Shannon Lora, Special to WNC Parent
Once common throughout the Southeastern U.S., the red wolf is now considered a critically endangered species. By the 20th century, wild populations had begun to dramatically decrease as a result of habitat destruction, hybridization with coyotes and predator control programs. Red wolves were declared endangered in 1967 and extinct in the wild by 1980, when the last remaining wild population (only 17 wolves!) was captured to begin a captive breeding program and to ensure the survival of the red wolf population.
In 1987, four pair of red wolves were released in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Refuge. Since then, the population of red wolves in the wild has grown. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of deciding whether to continue efforts to maintain a population in the wild.
Approximately 200 red wolves live in zoos and other facilities, including the WNC Nature Center. The Nature Center proudly participates in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, a breeding and management program designed to assist in conservation efforts and ensure the long-term sustainability of zoo-based populations.
In November 2015, Rozene, a female red wolf from an endangered wolf center in Missouri, joined Van, a male red wolf born at the Nature Center in May 2012, in the Nature Center’s red wolf exhibit. Rozene and Van were recommended as potential breeding pair by the SSP.
Next time you visit the WNC Nature Center, stop by the red wolf exhibit for a closer look at the potential breeding pair, Rozene and Van.
Visit www.wncnaturecenter.com for more information.