Zoo's red wolves to grow up in wild

May 20, 2009 (CHICAGO) The red wolves were declared extinct in the wild 25 years ago. But now, thanks in part to zoo programs, the population is growing once again.

The zoo's two adult red wolves had a litter of five two years ago. Now, they're the proud parents of six healthy pups born April 24.

"They're doing really well, yeah, they were born on the 24th at just over half a pound and now they're up to over five pounds so they're doing great," said Dr. Owen Slater, Lincoln Park Zoo veterinarian.

Two of the pups will stay put at the zoo. The other four were taken to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina at a week old. They were placed with red wolf mothers who had just given birth. When the mother was away from the den, the Chicago pups were introduced to their new siblings.

"They're very accepting. They don't seem to know how to count. The wolf comes back she sees a few extras and her maternal instincts take over and she takes care of them," said Dr. Slater.

The pups are placed in the dens before their eyes open. That way when they do see, everything is normal. This U.S. Fish And Wildlife Program started 20 years ago. With the Lincoln Park pups, there are now 124 wild red wolves in North Carolina.

"We hope they do well out there and a couple of years from now I want to hear that they've established territories and have pups of their own," said Diane Mulkerin.

The two other pups and their parents are on display daily at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

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