This year’s den search got off to a nice start. The first two litters found were of partially unknown parentage. Of course, the maternal sides of the pups’ pedigrees were known. It was the paternal side that was in question. Fortunately, blood results indicated that the puppies from both litters were indeed pure red wolves and not wolf/coyote hybrids. This was great news, and it gave us a new sense of optimism right out of the gate regarding this year’s denning season. Adding to our optimism was the fact that both of the females were first time mothers, having taken over as the new breeding females after the deaths of their own mothers. We weren’t sure if we would get litters out of these females this year, so again, it was a great start.
The next litter discovered was from the Milltail Pack on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. There were no pedigree questions here as we knew who both parents were. And it was even more good news when we found seven healthy puppies. An average red wolf litter is four pups, so a litter of seven is always a welcome sight.
Additional litters were found during the next several days; the current count stands at nine litters and 37 pups, with a few more possible litters yet to be found. Following a tough year of losing a number of breeding wolves due to premature mortality, this is shaping up to be a surprisingly good year of pup production. -- Ryan