Wild Inside: Saving Red Wolves from extinction

Once extinct in the wild, Zoo Knoxville leading the charge to see the wolves roam once again.
Zoo Knoxville is playing a big role in bringing back red wolves from the brink of extinction.
Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 9:47 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Red Wolves once roamed across the South East, stretching from the Appalachians down to Texas.

Now, only 15 red wolves are believed to be in the wild, something Zoo Knoxville is leading the charge to fix.

“In 1980, they were declared extinct in the wild,” said Kristen McCabe, the lead carnivore keeper at Zoo Knoxville. “We started breeding programs and zoos and nature reserves and places like that. Now our number is up to about 300.”

Two of the 15 Red Wolves in the wild actually came from Zoo Knoxville. The wolves are treated much differently than other animals at the zoo, since the ultimate goal is to get them back into the wild.

“One thing we do is we only go in their exhibit three times a week to limit that human interaction,” said McCabe. ”We don’t want them to be too comfortable with us.

The zoo goes as far as to not introduce anything from humans like newspaper or toys, because they want to animals to stay wild.

Once the animals are ready to go, they are taken to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, in hopes of beefing up the very low population.

The zoo currently has two Red Wolves, Percival and Blade. Like other Red Wolves, they are shy and do their best to stay away from humans, especially in the wild.

“You could be in the forest with them and you would never know they’re there,” McCabe said.

Hunting, humans moving into their territory and other animals forced the heavy population to fall to zero. But with places like Zoo Knoxville leading the charge, the hope is to have Red Wolves roaming the South once again.

To learn more about all the animals at Zoo Knoxville, click here! Let us know what animal you want to see featured on Wild Inside!