NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - There's a new four-legged family member at the Virginia Living Museum!
The museum announced Monday it has welcomed an endangered 9-year-old female American Red Wolf named Katniss to their outdoor boardwalk trail. One of the newest non-releasable animals to join the education mission, Katniss is part of a federal Species Survival Plan.
Katniss arrived at the museum under the care of Dr. Kelsey Hayden, the museum’s Lead Veterinarian. Staff say Katniss has an extremely curious attitude and loves to roll on and eat fish, her favorite scent and snack.
Katniss came from the Wild Canid Survival & Rescue Center in Eureka, Missouri, and is known to have an unusual howl, consisting of an irregular high pitch. She was paired with the museum’s 11-year-old male red wolf, who was recommended as a companion by the SSP as they are both mature animals uniquely suited for cohabitation. The museum says the pairing will provide the necessary companionship for the pack animals now together in the Red Wolf natural habitat on the Museum’s outdoor trail.
“Wolves are highly social creatures who are capable of forming lifelong relationships and bonds with one another,” says Dr. Hayden, “ This is the only large carnivore with a range found solely in the United States. We are excited to be able to offer a home to Katniss so that she can spend her golden years with us.”
The Virginia Living Museum participates in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) 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 30 American Red Wolf left in northeastern North Carolina. After many years of successful captive breeding efforts, American Red Wolves were nearly self-sustaining in the wild about 10 years ago with about 120 wolves.
In 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 facilities like the Virginia Living Museum, American Red Wolf numbers are strong and serve as an assurance population against extinction.
The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan is a cooperative effort between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (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.
The Virginia Living Museum is located at 524 J. Clyde Morris Boulevard in Newport News. It will be closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
For more information visit the museum's official website or call 757-595-1900.