North Carolina Zoo Announces Second Litter of Red Wolves for 2020
In carousel pictures above: Zookeeper Jessi Culbertson
Asheboro, N.C. – May 28, 2020 - The North Carolina Zoo announces the birth of two endangered American red wolves as part of its American red wolf breeding program. The two female pups were born on Monday, May 4 to parents Taylor (female) and Solo (male). This is the second litter for the Zoo this year, which is the first time for two litters in one season for the Zoo’s breeding program. On April 21, five pups were born at the Zoo to parents Piglet (female) and Jewell (male).
All seven pups are all healthy and doing well.
The newest pups were named in honor of former North Carolina zookeeper Jessi Culbertson, 32, who worked with the red wolves for several years before passing away in 2019 after a courageous battle with cancer.
The pups are named Arrow, in honor of Jessi’s Native American Cherokee heritage, and May, for the month that both Jessi and the puppies share a birthday.
This litter brings the number of red wolves in the Zoo’s breeding program to 27, making it the second-largest pack in the U.S. after Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.
The pups are being kept in a quiet, non-public viewing area of the Zoo and have minimal contact with staff and keepers. This allows their mother to raise the pups with the least amount of stress in a natural habitat.
Only 15-20 red wolves remain in the wild, and they’re all in eastern North Carolina.
Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources, lauded the Zoo’s efforts to help this critically endangered species survive.
“It’s really a testament the staff’s dedication, teamwork and passion toward helping one of the most endangered canids in the world,” Hamilton said.
Once common throughout the southeastern United States, the wolves were driven to near extinction during the late 1960s, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an aggressive conservation effort – the American Red Wolf Recovery Program – that led to new ways to track and protect the species.
The Zoo has been part of the American Red Wolf Recovery Program since 1994. With these recent births, the Zoo’s red wolf pack has bred thirteen pups over the past three years and has successfully bred 36 wolves since the program began. Currently, there are about 240 (that number can change daily during the whelping season) red wolves in breeding programs throughout the U.S. Red wolves normally have three to five pups per litter.
The North Carolina Zoo led the successful efforts to have the American red wolf become part of the Association of Zoo and Aquariums SAFE (Saving Species From Extinction) program.
Under this program, the Zoo leads in conserving the species and growing both the population in the wild and the animals under human care.
AZA SAFE Species programs aim to protect endangered species around the world. For more information, visit https://www.aza.org/aza-safe.
To learn more about the North Carolina Zoo and our red wolf program please visit www.nczoo.org
About the North Carolina Zoo
At the North Carolina Zoo, we celebrate nature. As the world’s largest natural habitat Zoo, we inspire a lifelong curiosity about animals for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit our Zoo each year. Our dedicated team of experts provides exceptional, compassionate care for the more than 1,800 animals and 52,000 plants that call our Park home. We also lead efforts locally and globally to protect wildlife and wild places because we believe nature’s diversity is critical for our collective future. The North Carolina Zoo invites all of our guests to witness the majesty of the wild in the heart of North Carolina and welcomes everyone to join in our mission to protect nature’s diversity. Visit NCZoo.org to begin your life-changing journey.
About the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the nation's first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call 919- 807-7300 or visit www.ncdcr.gov
Jessi Culbertson, far left, with fellow zookeepers holding a red wolf litter from spring 2018.
Jessi with red wolf pup from a previous year's litter.