SALISBURY – After almost a year of breeding red wolf puppies, Dan Nicholas Park is hoping there will be a new litter next month.
Rowan Wild naturalist Megan Cline said the wolves mate in February and new puppies arrive around two months later.
Red wolves are one of the most endangered species in the world, with wild population estimates in double digits. All wild wolves are found in eastern North Carolina. A few hundred wolves are in captivity.
Puppies born to local wolves Magma and Clay at Dan Nicholas Park are approaching adulthood. In the wild, red wolves are monogamous for life and live in family units that may appear familiar to humans, with parents raising young people who help the family before they are old enough to jump in and create their own. family. The three puppies born last year are expected to stay until fall, but they will eventually move to other facilities as part of a program that supports wolves in captivity.
Cline said the prospect of the young wolves leaving doesn’t make her sad as they will help keep the species going.
Wolves are top predators and were historically an important part of local ecosystems. Today, coyotes dominate the roost of wild canines.
The Red Wolf Survival Plan was initiated with the goal of keeping the species in captivity and rebuilding the wild population by reintroducing wolves to their natural habitat. For years, the program has been unable to reintroduce wolves, but in January, a warrant issued by a federal court judge demanded that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resume reintroductions. It was great news for the plan.
“This is quite frankly why we have continued to do what we have been doing over the past few years,” said Chris Lasher, survival plan coordinator and red wolf expert.
Lasher said the hope is to start reintroductions this spring with adults and puppies. First, the program needs to identify a new wild litter and insert them. Lasher said the wild wolves always seem to be accepting the new additions.
The program will also add at least seven new participating facilities across the country, bringing the total number of facilities to at least 50. The St. Louis Zoo has pledged to create a dozen shelters for red wolves.
Lasher said Magma and Clay are probably not candidates for reintroduction into the wild, as they are a proven breeding pair that can produce wolves in captivity. The program’s first choices for reintroduction will be wolves which are not as valuable for captive breeding and which have been less exposed to humans.