With only a handful of American red wolves remaining in the wild, the species is critically endangered. Luckily, the North Carolina Zoo says an entire generation of red wolf pups were born in the span of just a few days late last month.
According to a press release from the zoo, located in Asheboro, North Carolina, 12 red wolf pups were born in three separate litters between April 28 and April 30. The zoo says one of the mothers, Sassy, birthed six of the pups herself.
The zoo says the babies bring the number of red wolves in its breeding program to 36, making it the second-largest pack of red wolves in captivity in the country.
"Congratulations to the North Carolina Zoo for playing an essential part in the survival of this critically endangered species," said Reid Wilson, the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. "These births are important because many of our wolves, once matured, have been moved to other breeding packs to continue to help bring this species back from near extinction. Our hope is that more and more red wolves can soon be placed into the wild."
Only about 15 to 20 red wolves remain in the wild, all of which live in eastern North Carolina.
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the red wolf is currently the world's most endangered wolf. The U.S. has taken steps to protect the animals since the 1970s, but inconsistencies in how the program has been implemented have hampered conservation efforts.
Across the country, the FWS says there are about 245 red wolves living in captivity.