EATONVILLE, Wash. - When handlers opened the door of the portable kennel for an endangered red wolf, at first it refused to leave. But soon, the lanky male took his first tentative steps into his new enclosure near Northwest Trek and a new phase of captive mating had begun.
"Success will hinge on continuing to breed and release wolf pups into the wild," said Gary Geddes, Director of Zoological and Environmental Eduction for Metro Parks Tacoma.
Some of the wolf pups born here will be handed over to field biologists who will take them to dens in the wild.
Mother wolves are known to readily adopt the pups and help raise them to be wild members of a nearly extinct species. Only 14 red wolves were believed to roaming the planet back in the 1970s. That number has grown to around 300.
Five wolves were released Tuesday in their new pens, another 35 will be taken there from some leased property in Graham that biologists feared was being over-developed.
The breeding pairs are carefully selected to reduce the affects of inbreeding, and while none of these wolves will ever be released, they will produce some of the next generation of wild wolves.
Privacy is important. News crews and supporters were invited for closeup views of the release but their new homes are off-limits to the public and always will be.