NC Zoo welcomes 5 rare American red wolf puppies

ASHEBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Zoo welcomed five American red wolf pups to its pack recently.

The Zoo announced Friday that the rare wolves were born April 21 and that the three male and two female pups are doing well.

The American red wolf is critically endangered. The Zoo said there are only about 15-20 of the red wolves in the wild. They are only found in eastern North Carolina.

It will be a while before visitors can see the pups, as they are being kept in a non-viewing area. The Zoo has also been closed to the public since March 17 because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but does have a Virtual Visit program.

"Congratulations to the North Carolina Zoo for playing an essential part toward helping this critically endangered species recover," said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. "It's yet another example of the Zoo doing amazing work to conserve wildlife and wild places."

The pups were named after plants found in the state, the Zoo said. The males are named Oak (Appalachian Oak), Cedar (Red Cedar) and Sage (Azure Sage). The females are named Lily (Carolina Lily, the state's wildflower) and Aster (Piedmont Aster).

This litter brings the number of red wolves in the Zoo's breeding program to 25, making it the second-largest pack in the U.S. after Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.

Once common throughout the southeastern United States, the wolves were driven to near extinction during the late 1960s, the Zoo said, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an "aggressive conservation effort" - the American Red Wolf Recovery Program - that led to new ways to track and protect them.

"The pups are being kept in a quiet, non-public viewing area of the Zoo and have minimal contact with staff and keepers," the Zoo said in a release. "This allows their mother to raise the pups with the least amount of stress in a natural habitat."

The NC Zoo is the world's largest natural habitat zoo.

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