As the last 260 or so American Red Wolves continue the struggle to carry on their species, the North Carolina Zoo and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)have closed ranks to help!
The American Red Wolf is the most endangered member of the Canid family group—the world's wolves, foxes, dingos, and other dogs. And, it is the only Canid species known to have evolved and always lived exclusively within the boundaries of the continental United States.
The current Red Wolf population numbers fewer than 300, and nearly all of the existing wolves live under human care in zoos or similar institutions. Only an estimated 10- 15 American Red Wolves range freely in the wild, and they inhabit a scattering of counties in eastern North Carolina. The roughly 250 remaining red wolves reside in roughly 41 zoological facilities and participate in a Species Survival breeding program established for this species.
Too small to be self-sustaining, the wild population is under threat from traffic accidents, disease, and the distrust of local deer hunters. Like many other canids, Red Wolves may breed with closely related species (e.g., Gray Wolves, Coyotes, domestic dogs), so wildlife officials are called on to implement proceders that prevent Coyotes from breeding with the remaining free-ranging wolves.
At present, the North Carolina Zoo houses the world's second-largest breeding group of American Red Wolves. Additionally, the North Carolina Zoo's Management Supervisor, Chris Lasher, manages this breeding group and serves as the Coordinator for AZA's American Red Wolf Species Survival Plan and as the Leader for AZA's Red Wolf SAFE Program.
This conservation program carefully manages the breeding programs for red wolves living in 41 zoological facilities across the United States. These institutions can collectively house and care for only 230 individual wolves. The number is too small to accommodate the 400 animals the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services estimates are needed to meet the recovery goals for this species.
Already a national leader in American Red Wolf conservation, the North Carolina Zoo plans to help meet these goals by expanding its existing breeding area and creating the American Red Wolf Conservation Center. Once established, this Center will house the world's largest breeding facility for this species. And, the Center will help boost the wolf's population numbers enough to make its survival and return to the wild possible.