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See Endangered Red Wolf Pups Caught on Camera in Rare Footage

US Fish and Wildlife estimates there are only about 20 of the animals in the wild.

A red wolf wearing an orange tracking collar walks across a green field.
A rare red wolf roams in North Carolina.

Red wolves are a rare sight. The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are up to 21 in the wild, 10 of which are collared for tracking and monitoring. On Monday, USFWS shared a recent video of red wolves "out and about on an early evening scamper." 

The video shows an adult wolf running through a field, followed by a series of pups. The pups then wander back into the frame while frolicking through the grass.

The footage comes from the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. The pups are the first born in the wild since 2018. Though five youngsters can be seen in the video, USFWS confirmed there are six pups alive and they're being well cared for by their parents. "Let's hear it for the vitality of this lovely litter!" the agency tweeted.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature marks the red wolf as critically endangered on its Red List of Threatened Species, a catalog of the conservation status of wildlife That status is one step away from being extinct in the wild.

The red wolf story has taken some dark turns. The species was declared extinct in the wild in 1980, but a conservation program reintroduced them to North Carolina starting in 1987. "This was the first time a large carnivore had been declared extinct in the wild and then reintroduced in the United States," USFWS said. Humans have taken a toll on the wild population primarily through gunshots and vehicle accidents. 

There are 243 wolves in captivity that are part of a species survival plan meant to save the animals from extinction and bolster their numbers in the wild. The pups in the video are adorable, and they're a rare bit of good news in what's largely been a sad tale of a species under pressure.