Manteo, NC

This week, Red Wolf Recovery Program staff confirmed a litter of six wild red wolf puppies, the first born in the wild since 2018. The pups, which include four females and two males, were found in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

Ben Prater, director of Defenders of Wildlife's Southeast Program, released the following statement:

“This is extraordinary news for red wolves in the wild. This litter of six red wolf pups represents a new hope for the recovery program. We are so grateful for the FWS biologists that made this happen. We’re hopeful this is a sign of things to come in the species recovery.”

Red Wolf Pups
Red Wolf Recovery Program
Six red wolf pups, the first wild-born pups since 2018.

Once common throughout the Southeast, red wolves faced extinction in the late 1970s after intensive predator-control programs and loss of habitat, prompting FWS biologists to capture the very last wild individuals for a never-before-tried effort at captive breeding. In 1987, biologists reintroduced four wild pairs into Alligator National Wildlife Refuge near the Outer Banks.

Wild-born Red Wolf Pup
Red Wolf Recovery Program
Officials give a wild-born wolf pup a health check and cheek swab to get a genetic sample.

The population grew to nearly 150 animals and was deemed an ESA success story. But increased poaching and illegal management changes in recent years led to a steep decline in the wild population—no more than 25 wolves survive in the wild today.

Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

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