ALBANY, Ga.–Chehaw is saddened to announce the death of its oldest red wolf, Ol’ Maw. At 14 years old, she passed away of natural causes during the night of September 27. Old Maw was born on the 9th of May, 1997. She came to Chehaw from the North Carolina Zoological Park in 2003. Red wolves typically live up to 14 years in captivity.
Ol’ Maw has helped populate the captive population of red wolves and was one of the first breeding females in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s effort to reintroduce the red wolf into the wild at Alligator River Wildlife Refuge. This program has proved to be exceptionally successful. The program centers on wild wolves that foster pups that were born in captivity. Using this method, the survivability of captive born animals released into the wild is significantly higher than traditional release methods. Ol’ Maw is survived by 87 pups, grand-pups, and great-grand-pups in zoos and preserves across the country.
Red wolves are one of two wolf species found in the United States and were common throughout the southeast. Unfortunately, by the 1960s their population was virtually gone. They were officially listed as endangered in 1973. At that time, an effort was made to round up as many of these wild animals as possible. A total of 17 pure bred red wolves were found in Texas and Louisiana and 14 of those became the breeding stock for the current population. In 1980 the species was listed as extinct in the wild. By the end of the decade, there were enough captive red wolves to begin looking at releasing them into the wild. There are now over 100 red wolves successfully living in the wild and over 200 captive animals living as ambassadors across the nation’s zoos.