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Six Endangered Red Wolf Pups Born in Wildlife Refuge

Will this litter of pups kickstart the recovery of this species?

By:  |  May 6, 2022  |    430 Words
red wolf

Canis rufus (Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service)

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is an endangered species, making the birth of six healthy pups very exciting news! The litter of pups was discovered in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. It included four females and two males. There had not been a birth of wild red wolves since 2018, so this is a big step in rebuilding the population of these beautiful animals.

Red Wolf History

red wolf puppy

Canis rufus puppy (Photo credit: USFWS) 

Red in color and weighing between 45 and 80 pounds, the red wolf is one of the most at-risk canids (a mammal of the dog family). The species is native to the southeastern United States, but its numbers dropped to low levels, and it was officially classed as endangered in 1973. The population was damaged by years of hunting, and habitat destruction as cities and towns took over more land.

To begin restoring the population, 17 wild red wolves were captured and placed in captivity with hopes of increasing their numbers. The plan worked, at least temporarily, as enough wolves were born to release some into the wildlife refuge. However, after reaching about 130 wolves in 2006, problems with the program, illegal hunting, and mistaken identity (hunters thought they were coyotes) caused the red wolf population to drop again.

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A court forced the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to release some of its captive red wolves into the North Carolina refuge. But, despite the efforts, there were only eight known wild red wolves in October of 2021.

The Six Pups that Revived Hopes of Survival

With no births of the canid on record since 2018, the future of the species seemed very bleak. However, thanks to the USFWS and other groups, the new birth of wild red wolf pups gives hope that the endangered species can still survive.

red wolf map

Map showing native region of the red wolf (Photo credit: USFWS)

The Red Wolf Recovery Program announced the arrival of the six adorable pups with the message, “This new litter is the first wild-born litter of red wolves since 2018 … Every generation yields a new born hope for the red wolf … a cause for joy and celebration!”

The near-extinct wolf breed still faces an uphill battle. Today there are 15 to 17 wild red wolves and about 240 held in captivity. The USFWS is already working to protect and track the newborns. Hopefully, the hard work will pay off, and the red wolf can make a comeback from the edge of extinction.

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