First red cubs born in the wild since 2018, sparking hope for a brighter future for the species
ALBERMARLE, CN– For the first time in four years, a litter of pups has been born to the struggling population of wild red wolves in eastern North Carolina. Staff from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Red Wolf Recovery Program confirmed this week that six cubs were born to a pair of wild red wolves at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The Service announced late Thursday night that the new litter includes four females and two male pups.
This important news for the near-extinct species comes amid a new Service recovery effort. The agency had largely abandoned efforts to recover the world’s rarest canine predator since 2015, but officials announced in February that they were committing significant resources to revitalize the program and ensure the species’ full recovery at the ‘wild state.
“There is a clear causal relationship between the Service’s recovery efforts and the survival and reproduction of red wolves in the wild,” said Perrin de Jong, North Carolina staff attorney at the Center. “It is extremely encouraging to see the agency try again to protect and recover wild red wolves. My heart is filled with hope at the sight of a new generation of red wolves taking their rightful place in the world. countryside.
The parents of this newborn litter have been reunited through the Service’s renewed efforts to encourage the reproductive success of red wolves in the wild. The agency’s pairing efforts were successful when the adult wolves mated, established their territory, and mated.
The agency’s revitalized red wolf recovery efforts include the following initiatives:
- Resume robust releases of red wolves into the wild population;
- Pairing efforts to pair captive-bred red wolves with wild individuals;
- Deployment of a puppy fostering program to increase the size of litters of wild red wolves;
- Use a local coyote neutering program to protect red wolf genetics;
- Rewriting of the red wolf recovery plan, including an exploration of new reintroduction sites for wild red wolves; and
- Take steps to protect the safety of wild red wolves, including public awareness programs to build goodwill among people living in the recovery area.
Since its announcement in February, the Service has released a total of seven captive-bred red wolves into the wild population, including a pack of two adults and three pups.
“The Service’s efforts this year represent an encouraging increase in recovery activity in this species’ recovery area, and we are beginning to see results,” de Jong said. “Now we need the Service to continue, so that Red Wolves not only have a future in eastern North Carolina, but throughout their historic range in the Southeast.”
Red wolves were once abundant in the Southeast, but the species is now the most endangered canine in the world. Today, only 20 known red wolves remain in the wild, surviving in five sparsely populated eastern North Carolina counties.
In 2020 and 2021, seven adult red wolves were released into the wild population. In 2021 alone, seven Red Wolves have been confirmed killed by collisions with vehicles, gunfire and unknown causes. Gunshots are the leading cause of death for wild red wolves, followed by collisions with vehicles.
Twenty thousand acres of prime habitat in five southeastern states have been identified as potential reintroduction sites for the species.