Land Between the Lakes is raising a female red wolf, a species that's been endangered for decades. The six-week-old pup is the result of LBL's partnership with the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Red Wolf Recovery Program.
John Pollpeter is the lead naturalist at LBL's Woodlands Nature Station. He says these wolves once dominated the southern ecosystem, but excessive hunting and habitat destruction crippled the population.
“Currently in the south there's only 1 or two locations that you'll find red wolves. There's a small island in Florida and then there is a peninsula in northeastern North Carolina that you can find about 100 red wolves in the wild,” Pollpeter said.
Pollpeter says the re-introduction of red wolves in the region is nigh impossible, due to a relatively new predator in the area.
“Land Between the Lakes has a large coyote population. They introduced themselves in the 1970s and they quickly grew in population,” Pollpeter said.
“Coyotes are a direct competitor to red wolves, and when you have high coyote populations, red wolves don't do well.”
Another obstacle in re-introduction is interbreeding among red wolves and coyotes, further diluting the gene pool.
Despite all this, the new pup is currently thriving in her LBL home. Pollpeter says she spends most of her time playing and sleeping.
She will remain with her parents for about 18 months and then be transferred to start a new pack.
LBL was one of seven sites chosen for the project (out of 40 entrants), which aims to continue the heritage of a 13-year-old pure red wolf.