Two rare red wolf pups born this month at a South Carolina wildlife refuge are so popular with biologists that they’ve been named after comedian Stephen Colbert and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
The red-wolf Colbert and Jewell are growing healthier each day and are expected to be on public display in several weeks, according to managers at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in Charleston County.
“Secretary Jewell came here last year and we were so impressed with her, and she was such a supportive secretary, we felt it was a great honor to name one of the pups after her,” refuge project leader Raye Nilius said. “We also really enjoy Stephen Colbert.”
Staff members planned to show the baby wolves to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who was in the Lowcountry on Tuesday to view the impacts of climate change.
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Colbert, host of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, is from Charleston, where family members still live. Jewell toured Cape Romain last November to study the impact of climate change on barrier islands and the coast.
The pups at Cape Romain were among six born April 8 at the refuge’s Sewee Visitors Center. One pup was stillborn and another died soon after its birth.
Two of the surviving four were healthy enough that they were shipped last week to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina, where they will grow up with an adult mother in the wild, Nilius said.
“I’m glad we were able to help the wild population at Alligator River. That is, first and foremost, our goal – to help the genetic diversity in the red wolf population,” said refuge manager Sarah Dawsey.
The two pups at Cape Romain could remain there for up to a year, officials said. They have not yet opened their eyes, but are expected to in the next few weeks.
Red wolves born through the years at Cape Romain have been sent to Alligator River as part of a program to re-establish the endangered canines in the wild. Since the late 1980s, 26 wolves have been born at Cape Romain, not counting the ones born this month.
The ones born April 8 were the first at the Sewee Visitors Center to survive. Other red wolves were born at Bulls Island as part of the breeding program. Red wolves are among the rarest animals in the country, with only several hundred surviving. Their populations dropped as a result of hunting, habitat loss and, more recently, interbreeding with coyotes.