A howl is going up across northeastern North Carolina. Red wolves, which once flourished across the Southeast before flirting with extinction a generation ago, are gradually being reintroduced to the region. The program is one of several where College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) researchers are working to prevent threatened or endangered species from fading into the history books. “It’s exciting to be part of an effort to bring a species back from the brink,” clinical science professor Dr. Michael Stoskopf says, “especially one that plays a major role in the biodiversity of this state.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched the red wolf recovery program in the mid-1970s, when fewer than 100 remained in the wild. Between 100 and 150 now roam five counties in the northeast corner of the state, and NC State several years ago helped develop a system to limit interbreeding with coyotes. The management system reserves Dare County habitats exclusively for red wolves and uses sterilized hybrid animals to hold territories in neighboring counties until red wolf packs are ready to claim them.

University researchers have also created a geographic information system database to help monitor the red wolf populations and adjust the management system. And an expanded holding area at the CVM will soon aid in developing molecular tests to monitor the wolves’ diets and potential disease threats. “We’ll have more than one wolfpack on campus,” Stoskopf says with a laugh. “Red wolves are more than just a nice conservation effort. They are a valuable research tool for better understanding dynamics in nature.”

Likewise, Dr. Craig Harms is both studying and saving sea turtles at NC State’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Morehead City. “You rescue enough turtles that have been caught in fishing nets or struck by boats, and you eventually start to examine their overall health,” Harms says. In analyzing turtle fecal cultures, for example, he has found extensive antibiotic resistance in the creatures, but not a corresponding number of bacterial infections. “We haven’t determined if that immunity is just natural or related to human impact.”

Twice a year, Harms examines a few dozen turtles to determine if the male-female ratio is adequate for breeding. He also acts as oceanside anesthesiologist from time to time, monitoring turtles’ response to anesthetic drugs while they undergo tests on the beach. “We need to learn more about many animals so our actions don’t end up harming them,” he says. “Every species deserves the chance to thrive.”


For more information, please visit www2.ncsu.edu:8010/unity/lockers/project/environmed/