Explore the Wild: Red Wolves

Outdoor Exhibit
Opens at 10:00 am
Year-Round
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Located in Explore the Wild, a six-acre woodland habitat and thriving wetland site where you can use the tools of a wildlife biologist, the Museum’s wolf habitat features two red wolves (Canis rufus) which serve as important ambassadors for the Red Wolf Species Survival Program. A pool with waterfall and a covered wolf den provide spaces for cooling off and relaxing while a rock quarry wall provides a naturalistic backdrop and vertical climbing challenge. Visitor-controlled cameras allow for an up-close look at wolf behavior inside and outside of the den.


A close up photo of a Red Wold in tall grass.

Red Wolf Conservation

The red wolves living at the Museum are a part of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP), a collection of zoos and nature centers around the United States that are committed to the conservation of red wolves. The SSPs make breeding and non-breeding recommendations to ensure genetic diversity and work on projects that involve education, veterinary care, and field research. Instead of names, the Museum’s wolves are known by their SSP Studbook numbers. The red wolf is one of the rarest animals in the world; SSP facilities and breeding programs are essential to the long-term diversity and stability of red wolves.


A close up photo of a Red Wolf pup in sitting just outside their den.

Welcoming Red Wolf Puppies

On April 28, 2017 the Museum's female red wolf gave birth to a litter of puppies. The two adult wolves were recommended by the SSP in the Summer of 2016 as a potential high value breeding pair to maintain genetic diversity within the red wolf population. This is the third time in 24 years that successful breeding of red wolves has occurred at the Museum. All of the pups will remain in their habitat at their Explore the Wild for the next year depending on the recommendations and needs of the red wolf SSP. Stay up to date on the puppies growth and milestones on the Animal Keeper blog at: http://www.keeperblog.org/


A detail shot of a Red Wolf's face and ear markings

Why do red wolves need our help?

Once a top predator throughout the southeastern United States, the red wolf is now categorized as critically endangered. To protect the remaining red wolf population, a managed breeding program was established in 1973 at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The success of this breeding program led to the reintroduction of red wolves to North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. Red wolves now inhabit a five-county area in northeastern North Carolina and although their numbers have grown, gunshot, vehicle strikes, and habitat loss continue to threaten their survival. The red wolf is one of our planet’s most endangered species.


A Red Wolf lowers it's head down to drink water

Wolf care at the Museum

The Museum’s wolves eat a special variety of canine chow as well as whole prey items which are scattered throughout the exhibit. This encourages our wolves to use their sense of smell and natural hunting instincts. Behavioral enrichment enhances the quality of animal care by providing environmental stimuli that encourage animals to express natural behaviors. For our wolves this might mean adding bedding from other exhibit animals for a new scent experience or introducing animal antlers for chewing.


Two people look out from the viewing deck onto the Red Wolf Enclosure. A Red Wolf can be seen in the same shot a safe distance from the viewing deck.

Meet Our Animal Keepers

Want to learn more about what it’s like to care for this endangered predator? Bring your questions and join us for a daily Meet the Keeper program! Program themes and location rotate weekly between black bears, lemurs, and red wolves exhibits. View daily schedule.