The only two red wolves at Durham’s Museum of Life and Science are being sent on an important mission: to help save their species.
This month, Eno and Ellerbe, both 4 years old, will move to the Red Wolf Center in Columbia, North Carolina through the museum’s Species Survival Program. The program is part of a national effort by zoos and nature centers to rebuild populations of the critically endangered red wolves.
Fewer than 300 red wolves survive worldwide.
Since 1992, the Museum of Life and Science, has been home to a total of nearly 50 red wolves.
Twenty-three red wolf pups have been born there, including Eno and Ellerbe, born April 20, 2018, and named after two of Durham’s beloved waterways.
“It’s time for the boys to move on to their next home,” Sherry Samuels, director of animal care at the museum, said in a news release. “All the red wolves in the recovery program are temporary residents at whatever zoo, museum, nature center, or facility in which they reside.”
Eno is larger and darker than his brother with more red fur on his legs, neck, and the back of his ears.
Ellerbe is smaller with lighter and grayer fur. He also has a faint, white cheek patch.
“I try to think of each wolf as a gift to those fortunate enough to see and meet it,” Samuels said. Each pup born at the museum adds to the genetic diversity of the population.
Saving red wolves
Red wolves were once a top predator throughout the southeastern United States. Though described as shy and elusive, red wolves live in pairs or in family packs.
The distinct species could be found in several locations throughout North America including the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to the Ohio River Valley, Pennsylvania, New England and southern parts of Canada, and southern Missouri and central Texas, according to the Red Wolf Center.
As humans claimed more land for farms and towns, red wolves were driven out of most areas, according to the Museum of Life and Science.
Eastern North Carolina is the only place on earth where red wolves live in the wild, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As of July 2022, only about 20 have been found in the wild, with another 243 in captivity, according to the Service.
Scientists, government workers, and advocates have been working together to increase the red wolf population since the late 1970s.
In addition to the wolves at the Museum of Life and Science, a small wild population lives at the state’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in East Lake, North Carolina.
Red wolves can also be found at other zoos and nature centers throughout the country and next month, two will be sent to Durham in place of Eno and Ellerbe, the release stated.
The Red Wolf Center, also known as the Red Wolf Coalition, in Columbia was founded in 1997 and serves as the hub for private support for long-term red wolf restoration.