BLOOMINGTON — Two red wolves have joined the Miller Park Zoo menagerie, and visitors are asked to help name one of them.

The nameless female arrived from Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash. She joins “Elohi,” (Cherokee for “of the earth”), a 2½-year-old male who came from Chehaw Wild Animal Park in Albany, Ga. 

Naming options are listed on the zoo’s Facebook page. They are:

Kawoni — Cherokee for Flower Moon (April), which is her birth month.

Tacoma — For her birthplace of Tacoma, Wash.

Waya — Cherokee for wolf

"In hopes to bolster the numbers of the endangered species, the Miller Park Zoo staff will make sure everything is ready for the early 2015 breeding season," said a city news release announcing the wolves' arrival.

The zoo's last red wolf, "Kai," gave birth to three litters in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Kai had been at the zoo since 2009, but left in September to go to the Niabi Zoo near the Quad Cities.

In 2012, two of Kai's pups were released into the wild in North Carolina, which is the only location where red wolves are found. All the moves were recommendations from the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan.

Once common throughout the eastern and south-central United States, red wolves were decimated by the early part of the 20th century as a result of intensive predator control programs and the degradation and alteration of the species' habitat, according to zoo Superintendent Jay Tetzloff.

The red wolf was designated an endangered species in 1967, and shortly thereafter the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated efforts to conserve the species.

Today, more than 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina, and nearly 200 red wolves are maintained in captive breeding facilities like the Miller Park Zoo throughout the United States.


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