With Help from Species Survival Plan, Red Wolves May Have a Future
Photo from Gregory Koch
Red wolves are one of the rarest mammals in North America. They are a mere 100 strong in their native habitat of North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. But with the help of the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in South Salem, NY, the Canis rufus may grow in number…first in New York, and then in North Carolina.The effort is part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) which was developed in 1981 by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums. The animals within the program have been selected due to being in danger of completely disappearing in the wild. In most cases, zoo conservationists believe captive breeding is the only chance these species have to grow in number and avoid extinction.
She-Wolf in New York
Currently, there is only one red wolf at the WCC – a female affectionately named F1291. With a focused fundraising effort since 2009, the organization is creating a new red wolf exhibition and education enclosure to open to the public this autumn. The new enclosure will enable them to provide a significant increase in breeding capability for the red wolf SSP along with giving visitors at the center a chance to glimpse the rare carnivore.
Photo from Art Wolfe/Getty Images
How They Multiply
The plan to increase the number of red wolves is complex and yet simple. The actual reintroduction is coordinated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service Red Wolf Recovery Plan. Every spring, field biologists go into the forests of northeastern North Carolina to find dens of healthy red wolf pairs with pups. Once these homesteads are identified, they will serve as the future foster homes for captive-born wolves from places such as WCC. One or two of the captive-breed pups will be removed before their eyes have opened and placed into the litter of wild adults who will then raise them as their own. They will be taught the ropes for survival by their foster parents until they reach adulthood and are able to reproduce.
This summer, F1291 will be paired up with M1587, a male from a zoo in Virginia. If the two feel their own call of the wild, they will mate by winter…and if successful – their pups will arrive by fall. Along with birth, they will have the potential to enhance the gene pool of the entire red wolf population within Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, and effectively reduce the chance of the species going extinct.
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