The WNC Nature Center announced June 1 that the center’s resident female red wolf Mayo has given birth to four pups, a larger than average litter for a first time mom. The pups, two males and two females, were born May 9 and, at a few weeks old, are healthy and developing normally. The birth brings the number of red wolves at the WNC Nature Center to seven.
“This is a fantastic announcement to be able to make,” says Chris Gentile, the center’s director. “It’s a great thing to have happen in Asheville, a privilege for us at the nature center and a real boon for the red wolf breeding program as a whole.”
The red wolf, Canis rufus, is a federally protected endangered species native to the southeastern United States. Only about 400 are known to be in existence. The Red Wolf Species Survival Program, a partnership between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, keeps track of all red wolves in zoos worldwide and makes recommendation on which wolves should breed to increase the health of the population. That’s how, six months ago, a male red wolf named Phoenix arrived at the WNC Nature Center from Albany, GA as a possible breeding partner for three-year-old Mayo.
The four new red wolves are being kept in a special 1/3-acre enclosure outside the public view for at least the next six months. At a few weeks old, the pups have just opened their eyes and are still nursing, says WNC Nature Center veterinarian Ross Prezant, and it is important to their development that they interact with people as little as possible. The pups stay in a whelping box designed under the specifications of the FWS officials and are handled only for veterinary purposes. Mayo cleans the box herself. “It’s spotless every time we go in there,” Prezant says.
Like the pups, Mayo was born at the WNC Nature Center. Her father, Rufus, will remain on display during the time that she, the pups and Phoenix are in the off-exhibit habitat. A renovated red wolf exhibit is scheduled to begin construction soon. Once completed, the wolves will go on view for Nature Center guests.
The WNC Nature Center is part of the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department and features over 250 animals native to the Southern Appalachians including red wolves, otters, birds of prey, black bears, and reptiles. The Nature Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Regular admission to the WNC Nature Center is $6 for adults ($8 for non-Asheville residents), $5 for seniors ($7 for non-Asheville residents), $4 for youth ages 3-15 and children age 2 and under are free.