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Endangered Red Wolf Hyde calls the Virginia Living Museum “Home”

Male companion joins female, Katniss just in time for Wolf Awareness Week Oct 17-23

Newport News, VA (October 11, 2021) –The Virginia Living Museum welcomes a new male Red Wolf named Hyde to the outdoor Boardwalk Trail. The Virginia Living Museum exhibits over 250 species of native animals with the Red Wolf being the most endangered mammal in the United States.

History

Hyde, a 9-year-old male red wolf (Canis rufus) was transferred to the Virginia Living Museum in September from Wolf Haven International in Tenino, Washington. The federal Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended Hyde as a companion to the Museum’s resident female red wolf, Katniss. Red wolves are highly social pack animals, experiencing the highest levels of welfare when kept together in groups or packs.

Hyde first exhibited a timid personality, but quickly built confidence acclimating to the Virginia Living Museum during his time of quarantine, integration to new habitat, and association with a female counterpart. His first exposure to Katniss was through sound and smell only. Next a visual was allowed through a mesh door. Now fully acquainted, the pair share a joint habitat, a healthy example of a thriving wolf pack.

“I’m excited to announce that our new red wolf, Hyde, has made a smooth transition to making the VLM his home,” said James Weinpress, Senior Director of Animal Welfare. “Together Hyde and Katniss act as important ambassadors for their species as they connect guests to native wildlife. These mature canids represent the importance of peaceful coexistence.”

Hyde makes his entrance just in time for Wolf Awareness Week, October 17th through 23rd to educate and share the plight and efforts to recover a species on the brink of extinction.  The Museum celebrates with special Keeper Talks and Red Wolf Enrichment at 10am daily at the Red Wolf Exhibit on the Museum outdoor trail.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) owns all red wolves in human care. The population is managed with the goal of supporting the reintroduction and conservation of the species in their historical range. As of 2021, the Red Wolf  Species Survival Plan (SSP) managed population consists of 245 (131 males, 114 females) wolves, with 159 wolves at 23 AZA facilities and 86 wolves at 21 approved non-AZA facilities. There are likely less than 20 red wolves remaining in the wild.

In colonial times, red wolves ranged throughout the southeast. Today they are the most endangered mammal in North America. The Museum is the closest facility to Alligator River, the only place in the country where red wolves currently live in the wild.

In 2011 after many years of successful captive breeding efforts, Red Wolves were nearly self-sustaining in the wild with approximately 120 wolves. The population has since declined dramatically due to human-caused mortality and it is believed that there are fewer than twenty (20) Red Wolf left in northeastern North Carolina. Within the last few years, their legal status in North Carolina has been under review by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In zoos and facilities like the Virginia Living Museum, Red Wolf numbers are strong, and serve as an assurance population against extinction.

The Red Wolf Species Survival Plan is a cooperative effort between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). They feel confident that stronger legal protections will be reinstated for Red Wolves in the future. Many facilities and groups, including zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Defenders of Wildlife, advocate for the red wolf’s plight and the need to save this important species.

The Virginia Living Museum is a leader in the use of natural living exhibits (animals, plants, marine life, reptiles, amphibians, and birds) to present its mission—connecting people to nature through educational experiences that promote conservation. An independent 501c3 organization, the Museum is a successful public/private partnership with the City of Newport News and all guests. Accredited by both the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Alliance of Museums, the Museum’s high standards are its hallmark, as only fourteen institutions share this designation in the country. It is a certified Virginia Green attraction dedicated to environmentally friendly practices. Located at 524 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News (I-64, exit 258-A) it is open 9 to 5 daily. Facial coverings are encouraged during Museum visits. For more information visit thevlm.org or call 757-595-1900. You can also find the Museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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