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Field Journal: Gray Wolves of Yellowstone


Friday, November 1, 1996

Breeding red wolves
Reported by Will Waddell

I can't believe it's November already. It's been a busy year for the red wolf program. We have nine red wolves at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. In October we received a female wolf from the Audubon Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana, and a male from the Los Angeles Zoo in California. After going through a quarantine period, they were put together and seem to be getting along fine.

Not far from the zoo we have a captive breeding facility that is not open to the public, which has 48 wolves in pens. Sue Behrns takes care of the wolves there as she has done for about 18 years. Sue called last week to inform me that male number 312 had diarrhea and that our veterinarian asked that she draw blood and send the sample to the lab. The lab results showed a high white cell count and the vet instructed Sue to begin the wolf on antibiotics.

There are 30 other zoos in the United States that have red wolves. These zoos participate in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (or SSP). An SSP is a conservation plan started by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association in which zoos cooperate with other zoos for the benefit of selected species of animals that are threatened or endangered. Here at the Point Defiance Zoo, I coordinate the red wolf SSP. I work closely with Gary Henry, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He's the red wolf species coordinator for wolves in the wild.

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began their work to save the red wolf in the mid-1970s there were only 14 red wolves left! These wolves are called "founders." With the help of the red wolf SSP there are now 187 red wolves in the captive breeding program. Red wolves have been returned to places they used to live in the southeastern United States. About 50 wolves are back in the wild now. There may be more but we don't know the exact number because many pups have been born in the wild but haven't been trapped yet.

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