SALISBURY – Dan Nicholas Park has welcomed a new red wolf cub to join its resident family of endangered canine species.
The puppy, born April 20 to parents Magma and Clay, does not yet have a name. He is a little less shy than some of his family and can sometimes be seen waddling around and exploring Rowan Wild’s enclosure.
This is the second year in a row that Magma and Clay have had a litter. Last year they had two puppies. A third was placed in the family.
“It’s always exciting to think that we are part of such a huge conservation project,” said Megan Cline, Rowan Wild naturalist.
Cline said litters of red wolves can range from a single puppy to seven or eight like domesticated dogs.
The puppy goes through normal medical exams for the new wolves and will soon start receiving vaccines. Cline said the staff were watching the wolves every day. When they found Magma with the new puppy, they left him alone for a whole day before examining the puppy and getting a vet on site.
Dan Nicholas is part of a wolf species survival program consisting of a network of facilities. Red wolves are critically endangered in the wild. Until recently, there were fewer than 20 wolves in the wild – all living in eastern North Carolina – but last week the program released eight wolves back into the wild as part of a soft release. .
The release is the first of its kind in years and is the result of a judge who ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow program reintroductions to resume.
Cline said that Dan Nicholas’ wolves are currently considered a multigenerational pack like a family of wolves in the wild. Older siblings are expected to move to other facilities in the fall according to genetic data. The Survival Program will hold its annual meeting in July.
In the wild, the social behavior of red wolves seems familiar. Parents are monogamous and raise their young together. Older children help the family and also care for their younger siblings. When they are old enough, they go out on their own to start their own families.
Unlike coyotes, red wolves are not generalists. They tend to stay away from people and need the wilderness to survive. Wolves are top predators, but coyotes always compete with them for food and can mate with red wolves, creating sterile hybrids.