Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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The Future of the Red Wolves Campaign

Red Wolf Campaign Header

Securing a Future for Red Wolves  

The red wolf is the most critically endangered species of canine and one of the most endangered animals on the planet. Known as “America’s wolf,” it is the only wolf species native to the United States -- and it faces certain extinction without our help.

Red wolves are native to the southern U.S. and are distantly related to both gray wolves and coyotes. They once ranged throughout the south, but by the 1960s they were hunted almost to extinction by ranchers seeking to wipe out a potential livestock predator. In the 1970s, conservationists captured the last 40 red wolves from the Texas/Louisiana border and established the captive breeding program.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the 1.3-million-acre Alligator River preserve for red wolves bred in human care to regain a foothold in the wild. The effort was at first successful, with the wild population growing to 130 by 2006. But in recent years the federal government relaxed protections against hunting or killing them, resulting in many being poached or purposely hit by vehicles.

There are currently fewer than 20 red wolves remaining in the wild in the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina, and about 250 in human care at 41 institutions – including the Rosamond Gifford Zoo – involved in the Species Survival Plan working to save them by breeding them in our care and releasing them into the wild.

Conservation organizations including the Association of Zoos & Aquariums SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) program are working to raise awareness and lobby for stronger protections for wild red wolves, while the Species Survival Plan continues to build a population of these beautiful animals in human care. 

To give these shy, elusive animals the best-case scenario for reproducing, the zoo has launched a capital campaign to make needed updates and improvements to their habitat on Wildlife Trail.

The $150,000 project will include:

  • Doubling the size of the red wolf habitat to over half an acre to provide more space for potential pups.
  • New perimeter fencing to allow for a larger exhibit while increasing opportunities for the public to see the wolves.
  • A new camera system to monitor their behaviors 24/7, including inside their underground den.
  • Needed maintenance of their den to reinforce the foundation and update the drainage system to keep it warm and dry.
  • New interpretive and donor signage to tell their story and acknowledge contributors to the exhibit.

We are fortunate to be part of the effort to save the red wolf, and we invite you, your family, your organization or your business to lend your support to this important endeavor! Please consider a donation of any amount to the capital fund on behalf of all red wolves.

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