Written By: Jaime Vaccaro
Red wolves are a critically endangered species that once inhabited the entire Southeastern United States including Florida. Red wolf populations were decimated in the early part of the 20th century due to habitat loss, predator control programs, and hybridization with coyotes. By the late 1960's, their numbers were so low that only a small population remained in Louisiana and Texas. Fourteen of these remaining Red wolves, known as the "founders" were brought to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma Washington to start the Red wolf recovery program.
ZooTampa, alongside 40 other zoos and facilities, are part of this conservation effort and collectively care for over 250 Red wolves. Due to this partnership and dedication to the species, Red wolves, that were once declared extinct in the wild, had flourished in managed care and several pairs were released into the wild in 1987. The release site is known as the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. This site, along with St. Vincent's Island, are the only two areas to see Red wolves in the wild today. Being critically endangered, the wild population is estimated to be around 25 individuals.
Red wolves are known for being reclusive and shy, with varied colorations making them almost invisible in their natural environment. These wolves form small family packs with just a male, female and their pups. ZooTampa currently houses five Red wolves, mom Yona (5 years of age) and her litter of four pups born in April 2018: Yulee, Redington, Conner, and Boca. Boca is the only female pup and easily recognized by her floppy right ear. ZooTampa is part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Red wolves, which helps ensure the survival of this species and promotes conservation efforts. Family groups tend to stay together for up to two years, at which point, the litter of pups go off on their own to find a mate. As our wolf family grows, the SSP will make recommendations of placement that best help the conservation of the species.
To see our Red wolf family, stop by their renovated habitat. With large viewing windows, guests have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of these incredible animals. See them up close at 945am daily during the Red wolf keeper chat. You can also symbolically adopt a red wolf here.