Chattanooga Nature Center development and marketing director Tina Crawford holds one of the center's two red wolves Wednesday. The female pups were born at the Nature Center on April 30. Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Before about two weeks ago, there were an estimated 300 red wolves in the United States.
Now there are 302.
On April 29, two red wolf pups were born at the Chattanooga Nature Center.
“It’s exciting,” wildlife curator Tish Gailmard said. “We truly do play a very key role in the red wolf population. It’s wonderful to be part of an endangered species organization because what we do on a daily basis is to help the species.”
The staff had realized only in mid-April that the mother wolf possibly was pregnant, she said.
“We were somewhat surprised that she was pregnant because they don’t get large,” Gailmard said. “They pull fur from their belly to expose nipples to the baby. When she started doing it was when we realized she might be pregnant.”
The pups and mother are doing well, she said.
Once common in the Southeast, red wolves were decimated by hunting and habitat loss until they now are among the most endangered species on Earth.
The nature center is helping try to restore their numbers through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, a cooperative population management and conservation program for endangered species at zoos, aquariums and nature centers in North America. The Chattanooga Nature Center is one of 40 facilities that house red wolves, Gailmard said.
Before these pups were born, the most recent litter at the nature center was three males and two females born in 2007. The center now has six adult red wolves and two pups.
“We are excited that the nature center has been successful in our endeavor to help bring a species back from the brink of extinction,” Dr. Jean Lomino, the center’s executive director, said in a news release.
Gailmard said the birth of the pups places the parents in the top 10 male and female lines in the nation and they can help increase diversity in the bloodline.
“They were together as a breeding pair last year and did not produce, and they have been with other breeding individuals with no luck. But now, they are proven producers,” she said.
The birth of the pups brought smiles during a depressing time, Gailmard said.
“They were born two days after the tornadoes. We had trauma and then we found these two wonderful gifts,” she said.
People can see the pups via a monitor in the Visitors Center.
“We have a camera in their den,” said Tina Harvey Crawford, director of development and marketing. “We monitor the pups through a live feed.”
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...