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Critically Endangered American Red Wolf Pups Receive Exam

Our five critically endangered American Red Wolf pups met the vet team last week for a pup exam at our offsite facility in Eatonville, where the largest Red Wolf population in the world resides.

Veterinarian Dr. Kadie evaluated the two-month-old pups’ overall health, checked their heart and lungs, weighed them, and gave them deworming medications and vaccinations.

The growing pups weigh five to nine pounds and are really active. The litter, consisting of three males and two females, is vital to the survival of the species.

The pups are healthy and continue to thrive!

Adorable and growing fast, the pups are part of the latest success in recovering the only wolf species found solely in the United States. With an estimated 20-22 Red Wolves remaining in the wild in eastern North Carolina, Point Defiance Zoo is doing everything possible to restore this critically endangered species. 

The five pups will learn how to communicate by howls and will grow quickly in the coming months. By seven months, they will look a lot like adults. And for these pups, a future spent running in the wild and meeting their mates could be on the horizon.

“Pups are vital to the future of this critically endangered species,” said Curator Natalie Davis. Davis also serves as the studbook keeper for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ American Red Wolf Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program. ”These Red Wolves are cared for with as little human interaction as possible to prepare them for potential release and success in the wild.”

Davis said that with the help of 24/7 cameras, keepers observe the mom caring for the pups just as they would in the wild.

“The American Red Wolf is the most critically endangered wolf in the world,” said Davis. “It’s imperative that we ensure any Red Wolves under our care are kept as healthy as possible to benefit their overall recovery plan.”

Red Wolves once ranged from New York to Texas, but by the late 1960s to 1970s, very few Red Wolves were left in the wild. Excessive hunting, humans moving into their territory, and other animals forced the population to fall to zero. In 1967, USFWS listed Red Wolves as critically endangered under the federal Endangered Species Preservation Act (now the Endangered Species Act).

In the 1980s, Point Defiance Zoo and the USFWS established a zoo-based breeding program with 14 wolves from the wild to restore the population. Today, about 20-22 Red Wolves are in the wild, and over 270 are in human care. Four wolves live at Point Defiance Zoo, and 51 live at the zoo’s off-site breeding facility.

Davis says they are on a positive trajectory despite the setbacks over the years. “We’re working closely with our Red Wolf partners to restore this population, and I’m very hopeful that Red Wolves will be roaming the South again,” said Davis.