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Red wolf pups signal hope for endangered species in NC

Credit: iStock

By Shanteya Hudson, May 15, 2024   

Ahead of Endangered Species Day this Friday, conservation groups in North Carolina are celebrating the birth of eight red wolf pups at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Red wolves, once a dominant presence across the Southeastern United States, are now teetering on the brink of extinction, with only 30 confirmed adults living in the wild.

Heather Clarkson, Southeast program outreach representative for Defenders of Wildlife, explained ongoing efforts to revive the population have been met with both hardships and victories.

“We’ve got a couple of hundred in facilities under human care around the United States,” Clarkson noted. “Those wolves that are under human care are a critical part of the recovery program, because they are used to supplement wild populations and wild genetics.”

Recovery efforts also include reintroducing red wolves into the wild. According to Clarkson, despite the risks posed by guns and highways, there have been wild wolf litters born in North Carolina for the past three years.

The wild wolf population has ranged from more than 150 animals to as few as 10, within a decade. Clarkson emphasized without the Endangered Species Act, the wolves would not be thriving today.

The red wolf is the only wolf native to the eastern U.S., and once roamed freely from New York to Florida, and even Texas. As the fight continues against extinction, Clarkson stressed the need to expand their current habitats beyond Eastern North Carolina. She argued identifying new release areas is crucial, along with advocacy to push for species expansion and survival.

“A large part of the recovery effort has just been working to re-educate citizens and teach them how to alongside these large carnivores, and accept the understanding that these animals have a place on the landscape,” Clarkson stressed. “They have a really critical function in our ecosystems; they keep our wild areas healthy.”

Clarkson added safeguarding red wolves is a collective responsibility, with action needed from both state and federal officials. The current red wolf population in captivity stands at 257, with ongoing research to understand their ancestry in the wild.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

This story is republished from Public News Service under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.