JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Seven endangered red wolf pups now have Choctaw names to honor the state's only federally recognized Indian tribe.
The Jackson Zoo held a weekend naming ceremony for the pups, which were born March 30.
Red wolves once were common throughout the southeastern U.S. as far west as Texas. They're now among the world's most endangered animals, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Of the 300 or so that are alive, all descended from 14 that were captured in 1980 and found to be purebred rather than wolf-coyote hybrids.
The largest pup is a female. Chief Phyliss Anderson, of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, named her Nokshópa Iksho, which means "No Fear." The Choctaw Elderly Center named the dominant pup Tashka Tík, meaning "Female Warrior," zoo spokeswoman Lucy Barton said in an email.
Tribal elementary school students named the other six. Students or classes picked names, the principals chose their top three and leadership from the Choctaw council chose the final name.
Barton said the zoo wanted to use Indian names because the wolf parents, Taluda and Kanati, came to the zoo with Cherokee names. The Choctaw language created a local link.
Bogue Chitto Elementary School students named a male that likes to run and hide Nashoba Ninak or "Night Wolf."
A male who loves water and swimming was dubbed Okshinilli Homma, or "Red Swimmer" by students at Conehatta Elementary School.
Red Water Elementary School students named a timid female Nashoba Homma Osi, meaning "Little Red Wolf."
A white-toed female named by Standing Pine Elementary is "Standing Wolf," or Nashoba Hikíya.
Tucker Elementary students named Fichik Osi, or "Little Star," described as a curious female.
"The students are very excited about their pups and have decided to continue to follow the lives of the pups as they grow up," Barton said.
Students at Pearl River Elementary named the eighth pup, which had to be euthanized after one of its legs was injured last week. He was Nashoba Hilóha, or "Thunder Wolf." Barton said the zoo is still investigating how he was injured.
"The remaining pups are doing well at this time, and keepers are checking the exhibit and the wolves to make sure this incident isn't repeated," she said.
This is the second litter born to Taluda and Kanati. Their first litter of six pups was born last year. Three died of a virus they got from their mother, Taluda. The other three, all male, were hand-raised.