By Kathi Keys
ASHEBORO — The N.C. Zoo’s 2-month-old red wolf pup needs a name.
“We can’t keep calling him pup!” notes both the N.C. Zoo and N.C. Zoo Society on their websites. They are seeking help for the no-name red wolf born May 3 to his first-time mother, Haley.
The public is being asked to vote for one of three names, suggested by the zoo’s red wolf keepers, by donating $5 or more to support Red Wolf Conservation Program efforts. The one earning the most money by Sunday, July 17, will be the pup’s name.
The three choices are:
* “Red Solo Lobo” which means “red, single wolf.” Keepers will call him “Solo.”
* “Rheagar” in honor of his father, Rayder.
* “Drogo” which is the name of a strong character from a popular TV series (he’s a fictional, powerful warlord in “Game of Thrones”).
The contest was announced on Facebook and on both websites for the N.C. Zoo and its support organization, the N.C. Zoo Society, which works with the zoo to fund the Red Wolf Breeding and Reintroduction Program.
To choose a name by making a minimum $5 tax-deductible donation to the zoo society, go to www.nczoo.com.
The red wolf pup is growing up rapidly in an off-exhibit space where there is limited contact with people to help maintain the wolves’ natural tendencies to avoid people — a skill they would need to live successfully in the wild. Keepers want to preserve these tendencies because wild red wolves are so rare and are a critically endangered species. About 50-75 red wolves live in the wild, all of them only in eastern North Carolina.
The N.C. Zoo has been part of the red wolf recovery effort, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Zoos across the United States have banded together to secure the future of red wolves by breeding them in facilities that are structured to limit their contact with people and to preserve their wild behaviors.
The N.C. Zoo’s isolated breeding area currently houses 10 red wolves plus the two adults who live in an exhibit space in the zoo’s North America section.
The pup’s mother, Haley, arrived at the zoo in November 2015, with a sister, from the Sewee Center at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern South Carolina. They were born at the Salisbury Zoological Park, Md., and moved to Sewee in 2012, according to Cape Romain NWR staff.
There are about 200 red wolves in 44 captive facilities in the United States. The species was listed as endangered in 1967 and in 1973 the USFWS established its captive breeding program. The N.C. Zoo has been involved in the program since the mid-1990s; the pup’s birth was the sixth for red wolves and the first since 2010 (the female born then died the next day). The last litter at the N.C. Zoo was born in April 2005; one of those pups remains there, according to zoo staff. The first litter was born in May 1997.
Several red wolves from the N.C. Zoo have been reintroduced into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina.
At two weeks, after his birth on May 3, the newest pup weighed 2.5 pounds. Two weeks later, it was 4.3 pounds and starting to venture out of his den box. For his 8-week checkup, he was reported by zoo staff to be growing, healthy and weighing close to 8 pounds. Videos of his examinations by zoo staffers show the mother running back and forth outside the enclosed area.
The pup needs a name.