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Dan Nicholas Park welcomes new red wolf pup

SALISBURY — Dan Nicholas Park has welcomed a new red wolf pup to join its resident family of the endangered canine species.

The pup, born April 20 to parents Magma and Clay, does not have a name yet. He is a bit less shy than some of his family and can sometimes be seen waddling around and exploring the enclosure at Rowan Wild.

This is the second year in a row Magma and Clay have had a litter. Last year, they had two pups. A third was fostered in to the family.

“It’s always exciting just to think we’re part of such a huge conservation project,” Rowan Wild Naturalist Megan Cline said.

Cline said red wolf litters can range anywhere from a single pup to seven or eight like domesticated dogs.

The pup is going through normal medical checkups for new wolves and will start receiving vaccinations soon. Cline said the staff check on the wolves every day. When they found Magma with the new pup, they left him alone for a full day before examining the pup and getting a veterinarian on site.

Dan Nicholas is part of a species survival program for the wolves made up of a network of facilities. Red wolves are critically endangered in the wild. Until recently, there were less than 20 wolves in the wild — all living in eastern North Carolina — but last week the program released eight wolves into the wild as part of a soft release.

The release is the first of its kind in years and was the result of a judge ordering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to allow reintroductions from the program to resume.

Cline said the wolves at Dan Nicholas are currently considered to be a multi-generational pack like a family of wolves in the wild. The older siblings are expected to be moved to other facilities in the fall according to genetic data. The survival program will hold its annual meeting in July.

In the wild, the social behavior of red wolves looks familiar. Parents are monogamous and raise their young together. The older offspring help the family and care for their younger siblings as well. When they are old enough, they strike out on their own to start their own families.

Unlike coyotes, red wolves are not generalists. They tend to stay far away from people and need wilderness to survive. The wolves are apex predators, but coyotes still compete with them for food and can mate with red wolves, creating sterile hybrids.

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