When an aggressive virus strikes, there’s often little that can be done. Fortunately, Jackson Zoo’s dedicated animal care team was able to give the medical attention needed to rescue a litter of Red Wolf pups from a virus that had been transmitted by the pups' mother, Taladu.
The five pups, Jackson Zoo's first litter of this critically endangered species, were born on April 22nd. The three surviving pups are male and thriving under the care of zoo veterinarian, Dr. Michael Holifield. They are growing quickly and taking two to three ounces of formula at three-hour intervals. At three weeks old, two cubs weighed in at 2.3 lbs and one weighed in at 3 lbs.
Because the virus was transmitted by their mother, they will continue to be hand-raised by Dr. Holifield for a few more weeks before they return to their nursery at the zoo.
Photo credits: Jackson Zoo
Once common throughout the eastern and south-central United States, Red Wolf populations were decimated by the early part of the 20th century as a result of intensive predator control programs and the degradation and alteration of the species' habitat. The species was declared extinct in the wild by 1980. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a recovery program. The last seventeen wild wolves were captured, and fourteen of these became the founding population of Red Wolves at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. Today, more than 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.
The species is managed by a Species Survival Plan which coordinates breeding of captive wolves to be introduced into the wild. The plan ensures healthy genetic combinations between wolves in different facilities, helping to reduce the degree of inbreeding that can occur in very small populations.Captive-born pups like the three little males at Jackson Zoo play a critical role, for future breeding and potentially as candidates to be introduced into the wild.