ZooTampa red wolf puppies are a ‘step in the right direction’ for species survival

Everyone loves puppies, but at ZooTampa, a special set of red wolf puppies are even more special than they are cute.

"Here at the zoo, we actually have quite a few red wolves, and we are a part of the species survival program to basically try to bring the species back from extinction," stated Molly Lippincott, the curator of Florida and manatees at ZooTampa.

According to Lippincott, the red wolves used to run all over the Southeastern United States but, over time, with habitat loss and more people living in the areas, the population as a whole has really decreased and now they are only found in North Carolina.

"We’ve been fortunate enough to actually have a couple of breeding pairs here over the last few years and we’ve had some puppies born at the zoo. This year, we had a pair come to the zoo and they bred right away and they had four puppies. They had three puppies and a male and they are doing incredibly well," she said.  

ZooTampa is part of a breeding program. Lippincott says there are about 240 wolves at 40 different institutions in the United States.

A red wolf stands near a chain-link fence at ZooTampa

Zoo Tampa is part of a breeding program. Lippincott says there are about 240 wolves at 40 different institutions in the United States. 

The habitats at ZooTampa are a part of their work in conjunction with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums on that red wolf species survival plan.

"That plan includes breeding to contribute to this endangered species population," explained Lippincott. "This year we had a pair come to the zoo, and they bred right away and they had four puppies."

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Lippincott says the wolves are a shy species.

"When people think of wolves, they generally think of a large animal, but red wolves are a smaller species. They run about 50-60 pounds, maybe 80 pounds sometimes."

A red wolf lies down at ZooTampa.

She says the animals are similar to coyotes and are often mistaken for that species.

"With the red wolves in general we don’t interact with them as we do with our other species. We’re pretty hands-off with our red wolves. They are part of a release program. We actually had one of our puppies who was released into the wild from the pair that was born four years ago, so that was really incredible thing for us to have one of ours that is now out in the wild. She was paired with another male and released this spring."

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Though Lippincott says she’s not sure how the red wolf is doing in the wild, but it is a step in the right direction to hopefully bring the species back.

A red wolf pup stands in an enclosure at ZooTampa

ZooTampa is part of a release program and recently released a female red wolf into the wild. 

She says the zoo is working with the citizens of North Carolina to try to incorporate the animals back into the wild.

"We’re hopeful that we are going to continue to be a part of the breeding program and maybe some of these puppies in the future will get released. So many of the species in the wild are going extinct or threatened and we want to try to do what we can to preserve those species and ensure that this species is around for years to come." 

As part of Red Wolf Awareness Week, ZooTampa is offering a breakfast with the animals. Click here to learn more about the event.