The Red Wolf Recovery Program this week announced the birth of a new litter of wild red wolf puppies, three females and two males. These pups, along with a cross-fostered male pup born at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, will join the Milltail Pack in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern North Carolina bringing the pack numbers to 13 wolves. This is impressive growth considering the pack last year saw the first red wolf litter born in the wild since 2018.
“This is extraordinary news for red wolves in the wild. This family group is now a large, fully-functioning pack with these new pups and the yearlings,” said Ben Prater, director of Defenders of Wildlife’s Southeast 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.
In addition to the Milltail family group, two litters of four red wolf puppies each reside in acclimation pens with their parents and will be released in the coming weeks. With these litters and additional releases of captive-bred wolves, the wild population could total 35-37 by the end of May. Thanks to Defenders’ legal action that compelled the U.S. FWS to release more red wolves into the wild, the wild population now stands to quadruple in just two years.