By Easton Courier
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is experiencing a baby boom with the birth of four critically endangered red wolf pups and six guinea hog piglets, which are not considered endangered.
Today, just 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina, and nearly 200 red wolves are maintained in captive breeding facilities throughout the United States. Because of this, the birth of four pups — two male and two female — represents a welcome increase in the overall scarce population.
The births of the wolf pups and piglets follow the zoo’s April announcement of four North American river otter pups being born at the Bridgeport-based facility.
‘We couldn’t be happier’
“We couldn’t be happier with how all of our baby animals are coming along,” said Beardsley Zoo Director Gregg Dancho. “Both the red wolf mother and father are taking well to parenthood, and the pups are just starting to venture out into the wolf den for short periods of time.
“Of course, the piglets and otters are always a fan favorite — babies just make it that much more entertaining,” Dancho said.
Wolf pups weighed 9 ounces at birth
Six wolf pups were born on May 9, 2014, but two did not survive. The mom, 6-year-old Salty, and dad, 3-year-old Moose, are first-time parents and are very attentive.
The pups weighed in at 280 grams each — or approximately 9 ounces — at birth. At nearly six weeks old, they have grown to over 4 pounds each. The breeding season for red wolves is February and March, with a gestation period of approximately 60 days. Pups will open their eyes at 10 to 14 days and venture out of the den at approximately 4 weeks old.
At six weeks, they become more comfortable spending some time outside the den and they will be weaned between eight and nine weeks. The pups will reside at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo through the fall of 2014. They are on exhibit next to the Mexican wolves.
Part of species survival program
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Program in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS). The wolf population in captivity is managed by the USFWS, and there is the potential to re-introduce some of these pups into their native land in North and South Carolina as they get older.
According to the USFWS, red wolves are smaller than gray wolves and larger than coyotes, with adults ranging in weight from 53 to 84 pounds. Red wolves have tall pointed ears and long, slender legs with large feet. They stand about 26 inches at their shoulder and are about 4 feet long from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
Although their exact diet varies, it usually consists of a combination of white-tailed deer and raccoons as well as smaller mammals such as rabbits, rodents and nutria. The red wolf can travel up to 20 miles a day or more to find food.
The guinea hog piglets
Seven piglets were born on May 10, with six surviving. The guinea hog piglets are all female and range in weight from just under 1 pound to 2 pounds. Mom is Olivia and the father is Hampton; both are 6 years old. They also produced a litter of six in May 2013.When fully grown, guinea hogs may reach 100 to 300 pounds. They also are known as pineywoods guinea, acorn eater, guinea forest hog, and yard pig. They are called a yard pig because of their small size and easy maintenance, which makes them the ideal pig for a family to raise in a small yard.
According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the hogs were once the most numerous pig breed found on farms in the Southeastern United States but today there are fewer than 200. Guinea hogs are classified as critical, vs. endangered.
About the zoo
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is open daily from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Adult admission (ages 12 older) is $12, children (ages 3 -11) and senior admission (62 and older) is $10, and children under 3 years old are free. Zoo members also are admitted free. There is no charge to park at the zoo.
The zoo features 300 animals representing primarily North and South American species. This includes Amur (Siberian) tigers, Brazilian ocelot, red wolves, and golden lion tamarins.
Other highlights at the facility are the South American rainforest and free-flight aviary; prairie dog exhibit with “pop-up” viewing areas; New England Farmyard with goats, cows, pigs, sheep and other barnyard critters; hoofstock trail with bison, pronghorn and deer; indoor carousel, and outdoor picnic grove.
Find out more at beardsleyzoo.org.