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Eureka-based wolf refuge to build home in Arkansas for the world's rarest wolf

The Endangered Wolf Center is working with Arkansas State University to build a breeding center for red wolves, which is also the unviersity's mascot.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The Endangered Wolf Center is working with Arkansas State University to build a breeding center for red wolves, which is also the unviersity's mascot.

Animal conservationists near St. Louis are planning to breed red wolves, the rarest species of wolves on the planet, at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

The Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, which provides refuge for endangered wolf species, has been working with A-State to raise awareness of red wolves in recent year. The species became A-State’s mascot in 2008, after it retired its former mascot, the Indian Family.

Conservationists and university officials plan to build a red wolf breeding center in the next three years to house four or five pairs of wolves. Red wolves were once found in many parts of the eastern U.S., but only 30 wolves remain in the wild, on the North Carolina coast. About 200 live in captivity in sanctuaries such as the Endangered Wolf Center.

“One of the things that really resonated with our president was that there are more red wolves on our football team than there are in the wild,” said Tom Risch, an animal ecology professor and interim associate vice chancellor of research at A-State.

The breeding center would be funded by private grants from foundations, as opposed to state and tuition funds, Risch added. University officials plan to build it on A-State’s property and ensure that it is fenced with video surveillance.

Habitat destruction and the U.S. government’s aggressive predator control programs in the mid-20th century have driven down the red wolf’s numbers.

“Wolves are an apex species and they play a vital role in keeping our ecosystems healthy and balanced, so in turn, they also keep us healthy,” said Regina Mossotti, director of animal care and conservation at the Endangered Wolf Center.

A-State’s slogan is “Every red wolf counts.” All freshmen are also given a copy of the book, The Secret World of Red Wolves, which documents the red wolf reintroduction efforts in North Carolina.

“Our hope with Arkansas State University’s property is that they can breed animals there and work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce them into the southeastern United States,” Mossotti said.

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli


Copyright 2018 St. Louis Public Radio

Eli Chen is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio. She comes to St. Louis after covering the eroding Delaware coast, bat-friendly wind turbine technology, mouse love songs and various science stories for Delaware Public Media/WDDE-FM. Before that, she corralled robots and citizen scientists for the World Science Festival in New York City and spent a brief stint booking guests for Science Friday’s live events in 2013. Eli grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where a mixture of teen angst, a love for Ray Bradbury novels and the growing awareness about climate change propelled her to become the science storyteller she is today. When not working, Eli enjoys a solid bike ride, collects classic disco, watches standup comedy and is often found cuddling other people’s dogs. She has a bachelor’s in environmental sustainability and creative writing at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has a master’s degree in journalism, with a focus on science reporting, from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.