Zoo Welcomes Transferred Wolves
Puppy Love Zoo welcomes transferred wolves
By SUSAN SILVERS
It was a red-letter day for wolves Wednesday as two female red wolf pups
made a 1,000-mile journey to the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport to help their
endangered species survive.
The occasion marks the first time wolves have been transported such a long
distance to be cared for by a surrogate mother, officials said. They were
part of a litter of seven in the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Fla.
The big moment took place shortly before 3 p.m., when Beardsley Zoo Curator
Don Goff opened a blue plastic crate and gingerly lifted the pups from
swaddling of a blue towel and hay.
Covered with black and reddish-brown fur, the new arrivals -- born May 16
-- continued sleeping despite exclamations from reporters and photographers
on hand to witness the occasion.
The pups were introduced privately to their new mother -- already part of
the Beardsley menagerie -- to reduce potential stress. They join a male pup
born to her May 19.
So far, so good, Beardsley Zoo Director Gregg Dancho reported later. He
said all three red wolf newborns were sitting on straw, protected by the
mother in an area of their den shielded by tree branches. The mother had
shooed away the curious adult male, he said.
We don't know if they're feeding yet, but we'll get a handle on that
[Thursday], Dancho added.
Zoo officials don't expect the mother wolf to allow the young to venture
into public view for at least several weeks.
The decision to bring the red wolf babies to the Beardsley Zoo was made
last week by Will Waddell, coordinator of the American Zoo and Aquarium
Association's red wolf Species Survival Plan.
Waddell reasoned that having siblings would be good for the Beardsley pup
so that he could learn proper wolf behavior. Meanwhile, the Florida mother
of seven wouldn't be so overwhelmed, he indicated.
Dancho said the population of red wolves in the United States has plunged
because of hunting and the loss of habitat.
There are currently about 250 red wolves in the world -- nearly all of them
in the U.S. -- about 100 in the wild and 150 at 32 facilities. Placed on
the federal Endangered Species List in 1967, there were as few as 14 in
1984, when the association established the survival plan. The project,
which monitors genetic diversity, is designed to ensure the species' survival.
As part of that plan, Dancho said red wolves have been placed at the
Beardsley Zoo over the last seven years. Several have been released into
the wild, where they are considered vital to the environment by controlling
overpopulations of prey species and removing unhealthy animals.
Beardsley's adult female red wolf, now 9 years old, arrived last year from
Syracuse; the 8-year-old adult male was brought just in time for breeding
season this year.
Their pup's birth pleased zoo officials, who weren't sure the female was
still fertile. The species can be bred starting at age 3 or so. Red wolves
generally live about 15 years in captivity.
At just over a pound each, the sister wolves are smaller than their new
stepbrother, who weighs nearly 2 pounds. Dancho was not surprised, noting
the babies from Florida had to compete for nourishment with five siblings
while nursing, but Bridgeport's pup has had his mother all to himself.
If the mother doesn't bond with the new arrivals, zoo officials could
bottle feed them. At worst, the pups could be returned to their mother in
But Michele Smurl, the Brevard Zoo curator who brought the two pups north
by commercial airline, dismissed such thoughts. We know this will work out
fine, she said.
Still, Smurl said she'd miss the young females, even though five pups
remain at her zoo. She said she became attached to them on their journey to
Bridgeport, which started at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday.
They were angels, she said.
Susan Silvers, who covers regional events, can be reached at 330-6426.
Where the wild things are
Facts about the endangered population of red wolves in the United States
and efforts to save the species from extinction:
+ RED WOLVES: Reddish in color along head, ears and legs, but coloring can
range from light tan to black. Weigh about 45 to 80 pounds. Have long ears
and legs. Lifespan is 15 years in captivity, seven to eight years in the wild.
+ AT BEARDSLEY: The Bridgeport zoo is home to one adult male red wolf, one
adult female, one newborn male pup, and two female pups, which arrived
Wednesday from Florida. Meanwhile, three of five red wolf pups born at
Beardsley five years ago were reintroduced to the wilderness with their
+ ON THE PROWL: Red wolves are social animals, forming packs of five to
eight animals that typically roam 10 to 100 square miles. Packs usually
consist of an adult pair with young of the current and previous years. They
are shy animals. Gestation period is 63 days, with an average of four pups
in a litter.
