A rare red wolf shot in North Carolina was left alive, drowned in mud

A rare red wolf has been found shot in the spine and left alive to drown in the mud in North Carolina.

An autopsy of the animal, which was found in County Tyrrell, showed its lungs were full of mud, indicating it had been badly injured by the gunfire but was initially still alive. He ultimately died as he lay in the muddy farm field, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement.

Animal welfare campaign Help Ashville Bears reposted the incident on its Facebook page and said the wolf died a gruesome death.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said it was offering a $5,000 reward for information that would lead to the “successful prosecution” of the case.

Red wolves are critically endangered and are found only on the Albemarle Peninsula in eastern North Carolina. The animals are federally protected species.

A file photo shows a red wolf. American red wolves are critically endangered.
Réjean Bedard/Getty Images

In 2018, it was decided that culling of the species would no longer be permitted unless individuals proved a threat to human safety or a nuisance to livestock. There is no penalty for accidental killings, as this can sometimes happen when people mistake red wolves for coyotes, which are abundant in the United States.

Red wolves differ in appearance from coyotes by having a reddish tint to their fur. If someone kills a red wolf by accident, they are obligated to report it to the US Fish and Wildlife Service so authorities can retrieve the carcasses.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said Newsweek that there are currently no updates on the investigation.

Now one of the most endangered canids in the world, the American red wolf lived deep in the southeastern United States until overhunting and habitat destruction pushed it to the brink of extinction. By 1970, there were hardly any left in the wild.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has deployed a captive breeding program to boost the species, capturing the last remnants from the wild and breeding them in captivity. They were then reintroduced into the wild.

However, despite conservation efforts, it is estimated that there are only 35 or fewer red wolves left in the wild today.

Many threats still hang over red wolves. Due to the high abundance of coyotes in their habitat, there is a risk that they will mate and create hybrids. The remnant population may also come into regular contact with humans, as they roam private farmland in search of prey.


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