Red Wolf May Be Endangered, But The Nickname Is Strong In The State of Arkansas | Sports


EUREKA, Missouri – JD McKissic is a lifelong red wolf, says the primary catcher, even though the canine species is on the way out.

The Red Wolf – the beloved mascot of Missouri’s next football opponent, Arkansas State University – is critically endangered. There are 50 left in the wild and around 250 more living in captivity in zoos across the country, meaning there are more student-athletes calling themselves “red wolves” than actual living red wolves.

The red wolf roamed large swathes of the Southeastern United States – as far north as Pennsylvania, south to the tip of Florida, and west to mid-Texas. One of their last strongholds, according to wolf experts, was the Ozarks – northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.

Now, wild wolves roam a single refuge in eastern North Carolina. There isn’t a single facility in Arkansas that actually houses a living red wolf.

And according to McKissic, the Red Wolves star, few students in the state of Arkansas know the plight of their beloved mascot, Howl, and his canine brothers.

In fact, McKissic was also unaware until a reporter informed him on Wednesday.

“It bothers me, man,” he said after hearing about the red wolves‘ near extinction. “Red wolf for life”.

The closest red wolves can be found at Eureka’s Endangered Wolf Center, which is home to four wolves – two females and two males paired in the hope that they will mate, efforts that were unsuccessful in the last season of the setting. low.

“The future of the red wolf is uncertain,” says Regina Mossotti, director of animal care and conservation at the Endangered Wolf Center. “It is a horribly sad situation.”


You have heard this story of vulnerable animals before: hunted to near extinction, their habitat destroyed by pollution and development. The story of the red wolf is no different.

The red wolf was a founding member of the species protected under President Richard Nixon’s Endangered Species Act in 1973.

In 1980, they were declared biologically extinct in the wild, only existing in captivity. In 1987, the first pack was released at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. In 1990, another pack came out on St. Vincent Island off the coast of the Florida panhandle.

Since then, legislation has passed through Congress to fund the species’ survival plan or revoke the protection status of the red wolf.

“To be successful in preserving a species, you need some sort of consensus,” said Jason Rylander, lawyer with the DC-based environmentalist group Defenders of Wildlife.

It’s something wolves, not just red wolves, don’t have. Partly because wolves don’t have the best reputation.

But not all wolves are big and wicked like the villains in fairy tales.

Red wolves, which are smaller than their western cousin, the gray wolf, are more frightened than vicious, more docile than excitable.

Mossotti took her children to see “Frozen,” she said, unaware that a pack of wolves would start hunting down the film’s protagonists. She then had to explain to them how unrealistic this representation was.

At the end of the night, her children resumed snuggling up to their wolf stuffed animals.

“I have worked with wolves in the wild,” she said, “and when you approach their den where their puppies are or their food is, like an elk carcass, they just worked for hours. to come down, you’d think they’d defend it and growl and scold and stuff.

“They don’t. They run away.”

Rozene and Itabi, a pair of wolves mating at the Eureka Endangered Wolf Center, love each other, the keepers say. Both are constantly playing or snuggling under a tree. They eat their meals together and fall asleep in the same den.

But captivity is apparently a contraceptive for wolves.

The two came to the center a year ago to share a two-acre pen and hopefully raise a litter of puppies. No chance.

They were matched using an online profile that matches the genetic profiles of the wolves to produce successful mating pairs. By most accounts, the system worked with Rozene and Itabi, ages 5 and 6, according to wolf experts. They get along very well, spending most of their days chasing each other around their enclosure or splashing around in their pond chasing frogs and turtles.

Their relationship will soon end. Such is the life of endangered species which do not reproduce successfully.

In October, they will be paired with new partners at different facilities to make way for a multigenerational pack of red wolves in Eureka, which has successfully bred. Of 30 breeding pairs in captivity, only eight had puppies this year, said Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition, a North Carolina nonprofit that supports conservation and education efforts.

“It’s not a lot, but this population is by no means down,” she said. “The animals themselves are incredibly resilient.”

It helped in 2007 when Wheeler received an email from an Arkansas state student couple seeking information about the carnivore native to their state.

The state of Arkansas – then known as Indians – faced NCAA sanctions for using a Native American mascot and was banned from hosting playoff events. The ASU has offered to change its mascot if the NCAA lifts the sanctions.

The two sides struck a deal, sending students, student-athletes, alumni and sports administrators in search of a new mascot.

Wheeler hadn’t heard of the research and blew the email away, she said, returning a one-page handout that she uses in educational sessions. Weeks later, ASU Chancellor Robert Potts called to ask for more information. This time, she returned whatever she could find.

In March 2008, the state of Arkansas rolled out the new mascot in a triumphal ceremony, unveiling a new logo and custom typeface. The administration invited Wheeler and other members of the Red Wolf Coalition to yell at the 50-yard line of a football game.

“I swear to you,” she said, “someday I will.”

And populations of red wolves will also continue to howl, experts say. While wolves are unlikely to survive without human management, the species is adaptable and hardy enough to be successful if released. Arkansas, with a rural and wooded landscape, might be a prime location for them.

“They’re perfect for Arkansas,” Mossotti said. “They should be very proud of their mascot.”

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