The good news: Four endangered red wolf pups born Friday, April 28 at the Museum of Life and Science have been pronounced healthy after their first hands-on veterinary checkup.
The bad news: a fifth pup is ailing and a sixth died on Monday.
All four healthy pups had gained between 20 and 35 percent of their body weight as of Tuesday and were starting to vocalize with small squeaks.
“They are robust and active with a strong sucking response and full bellies — all positive signs,” said Deborah Vanderford, attending veterinarian for the Museum of Life and Science.
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While all six pups were found to be healthy at birth with no congenital birth defects, during subsequent health checks one male pup was found to have paler mucus membranes and was pronounced dead on Monday, May 1.
A female pup is being treated for a foot abrasion, a serious but not uncommon condition in red wolf litters. Newborn wolves are particularly susceptible to infections as a result of pad or paw abrasions.
The museum’s animal care team is collaborating with numerous veterinarians and Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) colleagues as they continue to monitor and treat the female pup.
“We started the female pup on long-acting antibiotics and hope she will show signs of improvement, but we know foot pad issues in the first two weeks can be a serious concern,” said Sherry Samuels, Museum of Life and Science’s Animal Department Director and member of the Red Wolf SSP Management Team.
“The first 30 days are a critical and sensitive time for the pups; a death and an abrasion issue, while sad and difficult, are on par for what can and does happen with litters during this fragile time.”
All surviving, healthy pups are showing signs of successful nursing and the mother is proving to be an attentive parent to her new pups. The museum’s red wolf litter now includes two male and three female pups. This is the third time in 24 years that successful breeding of red wolves has occurred at the Museum of Life and Science.
The museum said its animal care staff will continue to monitor the health of all pups and the adult wolf pair over the coming weeks. A preventive medicine protocol of deworming, vaccines, and general checks will occur approximately every two weeks until 16 weeks of age.
About the red wolf
In addition to the cinnamon coat highlights which lend them their name, red wolves are visibly smaller and more slender than gray wolves. Adult red wolves typically weigh between 45-80 pounds and can live up to 15 years in captivity, but rarely longer than seven years in the wild.
Once a top predator throughout the southeastern United States, the red wolf is now categorized as critically endangered. To protect the remaining red wolf population, a managed breeding program was established in 1973 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
The success of this breeding program led to the reintroduction of red wolves to North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987.
Red wolves now inhabit a five-county area in northeastern North Carolina and although their numbers had grown, gunshot, vehicle strikes, and habitat loss has reduced the wild population and continue to threaten their survival. The red wolf is one of our planet’s most endangered species and continues to be at risk.
About the Museum of Life and Science
Located less than five miles from downtown Durham, the Museum of Life and Science is one of North Carolina’s top family destinations whose mission is to create a place of lifelong learning where people, from young child to senior citizen, embrace science as a way of knowing about themselves, their community, and their world.
Situated on 84-acres, the immersive environment of this outdoor science park and two-story science center inspire curiosity, the capacity for thinking scientifically, and the desire to learn for a lifetime.