Red Wolves Remain At Risk

By Jackson Pettitt, Music Editor

Caretakers at the Virginia Living Museum continue to secure the future of Red Wolves by providing a safe, natural environment for the animals. Red wolves are named for the reddish color around their head, ears and legs, although these patches may appear more grey or black from time to time. Red wolves’ sizes usually lie between the grey wolf and the coyote. Due to the similarity in size and appearance, Red Wolves are often mistaken for coyotes, which is dangerous for them because coyotes are not legally protected. In 1980 the Red Wolf was considered extinct in the wild, with only a few animals remaining in captivity. Today there are over 100 wolves currently in captivity across 20 packs and families. At the Virginia Living Museum, there are two Red wolves residing in their own enclosure, affectionately nicknamed “Papa” and “Son.” While in captivity, handlers rarely interact with the wolves directly, to ensure the wolves don’t become too comfortable with humans, as this could be dangerous if they have to be released back into the wild since most humans aren’t usually friendly towards wolves. In order to keep the wolves’ natural predatory instincts honed and sharp, their handlers use “enrichment” activities, such as packing their meals into apples and paper bags so that the wolves get the feeling of tearing something apart, without feeding them live animals. The younger male is often described as “Papa’s” shadow, as he follows his dad everywhere around their enclosure.