NC Gov. Cooper seeks help for critically endangered red wolf – just a dozen in the wild

RALEIGH, NC – The fight against the critically endangered red wolf has returned to court as the governor of North Carolina called for immediate help for the dozen remaining biologists in the wild and federal biologists were planning to transfer wolves to the recovery area for the first time in years.

At the end of November, Governor Roy Cooper sent the Home Secretary a sharp letter warning that with no more than 14 wolves known in the wild, “the American red wolf is on the verge of extinction.” He noted that in 2019, no litters of Red Cubs were born in the wild for the first time in the history of the reintroduction program.

Red wolves once occupied much of the eastern United States, but came close to extinction due to trapping, hunting and habitat loss before being reintroduced to North Carolina in 1987. Their range is limited to five counties in North Carolina. Another 200 live in captive breeding programs.

Cooper wrote in the November 22 letter that “changes in management strategies over the past few years have reduced the wild population to a dangerous level. This population decline has occurred despite the availability of proven conservation strategies, such as sterilization of coyotes and reintroductions of wolves in captivity.

The letter follows a lawsuit filed earlier this year by the Center for Biological Diversity asking a judge to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to commit to a deadline for a new recovery plan and another by the Southern Environmental Law Center to search for documents relating to the Red Wolf ruling. -manufacturing.

The Fish and Wildlife Service released a statement in November saying it planned to start updating the recovery plan in 2020 by appointing a panel of scientists to advise them on the process.

“Although an updated recovery plan is not yet in place, the Service has engaged in recovery efforts and continues to do so,” the statement said.

Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor Pete Benjamin said in a Dec. 10 meeting with community members in eastern North Carolina that his biologists plan to move two wolves to the area. retrieving from a Florida refuge to promote breeding, according to the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, attended by staff members. A third wolf, a male, will be moved to the North Carolina recovery area to mate with a female, the groups said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to emails and phone messages asking about wolf pairing and other aspects of recovery.

Relocating Florida wolves could help diversify the wild gene pool in North Carolina, but a lot more salvage work is needed, said Heather Clarkson, representative for the Defenders in the Southeast.

“These … pairs are great, but they just aren’t enough,” she said in an interview.

Conservation groups say the red wolf population has declined sharply as the government abandoned proven recovery methods. After the reintroduction of red wolves to North Carolina, the wild population surpassed 100 and remained stable until 2012. The number of wolves was bolstered by the release of captive-born puppies and the neutering of arguing coyotes. space. But those tactics were halted in 2015 under pressure from conservative politicians and landowners who viewed wolves as a nuisance.

The latest round of wolf litigation comes more than a year after environmental groups won a court victory in November 2018 when a federal judge ruled the Fish and Wildlife Service violated endangered species law. disappearance by failing to effectively conserve the species. The agency withdrew from a plan to reduce the territory of its five-county area and said shortly after the decision that it would reconsider the management of the red wolf. But over the next year or so, the agency said little about its long-term plans.

Lack of action has spurred the most recent round of lawsuits.

“It’s so frustrating that they’ve done so little while the population numbers are crumbling. It’s a really scary situation there. We could see the red wolf go extinct, ”said Collette Adkins, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity who continues the lack of a new plan on the red wolf. “They received a court order telling them to do more, and in fact, it seems they are doing less. It’s really frustrating. “

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