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A-State Steps Up to Save Endangered Red Wolves
When Arkansas State University settled on “Red Wolves” as its new athletics mascot in 2008, little thought was given to the educational platform that would be created to help save an endangered U.S. native species. Today, A-State has a growing national role in American Red Wolf education and conservation efforts in partnership with the Endangered Wolf Center in St. Louis.
The red wolf is a smaller, more slender cousin of the gray wolf with a reddish color that once thrived throughout the southeastern U.S. – including Arkansas and Crowley’s Ridge, where A-State’s campus is located. Red wolves prey on small animals such as rabbits, raccoons, and small deer, so they are essentially no threat to humans or farm animals. Frequently misconstrued as threatening, however, they were almost hunted to extinction by 1980.
About 240 captive red wolves now reside at facilities such as the Endangered Wolf Center and zoos across the country, and fewer than 30 red wolves roam an area of North Carolina that was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for reintroduction into the wild.
“Every Red Wolf Counts” – Dr. Kelly Damphousse, Chancellor of Arkansas State University
A-State, the Arkansas State University System and the Little Rock Zoo hosted the annual Red Wolf Species Survival Plan meeting in Little Rock in this past summer and outlined ongoing educational activity and ambitious conservation goals. Professor Tom Risch, the A-State Biology Department and a student-led Red Wolves for Red Wolves organization are leading the university’s education and research efforts.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated our Arkansas Center for Biodiversity Collections as the official repository for all red wolf tissue samples. Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro is being considered for development of a new 10-acre red wolf breeding site for research, conservation and education. And, the Little Rock Zoo is studying the possibility of creating a live red wolves exhibit in cooperation with Arkansas State.
We hope A-State alumni and friends will show “Pack Pride” not only for our competitive Red Wolves, but also for this endangered species that needs our support and collective voice to help ensure survival.
Jeff Hankins is vice president for strategic communications and economic development for the Arkansas State University System in Little Rock.