Museum Hosts Wolf Awareness Week
In honor of National Wolf Awareness Week, the Museum of Life and Science in Durham will present special educational talks to promote greater understanding of the endangered red wolf population Sunday, Oct. 15, through Saturday, Oct. 21.
Each year the Museum of Life and Science offers public programs as part of National Wolf Awareness Week during the third week in October.
Wolf Awareness Week dispels misconceptions and educates the public about red wolves, endangered species and their Recovery Plan as well as the role predators play in maintaining biological diversity in an ecosystem.
The Museum plays an instrumental role in cooperation with national breeding programs to restore the red wolf population nationwide.
This special awareness week includes animal keeper talks and giveaways. There is no extra charge for these events.
Background on Red Wolves
The red wolf is one of the most endangered animals in the world, a shy species that once roamed throughout the Southeastern United States as a top predator. By 1970, the entire population of red wolves was believed to be less than 100 in the wild.
In 1967, red wolves were placed on the Endangered Species list after their numbers had been severely reduced by loss of habitat, hunting, trapping and mating with coyotes due to the lack of same-species partners.
In 1973, after continued decline, officials decided to remove all red wolves from the wild for captive breeding to save them from extinction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rounded up approximately 400 canids, only 17 of which were considered to be genetically viable "pure" red wolves.
Fourteen of these 17 wolves bred at captive breeding sites, and the Red Wolf Recovery Plan and Red Wolf SSP were developed.
Wildlife officials reintroduced four pairs of red wolves at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina in 1987. They continue to release animals today, as new pups are born and numbers increase, with benefits to the species, the local ecosystem, and even to the people who live in the affected area.
As of August 2005, approximately 100 red wolves roamed wild. As of August 2006, 178 individuals live at 39 captive breeding facilities such as zoos and museums across the country, including the Museum of Life and Science.
The Museum houses red wolves as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), supervised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Elected representatives from institutions that provide shelter and sometimes breed the animals make up the Red Wolf Management Group.
Red wolves are smaller and more slender than gray wolves, but larger than coyotes. Although mostly gray-black, a reddish color accentuates their ears, muzzle, and the backs of their legs. Adult red wolves weigh 45-80 pounds, with males typically larger than females. They can live up to 15 years in captivity, but seldom longer than seven to 10 years in the wild.
The original habitat of red wolves included forests, wetlands, mountains and coastal prairies. The animals make their dens in hollow trees, stream banks and sand knolls.
Today, the only mainland reintroduction site for red wolves is the Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuges in eastern North Carolina.
The first wolf arrived at the Museum of Life and Science in November 1992, followed by a litter of pups in May 1993. A second litter of pups was born there in April 2002. Captive breeding and continued success of the current wild population will contribute to a successful future for these animals.
The Museum's new outdoor wildlife experience Explore the Wild features a red wolf habitat that currently houses three brothers born last year at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro.
The exhibit enclosure features a stream with a waterfall and dens with cameras so visitors can catch a close-up glimpse of the animals. A rock quarry wall serves as a backdrop for the exhibit, not only for its aesthetic appeal, but also to provide the wolves with vertical challenges.
General admission is $9.50 for adults; $8.50 for those 65 and over or active military members; $7.50 for children ages 3-12; free for children aged two and younger.
For information, visit www. ncmls.org for information.
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