“We didn’t know the puppies had arrived until we did our daily check,” says Chris Lasher, the animal management supervisor at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. “We looked in the den, and low and behold, there was more than one red wolf in there.” 

This has been a big year for the red wolf breeding program at the zoo, which welcomed two litters this spring for a total of seven puppies—a significant number when you consider there are only twenty to thirty red wolves in the wild, and only 250 in captivity nationwide. Now, at the eleven- and nine-week marks, the pups are growing and thriving—with as little human interference from the zoo’s team as possible. 

“They are starting to look like red wolves now, getting their color and their shape,” Lasher says. While visitors to the zoo can see two ambassador red wolves, carefully selected by Lasher as the individuals who most enjoy seeing people, the seven puppies live with their parents in enclosures set apart from the zoo in a natural landscape in the Uwharrie Mountains. The only artificial additions are a water supply and wooden den boxes. The puppies from one litter, named Oak, Cedar, Sage, Lily, and Asher for native North Carolina plants, and the other two, May and Arrow, spend their days exploring, wrestling, playing, and honing their instincts. “This is where our puppies grow up and where they learn from mom and dad how to be real red wolves,” Lasher says.