The Red Wolf is coming to Asheville
A 1982 Piper Saratoga plane landed at Asheville Regional Airport Nov. 20 to deliver an endangered red wolf and pick up a load of shelter dogs up north for adoption.
The red wolf, named Ben, was born at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York, in 2018 and has spent the past three years living off exhibit with his mother, father and siblings. Now he will be residing at the WNC Nature Center in Asheville, where he will soon meet his new companion and hopefully have puppies of his own.
Red wolves are extremely endangered in the wild, with only about 10 individuals in the small area of eastern North Carolina where they have been reintroduced. However, 241 red wolves live under human care in places like the WNC Nature Center, making these facilities an important part of the species’ survival. The WNC Nature Center first exhibited wolves in 1990, and between 1996 and 2014, 13 cubs were born there.
Red wolves Karma and Garnet had resided at the Nature Center since fall 2018 but failed to breed, leading the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan to recommend that a new breeding pair be transferred to the Center de la nature. In September, Garnet went to the Endangered Wolf Center in Missouri, and Karma will leave in the spring. After Ben completes a quarantine period, he and Karma will be placed together for companionship until a new female is transferred to Asheville.
While there’s a long way to go for the species’ ultimate recovery, WNC Nature Center Animal Curator Erin Oldread is cautiously optimistic about the Nature Center’s role.
“We are proud to be part of the Species Survival Plan program for red wolves,” she said, “and we hope that our new red wolves can breed successfully in the future to have offspring that could potentially be released back into the wild and help increase the population.
The plane, piloted by Michael Schneider, founder and executive director of Pilots To The Rescue, did not leave empty-handed. Schneider returned to New Jersey with dogs from Aiken, South Carolina who were at risk of being euthanized.