MANTEO, N.C. (WATE) — A litter of highly endangered red wolf pups was born a few weeks ago, according to the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

The program, which is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the litter consisting of three females and two males was born during the second week of April. Per the Fish and Wildlife Service, the species was historically found in a wide range of the southeast, including East Tennessee. Their range extended from Texas up to New York.

According to Red Wolf Recover Program, the litter’s parents have proven to have the ability to care for and nurture “a lively bunch of pups” with their 2022 litter. The program added that they fostered a male pup, who was born at a Tacoma, Washington Zoo, into the wild litter a few weeks after they were born.

“With family bonds that are amazingly strong, the five siblings from the 2022 litter will help the parents with the raising and bonding of this new group of red wolves,” Red Wolf Recover Program said.

The red wolf was listed as “an endangered species threatened with extinction” in 1967 before the Endangered Species Act became law in 1973. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2023, it is the world’s most endangered wolf.

There was an attempt to reintroduce the red Wolf to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park starting in 1991. However, that project was terminated in 1998.

The federal notice document cited “extremely low pup survivability” and the red wolves’ inability to establish home ranges within the Park as the reasons that the project ended.

The most recent update to the service’s website says the wild population is estimated to be only 15-17. That number does not include the approximately 235 that are in red wolf SAFE facilities across the country.