Linking management practices with survival to improve outcomes for a red wolf population

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Emily C Lynch, Corinne J Kendall
The Journal of Wildlife Management
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Ex situ breeding programs serve as an important conservation tool for threatened and endangered species. Such programs must strike a balance among the immediate welfare needs of individual animals, growing the population, maintaining genetic diversity, and ensuring a successful release. While several carnivores have been successfully reintroduced into the wild from ex situ populations, little is known regarding the long-term effects of management practices on animals within such reintroduction programs. We evaluated the effects of different management practices on survival for red wolves (Canis rufus), an endangered species in North America for which >95% of the population remains under human care and destined for release, as of 2020. We combined studbook records and survey information on the population of red wolves under managed care in Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions. We aimed to assess age-specific survival probabilities and causes of mortality as outcomes of various management practices within the red wolf breeding program. Large enclosures significantly reduced the risk of death by parental trauma for neonates and transferring wolves away from their natal group improved overall survival probabilities. In addition, exposure to the public positively correlated with survival. We recommend large enclosures (>929 m2) for breeding pairs, consistent transfer plans away from natal groups, and the incorporation of flexible approaches to management based on strategic planning of releases. Improving ex situ breeding programs is important to the welfare and survival of animals under human care and plays an important role in the management and recovery of endangered and threatened species.


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