NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The Virginia Living Museum has acquired an eleven-year-old female American Red Wolf from the Brevard Zoo in Florida.
The endangered wolf was born in Florida and lived with another until it succumbed to old age. At that time, the wolf needed a companion as did the Virginia Living Museum’s twelve-year-old male wolf. The pairing will provide the necessary companionship for the pack animals in the wolf habitat on the Museum’s outdoor trail.
The Virginia Living Museum participates in a Species Survival Plan to reintroduce the American Red Wolf into the wild. In colonial times, red wolves ranged throughout the southeast. Today they are the most endangered mammal in North America. The Museum is the closest facility to Alligator River, the only place in the country where red wolves currently live in the wild.
It is believed that there are fewer than thirty left in the wild in northeastern North Carolina. After many years of successful captive breeding efforts, American Red Wolves were nearly self-sustaining in the wild about ten years ago with approximately 120 wolves. Since that time, their numbers are far less, primarily due to gunshots because they have been mistaken for coyotes. Their numbers were designated as a non-essential experimental population. When the animals left federal lands and inhabited private lands, there were no repercussions for killing them.
Within the last few years, their legal status in North Carolina has been under review by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In zoos and museums like the Virginia Living Museum, American Red Wolf numbers are strong, and they are continuing to be bred as an assurance population against extinction.
The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan is a cooperative effort between USFWS and AZA. They feel confident that stronger legal protections will be reinstated for Red Wolves in the future. Many facilities and groups, including zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Defenders of Wildlife, advocate for the red wolf’s plight and the need to save this important species. It is the only large carnivore with a range found solely in the United States.
The museum is located at 524 J. Clyde Morris Boulevard, Newport News. Admission is $20 adults and $15 children. Children ages 2 and under are free. For more information call (757)-595-1900 or visit the website.