By Jennifer Galbraith, Animal Care Professional – Florida Mammals
Red wolves are a species that once inhabited the entire Southeast region including Florida. Red wolf populations were decimated in the early part of the 20th century due to habitat loss and predator control programs. Today, they are critically endangered, with only around 200 red wolves remaining in zoos and reintroduction areas. ZooTampa at Lowry Park recently debuted a new red wolf habitat designed to give guests an up-close view of these incredible animals. Red wolves are known for being reclusive and shy with varied colorations, making them almost invisible in their natural environment. However, with the habitat’s new floor-to-ceiling windows guests have a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of these incredible animals.
The Zoo recently introduced a young pair of wolves with the hope that a new generation would soon follow. Our female wolf, “Yona” which means “Bear” and our male, Apollo named after the mythological Greek God who was said to derive from a wolf are both three years old. The introduction took place in early December and the pair quickly became comfortable with each other in their new habitat. Red Wolves form small family packs with just a male, female and their pups.
Valentine’s Day is extra special for red wolves because it falls right in the heart of Red Wolf breeding season. Breeding season starts in January and goes through the end of February with pups being born in March through May. Near the end of February 2018, Yona and Apollo were observed to be breeding. Over the next 60 days, Yona dug a den under the cypress logs in the center of the habitat, and on April 28th the first faint cries of newborn pups could be heard! Two days later it was possible to visually confirm 4-5 pups curled up around mom. The pups are slowly emerging from their den and guests can see them starting to explore their habitat. It appears Cupid’s arrow has hit the mark, increasing the size of our red wolf family as well as the chances of this beautiful animal reclaiming its role in the wild.