Endangered red wolf litter born in the wild offers hope for species

Hope for an endangered wolf species arose in April after supporters discovered the first litter of wild-born red wolf cubs in four years.

The Red Wolf Recovery Program posted on its Facebook page that a litter of four female and two male red wolf pups were found around April 18 in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Carolina’s Outer Banks. North.

“As the sights and sounds of spring began to unfold on Alligator River NWR in April, something monumental was also unfolding in the landscape…a new litter of red cubs and renewed hope for the survival of a species!” Red wolf recovery strategy posted.

The pups’ parents were a female and male wolf pair “formed by the combination of several management actions and the two red wolves then followed their natural mating instincts, establishing their territory and mating”.

While a female wild red wolf received and raised four captive-bred red cubs in 2021, none were born to a wild pair of red wolves out of captivity since 2018, which is why this new litter of pups is so exciting!

“Each generation gives new hope to the red wolf…a cause for joy and celebration!” the account added, sharing photos of the new puppies in their den.

While papa red wolf was out hunting and mama red wolf watched nearby, Red Wolf recovery program staff quickly checked the puppies for health, microchipped them and swabbed their cheeks for genetic samples. The mother wolf returned to the den after the humans left.

The program also noted in a comment that in a year, if young wolves can be captured to be fitted with orange identification radio collars, they will also be vaccinated.

Red wolves are native to the United States and were once found from New England to the southeastern states and down to the Gulf Coast.

Efforts to captive breeding red wolves date back to the 1970s, when numbers of the species were very low and restricted to southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. They were declared extinct in the wild in 1980. However, red wolves were released in eastern North Carolina and the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge beginning in 1987 and the wild red wolf population slowly began to grow.

About 241 red wolves live in Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) facilities in the United States who participate in the red wolf species survival plan. Thirty breeding pairs existed in 2020-2021 and 23 pups are from six litters born in captivity from these pairs, according to the Red Wolf Recovery Strategy it is a cooperative effort with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2021-2022, there are 38 breeding pairs.


The wild population of red wolves in eastern North Carolina peaked at 120 in 2012, but dropped sharply after that year. Today, with the recent discovery, the count is getting closer to 15-17 red wolves in the wild.

the Alligator River Hut has 154,000 acres of unusual land pocosine freshwater wetlands, or bogs, consisting of layers of peat with squat shrubs. They are not only home to this litter of red wolves, but also animals like ducks, otters, alligators and black bears, as well as native plant species.

In response to a commenter on the pups’ birth post about interbreeding with coyotes and attacks on humans, the Red Wolf Recovery Program wrote that their program works to prevent interbreeding with coyotes, but red wolf hybrid pups -coyote occur.

“There has never been a documented incidence of attack on humans by a red wolf, and documented cases of attacks on people by coyotes are rare,” the online program. “Hybrids are no more aggressive toward people than either parent species.”

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