+ FEW AND FAR BETWEEN: There currently are only 150 red wolves in captivity
in the U.S. at 32 facilities, and approximately 100 in the wild. The red
wolf's former geographic range was as far north as Pennsylvania and as far
west as central Texas. The animal is now found only in northeastern North
Carolina and two island propagation sites -- off South Carolina and the
+ STAYING ALIVE: Red wolves were first listed on the federal Endangered
Species List on March 11, 1967. The animal is now part of the Species
Survival Plan, a program of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association
designed to help population recovery efforts through cooperation and
partnership among breeding facilities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. The red wolf SSP was established in 1984 with a founding
population of 14 animals.
+ BACK TO NATURE: About 900 red wolves have been born through the survival
plan so far, and approximately 75 have been reintroduced to the wild. In
1987, four pairs of red wolves were reintroduced to the wild on the
120,000-acre Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North
Carolina. Each wolf had a radio transmitter so biologists could monitor its
movements. Other reintroductions were made, and the first wild reproduction
took place in 1988.
+ RESTORATION: The SSP's goal is to restore the red wolf population to 550
animals -- including three wild populations totaling 220 animals and 330 in
captivity at 30 or more facilities. The wolves are being reintroduced to
help restore the ecosystem that was their natural habitat. Predators
maintain the balance and health of an ecosystem by controlling
overpopulation of prey species and removing unhealthy animals. Red wolves
eat deer, raccoon, nutria (water-dwelling rodents) and small mammals.
+ RESOURCES: For more information about the Beardsley Zoo and its exhibits,
394-6565 or check the Web site, www.beardsleyzoo.org
For a 16-page color brochure about red wolves from the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, check http://southeast.fws.gov/pubs/alwolf.pdf
For information about the Red Wolf Recovery Program, check
Females to serve as surrogate sisters in Connecticut
By Sara Paulson-Camodeca
MELBOURNE, Fla. - They are only 10 inches long, weigh a mere 2 pounds and
can't even open their eyes yet, but the two tiny, red wolf puppies born two
weeks ago at the Brevard Zoo already are on a mission.
The female pups - who were born along with five males in the litter - were
flown Wednesday to the Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut to help boost the red
wolf population as part of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's
Species Survival Plan.
The species was declared extinct in the wild in 1980, and the pups will
serve as surrogate sisters to a lone male pup born only three days after them.
"Raising one pup, this pup isn't going to learn from any other siblings,"
said Michelle Smurl, general curator of animals at the Brevard Zoo, of the
baby red wolf at Beardsley. "And nine animals in our habitat is a lot."
The survival plan is carried out with the cooperation of 30 zoos throughout
the country and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Red wolves have been
listed as an endangered species since 1967, and they were earmarked in 1996
as being critically endangered.
There are about 250 red wolves in the world, both in the wild and in
captivity. The goal of the plan, Smurl said, is to increase the red wolf
population to 550.
Habitat destruction and interbreeding with coyotes are reasons why the
species is in danger of becoming extinct.
The animals originally were found as far north as Pennsylvania and as far
west as central Texas, covering the eastern part of the U.S. Now, the red
wolf is found only in northeastern North Carolina and two island sites
managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service in South Carolina and off the
coast of the Florida Panhandle.
"We just contributed seven animals to this population," Smurl said of the
new litter. "That's amazing."
The wolf parents at the Brevard Zoo were brought from zoos in Tampa and
Minnesota last fall to mate. This was their first successful litter.
Once the pups reach Connecticut, Beardsley's curator will pull the male
baby wolf from the den and let it interact with its two new siblings, said
Robin DeMattia, spokeswoman for Beardsley Zoo. The curator also will handle
all three of the pups so they have the same scent.
"This way, the mother will not recognize which pup she gave birth to,"
DeMattia said. "She should acknowledge them all as her own and begin caring
for them equally."
The red wolf program is one of eight Species Survival Programs the Brevard
Zoo participates in, Smurl said.
"Species survival plans are part of what this zoo is about," said Margo
McKnight, director of the Brevard Zoo. "We participate whenever we possibly
can. That's just part of our philosophy."
<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
"On the ragged edge of the world
And the home of the Wolf
Will be my home."
<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>