Red Wolf’s outings to start again in North Carolina
Red wolves were essentially extinct in the wild until a federal program began releasing a few captive wolves each year in eastern North Carolina more than three decades ago. The wild population grew to over 100 and they themselves had young.
In 2015, the US Fish and Wildlife Service stopped releasing endangered wolves around the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Locals were allowed to hunt red wolves.
The population is collapsing. Now there are seven known red wolves left in the wild, all in eastern North Carolina. There could be as many as a dozen red wolves in the area who are not being tracked by environmentalists.
“This was a long-standing and very successful practice that the Fish and Wildlife Service used every year for 27 years and then stopped,” said Sierra Weaver, an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“This was one of the most successful predator reintroductions in US history. It was a model for the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, ”she said in an interview with Spectrum News 1.“ The agency always knew what to do, they just needed to rediscover their backbone, rediscover the science and re-engage with that population in North Carolina. “
A federal judge in Raleigh has just ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to begin releasing wolves from captive breeding programs into the wild. The FWS has until March 1 to come up with a new plan to resume releasing wolves in eastern North Carolina.
Red wolves are smaller than their more famous cousins, the gray wolves. They once roamed the east coast and as far west as Texas. But hunting and habitat loss almost killed the species. In the 1980s, the only remaining red wolves were in captivity.
The red wolf reintroduction program in eastern North Carolina began in 1987. The wild population peaked at 130 in 2012. But three years later, FWS stopped releasing more wolves in the area and has allowed people to hunt wolves that were still there.
The FWS also stopped sterilizing coyotes in the area, which was supposed to prevent the wolves from breeding.
Since 2015, environmentalists have sued the federal government on several occasions to stop the wolf hunt and get the program back on track.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing the Red Wolf Coalition and two other environmental organizations, filed the latest complaint in November.
Judge Terrence Boyle granted the preliminary injunction to restart the program on January 21.
According to the federal judge’s order, the FWS plans to release two new pairs of red wolves in eastern North Carolina. He said the current policy of no longer releasing wolves “likely violates endangered species law.”
“We are grateful that the US Fish and Wildlife Service is finally fulfilling its responsibility to protect this critically endangered wolf,” said Ben Prater, along with Defenders of Wildlife, one of the plaintiffs in this case.
“Releasing wolves into the wild is a sound, scientifically-based approach to stimulating this population and preventing the red wolf from becoming extinct. Although the species has a long way to go, this is an important step in the right direction, ”he said in a statement.
“This is a vital decision that will breathe new life into the red wolf’s recovery program,” said Johanna Hamburger of the Animal Welfare Institute, another complainant. “By ordering the agency to once again release captive wolves into the wild population, the court is demanding much-needed action to prevent the continued downward spiral of this species.”