December 20, 2004
One of three endangered red wolves escaped
from a zoo in New York state in early December and remains at large,
according to Buddy Fazio, leader of the red wolf recovery program for the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in North Carolina.
Service biologists and staff at
Ross Park Zoo in
Binghamton have been unable to recapture the wolf. Zoo officials believe
that the wolf remains in the area, and they are continuing to maintain
traps. A second wolf also escaped but was captured.
Red wolves are known for their ingenuity and can surprise even the most
experienced animal handlers, said Fazio.
We are still unsure as to how she did escape the enclosure, said Executive
Director Jarod Miller of the Ross Park Zoo. There weren’t any obvious exit
points under the exhibit fencing nor any signs of where she may have gone
over the fencing. We are continuing our efforts until she is recaptured.
The escaped wolf is just 7 months old and weighs 45 to 50 pounds, Fazio
said. She is slightly larger than a local coyote but has different
characteristics. Red wolves move more deliberately than coyotes. They have
a longer, more robust or dog-like snout compared to the shorter, more
pointed and narrow coyote snout. While red wolves have more red or
buff-colored fur, some coyotes have similar coloration.
Fazio said that if people see a canid traveling alone or hear deeper-toned
wolf howls instead of higher-toned yapping coyote howls, the wolf may be in
their area. If so, they should contact the zoo by calling 607-724-5461.
The missing wolf is valuable for genetic management as part of a captive
breeding program to recover the species. Fazio believes that the wolf has a
50/50 chance of survival in the wild. She could be misidentified by
hunters, attacked by aggressive coyotes or hit by a vehicle, Fazio said.
The captive breeding program for red wolves uses some 40 facilities across
the country. This is the fifth escaped wolf in the 29-year history of the
program. Two wolves escaped separately from an Illinois zoo in the
mid-1990s and were recaptured. Two wolves escaped from separate Texas
facilities, one in the mid-1980s and one in 2000, and were not recaptured.
Red wolves were designated as endangered in 1967. The species was
considered extinct in the wild by 1980. The captive breeding program began
in 1973 to preserve the genetic integrity of the species. Scientists
believe the historic range of the red wolf extended from Texas to Florida
and as far north as Pennsylvania or New England.