope for the species’ survival!

“During the week of April 18, Red Wolf Recovery Program Staff identified a litter of 6 wild red wolf pups (4 females, 2 males) born to mother 2225 and father 2323 (to be confirmed through genetic testing),” the USFWS Red Wolf Recovery Program said on Facebook.

Red wolves were once common in the United States, but hunting and habitat damage reduced their numbers. Few survive in the wild today, and their range has shrunk to a fraction of its former size.

Prior to the new pups, there were only eight known red wolves left in the wild, and experts estimate there to be about 15 to 17 total. There are 241 red wolves in captivity. The species was first considered as “threatened with extinction” in 1967, and in 1980, the red wolf was even considered “extinct in the wild,” as reported by NPR.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, captive breeding programs saved the species. By 2012, there were 120 red wolves in the wild. But continued threats from humans led to a major decline again. Less than 10 years later, only the estimated 15 to 17 wolves remained in the wild as of 2021. The species is today considered endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The last birth of red wolf pups occurred in 2018, when four pups were born, and no pups were born in the wild in subsequent years — until now.

“This new litter is the first wild-born litter of red wolves since 2018. This red wolf pair was formed through the combination of several management actions and the two red wolves subsequently following their natural instincts in pairing, establishing their territory and mating,” the Red Wolf Recovery Program shared on Facebook. “Every generation yields a new born hope for the red wolf… a cause for joy and celebration!”

This article by Paige Bennett  was first published by EcoWatch on 25 April 2022. Lead Image: The first wild-born litter of red wolves since 2018. Red Wolf Recovery Program / Facebook.


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