Despite some tragedy, a litter of adorable, rare red wolf cubs is thriving at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, North Carolina. Though one baby sadly died about a week after she was born, the remaining two pups are adorably tiny and oh-so furry. They’re also hugely important for the future existence of the red wolf, a species that is considered critically endagered. But for now, let’s just marvel at how something so cuddly could exist.
After the unnamed mama and papa wolf welcomed their three little ones — two boys and one girl — things appeared to be progressing normally. Though the babies had sores on the pads of their feet, the zoo’s veterinarian was able to quickly treat the issue. “Our threesome is in good shape today, Monday,” Sherry Samuels, the museum’s animal department director, wrote on the museum’s blog. “Foot pads look good, and everyone has gained a healthy amount of weight.”
“Feisty” pup A was the first born and weighed 420 grams. (Photo Credit: Museum of Life and Science)
However, about a week later, keepers noticed that the female pup had become separated from the rest of her family. When she hadn’t moved for awhile, zoo staff went in and confirmed that she had died. “Even though I know that death is a regular part of this process, and the first month of life is very fragile, it was quite shocking and heartbreaking,” Samuels wrote in another blog post. An autopsy was conducted, and the zoo is awaiting test results, according to Samuels.
Pup B is also male and weighed 342 grams. (Photo Credit: Museum of Life and Science)
The Museum of Life and Science belongs to the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, a collection of zoos and nature centers across the country that are committed to protecting this endagered species. For mom’s sake, the zoo has closed off the red wolf exhibit to viewers, and they’ve even reduced the amount of access zookeepers have. Hopefully, giving mom her space will be beneficial for the baby wolves.
Pup C was the female. When she was born, she weighed 350 grams. (Photo Credit: Museum of Life and Science)
Recently, the nearby North Carolina Zoo also welcomed five red wolf pups, bringing the total number of red wolves at the zoo to 24. The newborns entered the world while North Carolina was blasted by severe storms and a tornado, so their names are certainly fitting. Thor, Thunder, Hurricane (Cane), Typhoon (Ty), and Oklahoma (named for the state-shaped white patch on her chest) have already been nicknamed the “Fab Five.”
There are roughly 200 red wolves in captivity, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and only about 40 left in the wild. Thanks to the success of breeding programs, there is a five-county section of northeastern North Carolina where red wolves have been reintroduced into the wild. Their numbers are on the rise, but cars, hunters, and habitat loss still threaten the wolves’ survival.
Even though these wolf cubs lost their younger sister, it’s inspiring to see them thriving, bringing hope that these beautiful creatures will no longer be endangered. We’re anxious to see how these little guys progress, and we can’t wait to learn their names.
Need some more feel-good animal stories? This golden retriever formed an unlikely bond with a tortoise, and now they’re best friends: