Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rare Red Wolves Find a New Home at the Endangered Wolf Center near Eureka

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rare Red Wolves Find a New Home at the Endangered Wolf Center near Eureka

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS COUNTY * The father, one of only a few hundred red wolves left in existence, bolted out of his crate first, then paused to nervously glance around at his surroundings, before slinking away from his handlers and a couple of photographers.

The hair stood up on the back his neck, more out of fear than anything else. His auburn fur blended with the dead leaves scattered throughout the 2-acre enclosure.

He was followed by three of his pups, and then their mother.

After a few minutes the pack of red wolves that arrived at the Endangered Wolf Center near Eureka on Thursday seemed to have become indistinguishable from the grass, leaves and tree bark of their new home, evidence that their ancestors had evolved right here in Missouri more than 150,000 years ago.

Red wolves once roamed from Missouri to Texas and east to Florida. But they were hunted to the brink of extinction. In fact, in 1980 they were declared extinct in the wild, but a captive breeding program ensured the survival of the species. Today, just over 50 red wolves exist in the wild in North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

About 190 more live in breeding programs such as those at the Endangered Wolf Center. The center is part of the Species Survival Plan, a managed breeding program for endangered and threatened wildlife, made up of educators, scientists, governmental and nongovernmental agencies.

"This is a true American species," said Regina Mossotti, the Endangered Wolf Center's director of animal care and conservation. "One of the cool things about it is that the United States is the only country in the entire world that it's native to. It's our species. It's our American icon, our national treasure. If we let it go extinct, it's on our shoulders, nobody else's."

The wolves, which are the property of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, came to the center from the Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, Ill., about 250 miles north of St. Louis, after it was determined that the center near Eureka had a facility large enough to house them. …

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