Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131
The Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival is a six-day adventure marathon, held Nov. 7 to 12, that offers both quiet and not so quiet activities. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Festival participants are given an opportunity to enjoy the real treasures of the Outer Banks of North Carolina -- its wildlife, history and coastal environment.
Join US Fish and Wildlife Service staff on a junket into the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge on the mainland of Dare County to "howl up" the red wolves. Learn about the endangered wolves and get the chance of a lifetime to hear their harmonious howls.
Red wolves are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs; there sometimes is a reddish color behind their ears, on their muzzle and toward the backs of their legs.
One of the world's most endangered wild canids, it was once common throughout the southeastern US, but its populations were decimated by the 1960s due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat. A remnant population was found along the Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana.
After being declared an endangered species in 1973, efforts were initiated to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the 17 wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful captive breeding program. Consequently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared Red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.
By 1987, enough of the animals were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, located on Dare County's mainland. Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres.
The average adult red wolf weighs 50-80 pounds, stands about 26 inches at the shoulder and measures about four feet from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.
They are social animals, living in packs consisting of a breeding adult pair and their offspring of different years, typically five to eight animals. Red wolves prey on a variety of wild mammals such as raccoon, rabbit, white-tailed deer, nutria, and other rodents. Most active at dusk and dawn, red wolves are elusive and generally avoid humans and human activity.
An estimated 100 red wolves now roam the wilds of northeastern North Carolina and another 180 comprise the captive breeding program, still an essential element of red wolf recovery. Interbreeding with the coyote -- an exotic species not native to North Carolina -- has been recognized as the most significant and detrimental threat affecting recovery of red wolves in its native habitat. Currently, adaptive management efforts are making good progress in reducing the threat of coyotes while building the wild red wolf population.
But wolves aren't the only wildlife available to enjoy during the Festival. Birding trips with experienced birders, kayak tours that allow participants to see the wild side of the area, and natural history trips and programs, including photography and decoy carving, make Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival popular with outdoor-lovers of all sorts.
To see the list of programs and to down load a registration form, go to wingsoverwater.org; or call the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce at 252-441-8144 to request a program booklet that includes registration information.