A state park in southern Georgia has welcomed a few new, adorable residents this spring with the birth of four red wolf pups.
Boone and Belle were born on March 29 at Chehaw Park and were followed by Flint and Faith, born to a different set of parents on April 4, the Albany Herald reported Tuesday.
The pups, the first of their species born in the United States this year, are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan Program. Red wolves, native to the southeastern United States, were almost driven to extinction by “intensive predator control programs” in the early 20th century, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency began efforts to restore the red wolf population in the 1960s, and today, there are about 100 wild red wolves in the United States, all of which are in North Carolina.
An additional 200 red wolves live in captivity, most of which are involved in the Red Wolf Recovery Program -- a USFWS initiative dating back to 1984 that involves releasing captive-bred wolves into wild land in northeastern North Carolina.
However, the plan to replenish the wild population has some hurdles to overcome. In January, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission requested that the USFWS not only end the Red Wolf Recovery Program, but also capture all red wolves introduced to the wild through the program.
Wildlife Commission Executive Director Gordon Myers said at a public hearing in February that keeping the wolves on public land is too difficult and that the wolves are a problem for private landowners, according to National Geographic. Myers called the program a failure, noting that it had not yet established a self-sustaining red wolf population.
The USFWS has yet to rule on whether it will keep, modify or obliterate the program.
Chehaw public relations coordinator Morgan Burnette told the Albany Herald that those concerned about the wild red wolf population should contact their federal representatives to fight the Wildlife Commission’s request.
The January request also accused the USFWS of conducting “unauthorized” releases on private land.
“We need to prove that the American public cares about wolves, wildlife, and conservation,” Burnette said.