Three of the four red wolf pups, who turned seven weeks old on Friday, are outside their habitat enclosure at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, closing down much of the museum's outdoor campus.
According to a press release, the pups remain on the museum's main campus and within the museum's perimeter fence. Their parents - the museum's two adult red wolves - remain in their enclosure, along with a fourth pup. The museum's animal care team is working to return the pups to their enclosure, the release said.
"Animal care staff continue to search the area around the wolf exhibit in the museum's outdoor campus and reported sightings of the puppies several times throughout the afternoon," the press release said. "Staff even observed the adult red wolves feeding the pups through the enclosure fence."
Museum staffers have set out extra food and water where the pups have been spotted and humane traps specially designed for live capture. If the pups are spotted by guests during their on-campus visit, museum officials ask the public to not approach the pups but to contact a museum staff member and report the time and location, according to the release. The pups do not pose any danger to the public.
"Red wolves are notoriously shy and will largely avoid crowds, loud noises and human contact," the release says. That's one reason why a large portion of the museum's outdoor campus will remain closed, including the Dinosaur Trail, Explore the Wild, and Catch the Wind exhibits. The Ellerbe Creek Railway also will remain closed.
Staff didn't see the pups leave the exhibit, but museum officials believe they may have exited through a small space in the enclosure gate or an enlarged opening in the fence gate. The puppies' departure was discovered Monday morning during a routine vet inspection, according to a press release. The pups were slated to get their first round of vaccinations this week, Sherry Samuels, the museum's animal department director, said last week.
"We have high confidence that the puppies will continue to remain on the museum's main campus and every effort is being made to reunite the pups as quickly, and safely, as possible with their parents," said Leslie Pepple, Museum of Life and Science's Communications Manager, in a press release. "Our animal care staff trains for just these sorts of circumstances and we are doing all we can to minimize risks for these young pups during their time outside the safety of their enclosure."
Six pups were originally born in late April to the museum's six-year-old red wolf; two have died. It was big news for the species. Once common across the southeast, red wolves now are critically endangered. Only about 200 exist in captivity; another 40 or so live in the wild, at last count. The museum's pups are among one of only five red wolf litters born in captivity in the United States this year.
As reported on Go Ask Mom last week, the exhibit has been a popular spot for visitors in the last couple of months as they try to get a glimpse of the little ones. And, now, as the pups become older and more mobile, those glimpses could be more frequent, said Samuels, the museum's animal department director, last week. "They are out more," Samuels said of the pups who, at the time, were just exploring their enclosure, scrambling up and down a cliff and hiding in a den.