Surprise Litter of Red Cubs Bolsters LBL Breeding Program | New


CADIZ — Cautiously and one by one, the four ginger cubs emerge from their den, sniffing in the grass, chewing on sticks, licking the posts holding their fence together or tumbling over their father who, understandably at his age, seemed mostly interested in a siesta.

Their mother, Ember, a four-year-old female, was brought to the Land Between the Lakes Woodlands Nature Station just over a year ago, primarily to accompany Jasper, the puppies’ father, who at 13 is approaching of the end of the usual lifespan for endangered species, according to John Pollpeter, the senior naturalist.

Pollpeter said red wolves usually don’t show signs of pregnancy until after their two-month gestation period. So the nature station workers were unaware that they would soon have four new puppies to care for until less than a week before the April 26th birth.

“We weren’t really worried about them breeding, so we didn’t separate them during the breeding season,” Pollpeter said of the loving adults, but considering Jasper’s importance to the breeding program of red wolves, the surprise was welcome.

Red wolves, which once populated much of the southeastern United States, were declared extinct in the wild in 1980, a few years after the US Fish and Wildlife Service began a captive breeding program with 14 of the few remaining red wolves in the wild.

Pollpeter said Land Between the Lakes had been in the breeding program since 1991 and joined the program a few years later.

He said Jasper was brought to LBL from Chattanooga, but two attempts to breed him have since failed as wolf wolves at the nature station have died due to various health issues.

Ember was brought in to be a mate and would likely have been intended for breeding once Jasper died.

“He was judged, at the age of 12, probably unable to breed,” Pollpeter said.

Due to the social nature of animals, “we don’t like to separate them if we don’t have to.”

Pollpeter said Jasper’s genes are particularly valuable because he’s only four generations away from one of the wolves that was used to establish the breeding program, and his genes haven’t spread as far as the other lineages.

Even so, the initial low number of animals used created what Pollpeter called “a genetic bottleneck” that could lead to unsuccessful breeding or health problems such as birth defects or stillbirths. Also, it’s not always clear whether wolf parents will have the skills to properly raise their young.

Fortunately, Pollpeter said, all four puppies are healthy, although a fifth did not survive the first 24 hours.

The red wolf breeding program aims to create stable populations of wolves in the wild, and Pollpeter said these pups — two males and two females — will potentially serve as breeders for litters that could be raised in isolation. for the purpose of establishing new populations or integrating into current populations.

With that in mind, he said, the nature station does not plan to push interaction with humans outside of food and medical care, so they remain suspicious of humans. Visitors will see more puppies as they grow and explore more.

Pollpeter said it was important to educate the public about local wildlife, especially species as close to extinction as the red wolf, which has suffered from overhunting and urbanization and is now facing competition from exploding coyote populations.

Currently, a wild population exists in North Carolina that peaked at 120 wolves in 2012, but has since declined to around 15 due to human-caused mortality – including gunfire and collisions with vehicles – according to the Fish & Wildlife Service. The breeding program has also established an island propagation site in Florida, so that young wolves can grow up in a wild setting for later reintroduction into the wild.

Pollpeter praised the Red Wolf program for its innovative story that has since been replicated in other wildlife recovery efforts. This is the first time a large predator species declared extinct in the wild has been reintroduced to the United States, Pollpeter said.

He said LBL had previously been planned as a site where a wild wolf population could be established, but public opinion was strongly against it, and a very large coyote program and other concerns make the idea impossible today. today.

“It would be too much effort and not enough gain,” he said.

“I doubt we would ever achieve the goal of having the Southeast full of red wolves again.”

According to Pollpeter, contrary to many people’s opinion of wolves, red wolves tend to be very shy and avoid humans as much as possible.

“We need to tear down the stereotypes of the three little pigs and little red riding hood,” he said.

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