by Staff Report
An event aimed at supporting red wolves is scheduled tonight, June 23, at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on Signal Mountain. Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center and Wild South will join forces for a film screening and reception to celebrate the last red wolves left in the world and discuss ways to increase the fast-dwindling population.
The reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; the two films will be screened at 7:15 p.m. “Red Wolf Revival,” a documentary by Roshan Patel, focuses on the current endangered status of red wolves. The short film “How Wolves Change Rivers” looks at how wolves help keep ecosystems in balance.
The event comes just weeks after conservation groups submitted an emergency petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service demanding increased preservation efforts for the highly endangered species.
Red wolves, which once roamed much of the southeastern United States, faced near complete extinction by the 1960s, says Avery Patten, director of marketing and development at Reflection Riding. Conservation groups preserved 14 red wolves in captivity and in 1987 released four breeding pairs into northeastern North Carolina.
Although the population expanded significantly over the following decades to about 120 in 2010, it has since declined, primarily because hunters mistake the animals for coyotes, Patten says. In 2016, there are approximately 50 red wolves left in the wild, and this population faces immediate threat of extinction, she says.
Reflection Riding, which is home to a breeding pair of red wolves and their three pups, is one of several places that has managed to successfully breed red wolves in captivity. The petition to the USFWS calls for, among other things, the establishment of a larger wild red wolf population across Southern states by releasing additional wolves into the wild. Until recently, red wolves have served as a model for the restoration of a near-extinct species to its former habitat, Patten says.
Following the film, Defenders of Wildlife spokesman Ben Prater will lead a talk on immediate action that can be taken to preserve the most endangered mammal in North America, and Tish Gailmard will discuss Reflection Riding’s efforts to breed and protect red wolves.