The fate of the red wolf: in danger of extinction

September 6, 2016

Category: Environmental Sciences, Events

By Hannah Davis

There was a time when the nocturnal routine of howls of owls and calls of crickets mingled with the presence of the hoarse howl of a pack of red wolves, but now the howls have almost died down. In fact, the forests off the east coast of North Carolina are the only habitat where you can still hear the call of a wild red wolf.

The Center for the Environment at Catawba College kicked off the new school year with its first event on Thursday, September 1. The event featured three Red Wolf Defenders and a documentary reiterating the struggle Red Wolves face in today’s world. The three lawyers were Christian Hunt, an associate with the nonprofit group Defenders of Wildlife; Ben Prater, also a member of Defenders of Wildlife and alumnus of the Catawba College Environmental Science Program; and Ben Zino, a junior at West Rowan High School who created a petition for the recovery of the red wolf that has received over 100,000 signatures.

But what is a red wolf anyway? And why does he need to be protected? Well, Christian Hunt replied that by saying “when you think of an endangered species you probably think of pandas, polar bears or tigers, and while these animals are all in need of protection, they would be considered. like an affluent population compared to the red wolf. », Another endangered species. For example, there are currently over 4000 wild tigers, but only about 60 wild red wolves.

This is mainly due to the fact that people ‘s perception of a wolf is usually quite bad. Hunt explains this by telling audiences to think about the childhood stories of “The Three Little Pigs” or “Red Riding Hood” where the wolf is described as being the mean and scary villain. While in reality, red wolves are actually one of the most timid and gentle species in canine the low.

Hunt believes that one of the biggest problems with red wolves is that they are often mistaken for their less pleasant cousin, the coyote. However, unlike coyotes, red wolves tend to only pursue sick and injured deer or small creatures like opossums when in desperation. Coyotes, on the other hand, tend to eat whatever they like and adapt well to an omnivorous diet if necessary.

wolfgrid.png“It’s important to note that despite the small numbers of red wolves, they play a vital role in the ecosystem they inhabit,” says Hunt. This is where what is called the trophic cascade begins to occur. The trophic cascade occurs in an ecosystem when the loss of one species has a dramatic effect on another species in the ecosystem, and everything is fundamentally out of balance with just one loss.

For example, when packs of red wolves are strong, they reduce populations of coyotes and white-tailed deer. This helps farmers keep their livestock away from coyotes and their gardens free from deer. In addition, by reducing the deer population, the forests where deer roam become healthier and more abundant. This is because the deer would eat less of the plant life for fear of being caught.

High school student Ben Zino concluded the evening by telling the audience that “the best thing you can do is spread the word.” Many people just don’t know about this creature or its plight and the red wolf “is currently unique to our forests and should be something we are proud of”.

Red wolf,Found only in North Carolina, in danger of extinction
wolfspeakers2016.jpgThe efforts to recover the red wolf, the most endangered in the worldcanine,was the subject of a presentation on September 1 at the Center for the Environment facility on the Catawba College campus.

Christian Hunt, Program Associate for the Southeastern Region of Defenders of Wildlife, spoke about endangered species, now only found in North Carolina, and what citizens can do to save this animal from extinction. Hunt offered these written responses to questions posed by the Center.

Question:Tell us first what is the range ofthe habitat is for the red wolf.
A: Red wolves roamed from the plains of Texas to the swamps of Florida to the forests of New England. They now live in a small refuge in eastern North Carolina, on public and private land.

Q: How many are left?
A: There are no more than 60 red wolves left in the wild. About 200 persist in captivity.

Question:Why the fish and wildlife of the United StatesService plans to take the wild red wolf out of its natural habitat?
A: It’s a politically complex issue, but the North Carolina Wildlife Commission – on behalf of a few private landowners opposed to the program – has demanded that the red wolves be removed from the state. The US Fish and Wildlife Service plans to end red wolf recovery efforts in North Carolina.

Question:Are private owners against it because the red wolf is a predator?
A: Generally speaking, no. Unfortunately, predators and especially wolves are very poorly understood and underestimated. Red wolves are timid and elusive creatures. They do not pose a threat to livestock or people.

Q: What do Red Wolves typically attack?
A: Mainly small mammals. Raccoons, possums, rabbits and some deer. They also help control invasive nutria, large rodents, which destroy farmers’ crops.

Q: When wasthethe red wolf declared in danger?
A: In 1967. Between the mid to late 1970s the US Fish and Wildlife Service removed the last remaining wild wolves in an attempt to save them from extinction and with only 14 animals began a breeding program in captivity. Eight pairs of red wolves were then released in eastern North Carolina in 1987 at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The wild population has increased to almost 150 animals at one time.

Q: Has habitat loss impacted the Red Wolf?
A: Yes. Historically, habitat loss and persecution have brought the wolf to the brink of extinction. Today, gunshot deaths, political inaction, and agency mismanagement are the Red Wolves’ greatest threats.

Q: Where are the 1.7 million acreswhere do red wolves live today?
A: Red Wolves live on both public and private land in an area of ​​five counties, including Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, Washington, and Beaufort counties.

Question:Tell us whatyour program with Defenders of Wildlife wants to do.
A: Defenders takes a two-pronged approach in North Carolina. We are focused on advancing the science and policy of Red Wolf recovery while cultivating grassroots support. If red wolves are to stay in this state, Fish and Wildlife needs to hear support from the North Carolinians.

Q: Whatwill to arriveifUS Fish and Wildlife decides to removethe program?
A: If the Service ends the red wolf recovery effort in North Carolina, it’s unclear what action they would take. It is possible that all red wolves will be removed from the wild, a blow to their recovery and long-term viability as a species.

Question:What will happen to ecosystems if the red wolves disappear?
A: Wolves protect the health of ecosystems. Red wolves prey on nest predators, such as raccoons and opossums, allowing populations of turkeys, quail and songbirds to grow. Red wolves also feed on invasive species, which otherwise damage farmers’ crops.

Question: What is your overall goal?
A: Our goal is to promote awareness, cultivate grassroots support, influence strong science and policy, defend the vital habitat of the red wolf, and ultimately protect the red wolf from extinction.


The Center for the Environment was founded in 1996 to educate the college community and the public on environmental stewardship and sustainability, provide value-added education to students through interaction with thought leaders and opportunities for experiential learning, and bringing diverse people and groups together to catalyze sustainable solutions to our most enduring environmental challenges. For more information visit www.CenterForTheEnvironment.org.

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