EUREKA, Mo. (KMOX) – It’s a chance to see a member of an endangered species give birth…as it happens.
The Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka has set up den cameras designed to capture the birth of a litter of African Painted Dogs.
5-year-old Dillon is scheduled to give birth on Thanksgiving Day, and director of animal care Regina Mossotti says it could become an overwhelming event.
“It’s pretty amazing and scary at the same time,” Mossotti tells KMOX News. “They have the largest litter sizes…their average is about 10 pups in one litter. The world record is 21 pups in one litter.”
The more the merrier, Mossotti says, because there are now fewer than 5,000 individual African Painted Dogs that can be found in small, isolated pockets in the wild.
And yes, this is the same species that recently made headlines by attacking and killing a 2-year-old boy who had fallen into their enclosure at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Mossotti says people who had never heard of the species prior to that incident likely think of them as being aggressive and dangerous, something that she says couldn’t be further from the truth.
“They’re naturally afraid of people and want nothing to do with them,” she explains.
So why did they attack the little boy who was accidentally dropped into their pen?
“Unfortunately the way the child fell in was probably the same way that keepers throw food into the animals,” she says, “and they didn’t know the difference.”
The Endangered Wolf Center installed two webcam feeds last week in both dens in the African Painted Dogs habitat to allow the public an opportunity to watch Dillon’s first venture into motherhood.
“And here’s a tip,” says Mossotti. “Our Painted Dogs really like Den 2 and that’s the one we think Dillon’s probably going to give birth in.”
To access the webcam feeds go to www.endangeredwolfcenter.org and to to the “Visit Us” tab, then click on “WebCams”.
It’s free to visit the site but there’s also an opportunity to make a donation to the Eureka center, keeping in mind that their Painted Dog population could rise by 10 or more overnight.
“That’s a lot of mouths to feed,” Mossotti says. “So we’re trying to raise money to help feed these little guys.”