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red wolf close up by Joe Dube

Wildlife Park’s January Focus: Red Wolves

By Susan Strawbridge Posted on December 30, 2017

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be highlighting Red wolves during the month of January. Special events and exhibits are planned on the endangered Red wolves in the park’s Visitor Center and in the Discovery Center.

The Red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the world’s most endangered canids. Red wolves are native to North America and once ranged throughout the Southeast United States including Florida. The Red wolf was designated as an endangered species in 1967. Due to loss of habitat and human-caused mortalities the Red wolf population nearly vanished when a managed breeding program was started at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in 1973. The goal was to conserve the remaining Red wolves and increase their numbers. As a result of the success of these breeding programs, this species was reintroduced in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina in 1987.

Rose, the Wildlife Park’s female Red wolf is captured by Ralph Bischoff.

Today an estimated 50 to 75 Red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina, and nearly 200 Red wolves are maintained in captive breeding facilities throughout the United States.

Red wolves weigh from 45 to 80 pounds, average about five feet in length from nose to tail, and stand roughly 26 inches tall at the shoulder. Red wolves are smaller than Gray wolves but larger than Coyotes. Red wolves are reddish-brown and buff-colored with black along their backs.

Today Red wolves inhabit a five-county area in Northeastern North Carolina.  Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a partner in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan Program (SSP).  The Park currently has two Red wolves in a natural habitat along the Wildlife Walk: a male named Jester and a female named Rose who are part of the breeding program.

Jester, the Wildlife Park’s male Red wolf shows the beautiful red coat and rangy physique of this endangered canid. Photo by Joe Dube.

Park Services Specialist Andrea Junkunc will offer a program on The Endangered Red Wolves January 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm in the Florida Room of the Visitor Center located on US 19. The program will explore the role of the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan Program and how we work with other agencies to help manage the Red wolf population by breeding and re-introducing Red wolves back into the wild. There is no charge to attend this program, but admission does apply for entry into the Wildlife Park.

Displays on Red wolves will be on exhibit in the Park’s Visitor Center on US 19 and in the Discovery Center throughout the month. Special activities on this species will also be available all month in the Discovery Center.

First Day Hike January 1

In other news at the Park, we invite you to start the New Year with a with a First Day Hike. This ranger-guided walk in the wildlife park on January 1, 2018. Learn about our wildlife and enjoy an easy-paced 1.10-mile walk. The Rangers will meet you at the park’s West entrance on Fish Bowl Drive. Doors will open at 9:00 am and the walk will start at 9:30 am. Please call (352) 628-5445 or (352) 628-5343 to register. Regular park admission applies.

Monthly Bird Walk January 27

January’s Monthly bird walk on Pepper Creek Trail is scheduled for Sat., January 27, 2018. Experienced and novice birders are welcome to join the bird walk led by an experienced birder from Citrus County Audubon Society. Participants should meet at 7:45 am by the flagpole at the entrance to the Visitor Center on US 19. The walk starts promptly at 8:00 a.m. There is no charge to participate in the bird walk. To register for the bird walk, please call (352) 628-5445

Friends’ Volunteers – The Wildlife Puppeteers who do Puppet plays her in the park and outside the park in schools, libraries and clubs. (L to R) Vicky Iozzia, Judy Hemer, Renate Wilms-Rovin and Bruce Mann. Photo by Susan Strawbridge

Wildlife Puppeteers January 27

The Wildlife Puppeteers will present a puppet show on Sat., January 27, 2018, starting at 2:00 pm. In the Florida Room. The puppet show is entitled “Night at the Wildlife Park.” Did you see the movie, “Night at the Museum?” This play is about an imaginary story of what the animals at the Wildlife Park do after closes. Get ready to party, sing, and dance with the animals. And (Spoiler Alert!) you will also see animals who do not live at the Park!

There is a lot planned for January, and we encourage you to visit Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to learn about the importance of preserving Red wolves. For more information on these events and exhibits, please call Susan Strawbridge at (352) 628-5445.