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.”
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.
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.