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Two Captive-Born Red Wolf Pups Adopted By Wild Packs, 2002 Foster Pup Produces Wild Litter

May 24, 2004

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is pleased to announce two major successes in the Red Wolf Recovery Program: the best spring ever recorded for endangered red wolf pups in North Carolina and a second red wolf pup fostering event. Red Wolf Recovery Program biologists found a record 55 red wolf pups

in 11 litters and added two more puppies to the count through the fostering program. A pair of female red wolf pups was recently transferred from a captive facility on Bulls Island at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge near Charleston, South Carolina, to join the wild red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina. Just two weeks old, the sister pups were selected for their rare genes and placed in separate dens with wild red wolf pups of identical age. The captive-born sisters were adopted by wild foster mothers and will likely be raised within their respective packs.

Captive-to-wild fostering events are coordinated efforts by the Service's Red Wolf Recovery Program and the American Zoo & Aquarium Association's Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP). Fostering is a relatively new method which allows genetically valuable captive-born red wolf pups to become integrated into the wild red wolf population. The pups develop in the wild, so they gain survival skills required to mature and reproduce.

"This technique is effective when the fostered pups live long enough to contribute their genes to the wild population by producing pups of their own," explains Art Beyer, Field Coordinator for the Red Wolf Recovery Program. "

This spring, in addition to the two new 2004 arrivals, the Service's Red Wolf Recovery Program was able to measure the success of a previous 2002 fostering attempt. It was this time two years ago when a bold experiment placed two pups from the North Carolina Zoological Park into a wild den containing two pups of identical age. The male and female pups were successfully adopted by their wild foster mother and raised within the pack. During the following spring of 2003, the two captive-born yearlings remained with their adopted pack and helped raise a new litter of pups. This spring, biologists were hopeful that each of the zoo-born red wolves would produce litters of their own.

The male zoo-born wolf, displaced from his adopted pack and forced to establish a range of his own, was successful in securing the alpha position of another established pack, just in time for breeding season. Biologists are celebrating the discovery of a litter of eight puppies that was fathered by the zoo-born male. This rather large litter denotes success for the 2002 fostering attempt.

"This event demonstrates that the captive breeding program and the free-ranging population are integral aspects of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. They still depend greatly on each other for the recovery of the species," explains Will Waddell, Coordinator of the RWSSP Captive Breeding Program.

In mid-April, a telemetry intern detected a mortality signal from the zoo-born female's radio tracking collar. A mortality signal is produced when a red wolf does not move for six hours. When the female's body was recovered, all symptoms pointed to complications with pregnancy.

"We are saddened at the loss of this zoo-born female and her unborn pups, but are encouraged by her ability to adapt successfully to the wild before dying of natural causes," comments Buddy Fazio, Team Leader of the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

The red wolf is one of the most highly endangered canid species in the world. The only wild population of red wolves occurs in northeastern North Carolina, where over 100 red wolves span 1.5 million acres. The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan Captive Breeding Program involves 36 zoos and captive facilities and manages 154 captive red wolves, including 14 newly-born pups. The Red Wolf Recovery Program is conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the authority of the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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