American red wolf expert: ‘I can’t let this animal go extinct on my watch’ |


“While a setback like this is difficult for our team to live with, the remaining three puppies represent a significant step forward for the species,” Roger Sweeney, the zoo’s general curator, told the (Raleigh) News & Observe. “We remain focused on the fight to preserve a place for this iconic American species.”

The 230 American red wolves in human care are primarily Lasher’s responsibility. He has been at the North Carolina Zoo, where the red wolf breeding program is the second largest in the world, for 23 years. Lasher’s goal is to see him become the greatest. Plans are underway to expand the area used for breeding pairs.

At one time, American red wolves were plentiful in the eastern part of the United States, Lasher said.

Red wolves are apex predators, Lasher said, meaning no other animals hunt them.

When European settlers arrived, the red wolves were all but eradicated.

“Red wolves are becoming extinct due to human activity,” Lasher said.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service began its fight to save red wolves in the 1970s. It captured nearly 400 canine-like animals and performed extensive testing on them to find pure red wolves.

“DNA testing didn’t exist then, so they measured length, tail length, ear length trying to find the pure red wolves,” Lasher said.

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