Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RWSSP of the month--Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (RWSSP) is the foundation of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. To let people know what’s happening throughout the program through, we are continuing to feature different RWSSP locations on the blog.  The RWSSP of the March is Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR) in northeastern North Carolina.  The 154,000-acre refuge is located on the mainland portions of Dare and Hyde Counties, North Carolina. The offices for refuge staff, as well as members of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, are located in the Coastal NC National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitor Center.

Photo by R. Nordsven/USFWS

Aerial view of ARNWR. Photo by Melissa McGaw.
In March 1984, a large parcel of land in Dare County was set aside to become the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. ARNWR is well recognized as the location of the initial restoration efforts for the Red Wolf Recovery Program.  In 1987—just three years after the refuge was established—four breeding pairs of red wolves were released onto the refuge.  As a sign of early success in the program, the first wild pups were born the following spring.  Additional releases (facilitated by successful captive breeding efforts), intensive monitoring, and the establishment of partnerships in the local community has allowed the restored population of red wolves to expand west from ARNWR to include approximately 110 wolves occurring over more than 6000 km2 in the Red Wolf Recovery Area. The collaboration between ARNWR and the Red Wolf Recovery Program has served as a model for restoration of other controversial endangered carnivores including gray wolves, African wild dogs, and black-footed ferrets.  

Release of a red wolf on ARNWR. Photo by R. Nordsven/USFWS.
In addition to the wild red wolves on the refuge, there is also a RWSSP facility on the ARNWR.  This RWSSP site currently has four full-time captive residents: one breeding pair, and two adult females.  The three females arrived from Virginia Living Museum (Newport News, VA) in 2007 (one born in 2006, and two sisters born in 2007).  The breeding male was born at Henson Robinson Zoo (Springfield, IL) in 2007 and transferred from North Carolina Zoo (Asheboro, NC) in 2010. The breeding pair had their first litter of pups in 2013 (one of which was fostered into the wild). We’re hoping for more pups this year—stay tuned!

Happy 30th Birthday to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge! Please visit their website or Facebook page for more information!

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