Near-extinct red wolves welcome adorable new litter – but will they survive?

Manteo, North Carolina - A new pack of endangered red wolves has been born, in a piece of rare good news for the besieged species, which has been sitting at the edge of extinction for quite some time.

Red wolves are on the brink of extinction, with less than 20 adults left in the wild.
Red wolves are on the brink of extinction, with less than 20 adults left in the wild.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

Born in May, a litter of eight red wolves was born to a pack of wild wolves in North Carolina. The pregnancy was induced when a male red wolf named Finch was reintegrated into a wild pack after living in captivity for more than half a decade.

While most center their focus around the plight of gray wolves, it is the red wolf that truly needs support. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, only 15–17 individuals still roam their native habitats in North Carolina, with 241 held in captivity.

Finch, known officially as M2191, was released back into the wild after spending the last few years being raised and looked after by Wolf Haven International near Olympia, Washington.

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The newly born litter of wolf puppies is not only great news because they increase the chance that their species will continue to survive, but also because it indicates that Finch has successfully integrated into the pack and may sire more puppies in the future.

Red wolf puppies a new hope for the endangered species

Red wolves should socialized in captivity with very little human interaction, to help them with the transition into the wild world.
Red wolves should socialized in captivity with very little human interaction, to help them with the transition into the wild world.  © IMAGO/Pond5 Images

In a statement, Wolf Haven Director Pamela Maciel Cabañas said, "To have any of these pups not only get a chance to live their full potential in their natural habitat, but to also potentially contribute to the growth and genetic diversity of the wild population by producing pups of their own, brings the work we do full circle."

Wolf Haven itself participates in a number of different federal programs designed to help save red wolves from impending extinction. As part of these programs, they look after red wolf puppies in pens where they have very little interaction with humans so that they are better socialized when subsequently released into the wild.

Speaking to the BBC, Wolf Haven's Lead Animal Care Specialist Judah Jamison explained, "There are eight beautiful, healthy pups. This is excellent news because there are only about twenty wild red wolves on Earth."

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"Every single captive wolf that can pair with a wild wolf is an opportunity to increase the population," Jamison said. "Finch was chosen for release both based on his genetic compatibility with the wild wolves and his behavior."

"For us, this is the pinnacle of our work. We do our very best to give these wolves the best chance possible, but they don't belong in captivity – they belong in the wild."

Cover photo: IMAGO/Pond5 Images

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