A new litter of red wolf pups is bringing renewed hope to the future of the endangered species. In a Facebook post on Thursday, the Red Wolf Recovery Program announced that four female and two male red wolf pups were born in April.
The births were welcomed by animal rights advocates and mark the first time a litter of red wolves was born in the wild since 2018. "This red wolf pair was formed through the combination of several management actions and the two red wolves subsequently following their natural instincts in pairing, establishing their territory and mating," the Red Wolf Recovery Program wrote in their Facebook post on Thursday. "Every generation yields a new born hope for the red wolf … a cause for joy and celebration!"
The Red Wolf Recovery Program added that the newborns were found in the North Carolina-based Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. According to NPR, the dwindling population of red wolves has been attributed to hunting, extermination and the destruction of their natural habitat by humans. Breeding programs are seen as critical to ensuring the red wolf population has a future.
On its site, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted how crucial Species Survival Plan (SSP) facilities have been in keeping the birthrate of red wolves up. During the 2021-2022 breeding season, the number of red wolf breeding pairs jumped to 38, the agency said.
"As of August 2021, there are approximately 241 red wolves in 45 SSP facilities across the country. In the 2020-2021 breeding season, 30 breeding pairs were established and 23 pups in 6 litters were born," the agency reported, explaining: "Four adults were released into the wild in the NC NEP and 4 pups were fostered to a wild red wolf, leaving 19 pups added to the SSP population. With additional space capacity, and to increase the population, the number of breeding pairs for the 2021-2022 breeding season increased to 38 pairs."