Members of Congress Advocate for Red Wolf Conservation

An October 27 letter signed by 24 Democratic members of the United States Congress calls on federal agencies to take urgent action on behalf of the critically endangered American red wolf.

While the wild wolf population – located exclusively in five counties in eastern North Carolina – historically numbered over 100 wolves between 2002 and 2014, it is now only nine collared wolves in the wild. , says the letter, adding that two recent reports indicate so. maybe now only seven collared wolves.

While the total wild population is estimated at 17 to 20 animals, including those without a working collar, that population is aging, said Ron Sutherland, chief scientist for the Wildlands Network. Wolves include a 3 and 4 year old set and a 9 and 10 year old set, but wolves only live 9 or 10 years in the wild at most and the number is more like 3 or 4 years old. taking into account human-induced mortality.

“In other words, the handful of red wolves we have left are all middle aged or old, and the fate of the species in the wild depends a lot on their weary shoulders and paws,” said Sutherland.

The effort to reintroduce the red wolf has been the subject of years of conflict between wildlife agencies and environmental groups. In 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service halted reintroduction efforts to support the existing wild population. A rule proposal released in June 2018 would have severely restricted conservation efforts and allowed the killing of red wolves without hunting restrictions outside a small area of ​​public land in Hyde and Dare counties. A final version of the rule, which has generated widespread opposition, has yet to be released.

“For the past six years, the FWS has not released any captive wolves into the wild population and has not resumed its earlier proactive management of coyotes to address the risks of hybridization in the red wolf recovery area,” reads. one in the letter of the representatives. “Since no red wolf breeding has occurred in the wild in the past two breeding seasons, the agency’s continued inaction will precipitate the red wolf’s extinction in the wild. This is a flagrant violation of both public confidence and the Endangered Species Act. “

The letter is addressed to Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior David Bernhardt, Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Aurelia Skipwith and Southeast Regional Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Leopoldo Miranda . He calls on agency leaders to take several specific steps to support the wild population of red wolves. These include: introducing new wild breeding pairs “quickly”, resuming the release of captive young in wild dens as soon as wild breeding is established, restarting the coyote sterilization program and others. Red Wolf adaptive management program strategies, maintaining the current five-county recovery area program and identifying additional land for red wolf habitat, selecting new sites for additional red wolf reintroductions, engaging local communities to protect wild red wolves from gunshot mortalities; and supporting targeted education efforts regarding the characteristics and natural history of the red wolf.

The letter was written by Virginia Congressman A. Donald McEachin and co-authored by Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and Virginia Congressman Don Beyer. North Carolina signatories include District 12 Representative Alma Adams, District 4 Representative David Price, District 1 Representative GK Butterfield.

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