ATLANTA -- The red wolf, a shy animal that preys on white-tailed deer, rodents and other small mammals, inhabited the Southeast for hundreds of thousands of years before being almost wiped out by humans.
Almost extinct two decades ago, it is making a comeback after being reintroduced into the wild, federal officials say. A mother, father and two female puppies were released in November in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the latest phase of a federal effort dating from the 1970s.
"They're doing well; they seem to be maintaining themselves," says Gary Henry, coordinator of the red wolf project for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He said that if the family continues to flourish, more red wolves will be released in the park under the program, which aims to create a population of 225 red wolves in three different locations.
About 20 red wolves are living in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, the first wild habitat to which the animals were returned, in 1987.
The third release site has not been determined.