Like a parent watching their children go off to college, Jenny Theuman will have mixed emotions when a pair of red wolves and their two cubs will soon be moved from the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence to the Akron Zoo in Ohio.
He will miss them, but he will also feel proud to witness them mature and know how much they contribute to their species. Finally, a family of red wolves is being relocated to Ohio as part of a long-term, multimillion-dollar effort to return critically endangered wolves to the wild.
“I’m especially going to miss Bev, but I’m excited for her,” said Theuman, who is the zoo’s animal care manager.
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In April, Brave gave birth to two puppies, Sentinel and Sabina. It was the second litter for her and their father, Diego. In May 2022, Brave gave birth to the cubs’ older sister, Saluda.
The births of Saluda, then Sentinel and Sabine, sparked the zoo’s own and red wolf recovery efforts. Red wolves once numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the United States, inhabiting much of the country from Texas to New York. There are now estimated to be only 23 to 25 red wolves living in the wild in eastern North Carolina, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Another 269 red wolves live in captivity in facilities such as the Roger Williams Park Zoo. They are part of a partnership between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to save the species from extinction and rebuild wild populations.
It’s an effort that will take many years and cost a lot of money. If all goes well, it will take 50 years and cost about $327,930,911 to rebuild wild populations to the point where red wolves can be removed from the endangered species list, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery plan.
To keep the gene pool diverse as their population rebuilds, captive wolves are regularly moved to different facilities, which is why four red wolves from Providence are being sent to Akro.
When Bev and Diego arrived at the Providence Zoo two years ago, Teumann was working with red wolves for the first time, and during that time, she enjoyed watching Bev become a mother and seeing her confidence and mothering skills grow.
“He takes a little piece of my heart with him,” Teumann said. “He’s grown in his confidence and resilience. She has shown great maternal instincts.”
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Soon, Teuman can see another female red wolf become a mother. When Brave, Diego, Sentinel and Sabine leave for Ohio, big sister Saluda will be left behind. Soon she will be joined by a man named Fry from the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas.
After a slow introduction, zookeepers will groom them and keep their “fingers crossed” for a romantic bond and, hopefully, a litter of red wolf pups this spring, Teumann said.
“Saluda is like his dad, very confident and bold,” Teumann said. “That man is going to have his hands full.”
The Akron Zoo in Ohio has been working with red wolves for a decade, and zoo officials are looking forward to welcoming a family of red wolves from Rhode Island, according to the zoo’s chief curator, Eric Albers.
Two years ago, the Akron Zoo reached its milestone when four cubs born there were flown to North Carolina and released into the wild. The cubs, just a few days old, were placed in a den with a new mother, who took care of them, according to Albers, who flew to North Carolina with the cubs.
“It was a great experience for us,” he said.
Akron Zoo, which recently expanded its red wolf habitat, has been without red wolves for several months after its own resident wolves were moved to another facility.
“We are excited to share the red wolves with our guests again,” Albers said, noting that it gives the zoo an opportunity to inform the public about recovery efforts. “They’re one of our most popular habitats, especially if they’re moving there.”
Zookeepers interact less with red wolves than with other animals because they want the animals to retain their wild instincts. Still, people like Theumann and Albers are making connections from afar. “You have your favorites,” Albers said. “You get to know their personalities.”
It can be difficult when they’re moving on, Albers admitted, but working with a dedicated group of people around the country makes it easier.
“It’s a great community,” he said, “so if you want to know how they’re doing, all you have to do is call.
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