Today, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center is sad to announce that the recent red wolf litter was not viable. In the early days after the initial announcement last week, their team provided excellent care and kept a close eye on the litter, and on first-time mother, Ruby. Unfortunately, it became clear that the litter was likely not going to be viable although one pup survived through the weekend.
While Reflection Riding, and other organizations like it, generally do not intervene with nature, their team made the decision to cross-foster the remaining individual with a successful litter in North Carolina, at one of our partner organizations. That transfer happened on Monday and the litter that she’s been fostered into has accepted her. As part of a larger nationwide effort to recover the red wolf population, they work closely with other cooperators and are hopeful that through this transfer, strong partnerships will grow even stronger for the future.
"We all know that loss is a regular part of the breeding process for wild animals, and that the first few weeks are quite tentative, but it was still a shock for all of us," said Mark McKnight, President and CEO at Reflection Riding. “It was especially so for our animal care team, which is an incredibly dedicated bunch. They really love these animals and are devoted to them.”
The Reflection Riding family is disappointed and feeling some emotion at the loss of these red wolves. Science, however, will guide them through. Given the critically endangered status of the American red wolf, every single birth is important. Fewer than 300 red wolves, once a top predator in the southeastern United States, live in the wild and under human care. For this reason, it is also critical that the strongest genes are passed along in the overall red wolf population.
Chris Lasher, coordinator of the endangered American red wolf program nationally, noted during discussions over the last several days that he “would certainly recommend Ruby for breeding again in the future.” In the past, first-time mother wolves who have not had success with their first litters were later able to rear a litter successfully. As a long time and highly involved Red Wolf Species Survival Plan partner, the Reflection Riding team remains committed to this program and will celebrate the other births around the country this month while remaining hopeful for another litter next year. Their staff looks forward to sharing news and photos from the litter in North Carolina.
In 2007, 2011 and 2016, Reflection Riding’s red wolves produced successful litters. Reflection Riding’s American red wolves are part of a national breeding program, the American Red Wolf Recovery Program and have been since 1996. Once common throughout the southeastern United States, American red wolves are the most endangered canid in the world. Learn more about the critically endangered status of the American red wolf here, from our partners at Defenders of Wildlife.
Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center is an environmental learning hub that reconnects Chattanoogans with nature. Filling an important need for outdoor experience in our technology-driven world, we envision a healthier, more creative city whose residents become stewards of their natural surroundings. We create nature-based experiences that spark curiosity about the natural world, particularly for those with limited access or barriers to engagement with natural environments. Each year, more than 26,000 people have some of their most formative experiences in nature with us, including more than 16,000 school children. Set on more than 300 captivating acres, Reflection Riding is part public park, part nature center, part wild land, just minutes from downtown. Learn more at reflectionriding.org.