Archived Outdoors

Red wolf litter born in the wild

A litter of five red wolves was recently born in eastern North Carolina’s wild population. Red Wolf Recovery Program photo A litter of five red wolves was recently born in eastern North Carolina’s wild population. Red Wolf Recovery Program photo

A new litter of red wolf puppies has been born in the tiny wild population in eastern North Carolina.

The litter includes three female pups and two males. Together with a cross-fostered male pup born at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, they will bring the pack of wild wolves at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge up to 13 wolves.

Last year, the pack saw the birth of the first red wolf litter born in the wild since 2018.

“This is extraordinary news for red wolves in the wild. This family group is now a large, fully-functioning pack with these new pups and the yearlings,” said Ben Prater, director of Defenders of Wildlife’s Southeast Program. “We are so grateful for the [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] biologists that made this happen. We’re hopeful this is a sign of things to come in the species recovery.” 

Once common throughout the Southeast, red wolves faced extinction in the late 1970s after intensive predator-control programs and loss of habitat, prompting USFWS biologists to capture the very last wild individuals for a never-before-tried effort at captive breeding. In 1987, biologists reintroduced four wild pairs into Alligator National Wildlife Refuge. 

In addition to the Milltail family group, two litters of four red wolf puppies each reside in acclimation pens with their parents and will be released in the coming weeks. With these litters and additional releases of captive-bred wolves, the wild population could total 35-37 by the end of May.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.