Three critically endangered red wolf puppies were born at the N.C. Zoo in late April, according to zoo spokesman Gary Buchanan.
“I’ve been running around the office so excited,” said zoo spokesman Gary Buchanan. “We got puppies!”
The trio of pups were born to Raydar and Haley, the same two red wolves that had a single pup at the zoo last May.
Six red wolf pups also were born at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham in late April, the first time a wolf at the museum has given birth since 2002. Since then, one pup has died and another became ill, but the other four are doing well.
There are now 19 red wolves living at the N.C. Zoo. Two red wolves are visible to guests at the zoo, and the rest live off-site as part of the zoo’s breeding program.
The new-born pups will remain in the off-site area, Buchanan said.
Red wolves are one of the most endangered canids in the world. Red wolves live mostly in Eastern North Carolina, though they once were common throughout the southeastern United States.
The wolves were driven to near extinction during the late 1960s, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an aggressive conservation effort, the Red Wolf Recovery Program, which led to new ways to track and protect the species.
Today, the population of red wolves in the wild is estimated between just 20 and 40, with another 200 red wolves in captive breeding programs across the U.S. as part of the wildlife service’s Species Survival Plan.
“I just moved here from Florida, and I never knew how special these little red wolf puppies are. But I’ve learned so much already, and we are so excited,” Buchanan said. “This is such a wonderful thing for us and for the red wolf population.”
The first litter of red wolf pups born at the N.C. Zoo were born on May 9, 1997.
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett