Museum of Life of Science's Red Wolf Family Will Transfer to New York’s Wolf Conservation Center
On Nov. 6, the endangered red wolf family will transfer to an expanded, 1-acre habitat at the Wolf Conservation Center of South Salem, New York.
Photos courtesy of the Museum of Life and Science
The Museum of Life and Science has announced recommendations from the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) for a Nov. 6 transfer of the museum’s endangered red wolf (Canis rufus) family to an expanded, 1-acre habitat at the Wolf Conservation Center of South Salem, New York. Comprised of two adults and four pups born at the museum in late April, the departure of the current red wolf family will be closely followed by the arrival of a new red wolf breeding pair to the museum. Transportation of the entire family will occur via van driven by museum staff.
Prior to their departure each wolf will receive a hands-on vet check to verify health; all four pups completed their last “well pup” check in early September and were found to be in excellent health. To reduce stress, each pup will be partnered with a sibling in their transfer crate. A team of drivers will make minimal stops during the transport and conduct a visual inspection of the family every four hours.
Members of the community are invited to share well wishes, pictures, and videos of the current red wolf family with the Museum’s Facebook page and Instagram using the hashtag #RedWolfStory as the institution prepares to say goodbye.
All red wolves living at the museum are a part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Red Wolf Recovery Program, which partners with the Red Wolf SSP, a collaborative breeding and management program developed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) to ensure the sustainability of endangered animal populations. Once a top predator throughout the southeastern United States and one of only two apex predators native to North Carolina, the red wolf is critically endangered with captive and wild populations totaling less than 300 individuals.
Identified by the SSP in the summer 2016 as a potential high value breeding pair to maintain genetic diversity within the red wolf population, the museum’s current breeding adults, female #1858 and male #1784, will continue to remain paired for another breeding season. Red wolf families in the wild are often comprised of parents with one or two generations of offspring; pups frequently begin to disperse from their parents around 6-18 months of age.
“During our annual planning meeting to evaluate the captive breeding program, the Red Wolf SSP made the decision that it would be best for the entire family to stay together with the hope that the parents will breed again next year,” says Sherry Samuels, Museum of Life and Science’s Animal Department Director and member of the Red Wolf SSP Management Team. “We also realize that it's best to have the family in an exhibit area with additional space to accommodate future growth; fortunately, we were able to come up with a plan that made all of this possible.”
The museum’s current red wolf family will transition to a one-acre habitat environment at the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in South Salem, New York. A private, not-for-profit environmental education organization, WCC is dedicated to promoting wolf conservation through programs emphasizing wolf biology, the ecological benefits of wolves, and the current status of wolf recovery in the U.S. The WCC also participates in the SSP and recovery program for the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi).
“This transfer is going to be bittersweet for us all,” Samuels says. “I know many people, myself included, have become incredibly attached to the pups; it’s been wonderful watching the family grow and thrive here, but we recognize that this transition is what’s best for the family and ultimately what is best for the red wolf species as a whole. With recent developments surrounding the wild population, the responsibility of SSP institutions and the captive breeding program is more critical than ever before — this family has a big role to play in what happens next for the species.”
About the Red Wolf
In addition to the cinnamon coat highlights which lend them their name, red wolves are visibly smaller and more slender than gray wolves. Adult red wolves typically weigh between 45-80 pounds and can live up to 15 years in captivity, but rarely longer than seven years in the wild.
Once a top predator throughout the southeastern United States, the red wolf is now categorized as critically endangered. To protect the remaining red wolf population, a managed breeding program was established in 1973 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The success of this breeding program led to the reintroduction of red wolves to North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. Red wolves now inhabit a five-county area in northeastern North Carolina and although their numbers had grown, gunshot, vehicle strikes, and habitat loss has reduced the wild population numbers and continue to threaten their survival. The red wolf is one of our planet’s most endangered species and continues to be at risk.