Red wolf shot in North Carolina, rewards offered
Editor’s Note: Since publication, the N&O has learned that portions of this story were taken in large part or in whole from “Rolling back the red wolf recovery effort” by Coastal Review Online without attribution. This is a violation of our standards. We apologize to our readers.
Federal authorities are offering a $2,500 reward for information about a rare red wolf found dead in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge several days before Christmas.
An examination of the animal, according to a US Fish and Wildlife Service press release, showed it likely died Dec. 21 from a gunshot wound.
Because red wolves are a protected species, information leading to an arrest could bring great reward.
Red wolves had been declared extinct in the wild. Then, in 1987, four pairs of captive wolves were transferred from Texas to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. Since then, the population has grown to around 130 red wolves in the 1.7 million acre recovery area covering Hyde, Dare, Tyrrell, Washington and Beaufort counties.
This number has declined, in part due to the proliferation of coyotes, a similar-looking animal, in the area. Due to the similarities, some Red Wolves have been put down for mistaken identity. In addition, there have been interbreedings of coyotes and wolves.
Today, fish and wildlife officials estimate that there are fewer than 45 red wolves left in the wild.
“This is a tragedy,” Ben Prater, Defenders of Wildlife’s Southeast program director, said in a statement on Friday. “We know that gunshots are one of the leading causes of death in red wolves and can be prevented. Poaching of any wild animal is intolerable, but the intentional killing of one of the most threatened in the world is inexcusable.
Prater said in a statement that Defenders of Wildlife plans to match the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s award for information regarding this wolf’s death “to send a clear message: poaching of these incredibly rare wolves will not be tolerated or will not go unpunished”.
Wildlife advocates had been working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the red wolf recovery program until this fall. It was then that the federal government announced plans to reduce wolf protected territory to an area of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and the Dare County Military Range. Wolves outside this area would be transferred to captive populations that reside in many zoos.
In September 2016, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle issued an order that temporarily prevents the federal government from capturing and killing, as well as allowing private landowners to capture and kill red wolves. Boyle’s order prohibited the removal of wolves from private property unless a threat to humans, pets, or livestock could be demonstrated.
“What’s happened recently is that individual landowners have demanded that the wolves be removed from their property because they don’t like them,” said Jason Rylander, senior counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, the one of the plaintiffs. “They cannot be removed simply because they are present on the property.”
An earlier lawsuit by the same judge led to a 2014 ban on nighttime coyote hunting in the recovery area – a practice conservation groups have blamed for a spike in wolf shooting deaths.
Red wolves are smaller than gray wolves but larger than coyotes. They weigh around 55 to 85 pounds and are brown with red spots behind their ears. There was a time when they ranged from southern New England to Florida and as far west as central Missouri and Texas.
This story was originally published December 30, 2016 6:20 p.m.