The Outer Banks Voice – Verdict on the Red Wolf program expected by the end of the year
Verdict on the red wolf program expected by the end of the year
By Coastal Review on July 14, 2017
The fate of the red wolves could be settled by the end of the year, when wildlife managers are expected to finish reconsidering the management of the endangered predator in the northeastern North Carolina wilderness.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking suggestions from people living in the five-county red wolf recovery area — parts of Hyde, Tyrrell, Washington, Beaufort and Dare counties — to resolve disputes and promote cooperation.
As part of a process established under the Endangered Species Act, the agency is reviewing management strategies and evaluating alternatives to draft a revised management rule.
“These rules under which we operate were written in 1995,” said Pete Benjamin, field supervisor in the Raleigh office of Fish and Wildlife, during a scoping meeting in Manteo last month. “A lot of things have changed, that’s why they are being rewritten.”
Most detrimental to wolves is the shift in their population: from a peak of around 150 in 2005, there are 40 or fewer now roaming the 1.7 million acres in the recovery area.
When coyotes arrived on the Albemarle Peninsula in the 1990s, the wolf neighborhood quickly went downhill. Coyotes resemble red wolves, making it easy to confuse them. It is illegal to kill red wolves but allowed to shoot coyotes.
Since October 2016, there have been eight known wolf deaths: five from gunshot wounds, one from poisoning, one from collision with a vehicle, and one from natural causes.
One of the biggest and most serious problems is wolves mating with coyotes, which creates a hybridization problem and questions about whether wolves are even genetically wolfy enough to warrant protection.
At the same time, conflicts have multiplied with private owners. Landowners have complained that the animals are reducing deer numbers for hunters, killing pets and livestock, and endangering and scaring people.
“We’re looking for ideas,” Benjamin said in the crowded meeting room at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.
Under the Endangered Species Act, a review of listed species is supposed to be done every five years. But the most recent review of red wolf management was in 2007. In September, the agency proposed changes that, among other things, would limit the range of wolves to Alligator River Sanctuary and the Navy bombardment area in Dare County.
The wildlife service is also studying potential reintroduction sites. A species status assessment – a snapshot of whether or not the species is likely to recover – is also planned, along with a review of the Endangered Species Act rule that governs this. what the law calls “the non-essential and experimental population” of red wolves.
A more complicated and lengthy environmental assessment or environmental impact statement will be done, but Benjamin said he doesn’t know when that will be decided. When the proposed rule is complete, it will give a detailed picture of the updated management options. Portions of updated revisions may also be published before the rule is published.
By any measure, it’s been a conservation rollercoaster for the Red Wolf. The species had been declared extinct in the wild when four pairs of captive wolves were transported in 1987 from Texas to Alligator River. Complex management strategies, including the placement of captive hatchlings in dens with wild cubs, have resulted in a steady increase in the wild population. Even after coyotes encroached on wolves, a “placeholder” method that involved using a sterile coyote to ward off other coyotes was successfully used to protect territory from wolves.
But budget shortfalls, heightened controversy and many other challenges have forced the wildlife service to rethink its wolf recovery program.
“The way we do it is very labor intensive,” Benjamin said. “We have to manage things wolf by wolf.”
Radio-collars have been placed on 26 of the wolves, and their locations are monitored once or twice a week by aircraft. Dens are also still inspected, but captive hatchlings are no longer placed in wild litter.
The wolf recovery program costs about $1.2 million a year, Benjamin said.
Jett Ferebee, a County Tyrrell landowner and Greenville developer who has led the charge against the red wolf conservation program since at least 2013 — most publicly on the online forum nchuntandfish.com — attended the meeting at Manteo, but declined to be interviewed afterwards.
In the past, Ferebee has accused the wildlife department of breaking the law by not permanently removing intrusive “coywolves” from private property.
Benjamin said in a recent interview that the most recent DNA analysis in 2014 showed that red wolves had about 4% coyote DNA. But red wolf genetics is not settled science, and the agency continues to work with researchers on the matter.
Since the start of the recovery strategy, there have been conflicting opinions as to whether the red wolf is indeed a separate species or simply a wolf version of a mutt. As it stands, Benjamin said, it’s listed as endangered under the ESA, and the wildlife service is obligated to protect it until and if the status changes.
“It’s kind of an all-encompassing thing about wolf populations,” he said.
Public sentiment about wolves, he added, spans the spectrum. The agency’s goal, he said, is to hear reasonable ideas from landowners, hunters, tourists, area residents and environmental groups on ways to make wolf conservation more effective and help differentiate wolves from coyotes. It’s also important to better involve the public so that wolves can be seen as a benefit in the communities where they exist, he said, rather than a burden – “anything that makes the program more effective, more efficient and more successful”.
Even as a seasoned wildlife manager, Benjamin considers red wolf conservation more difficult than most. There is the usual antipathy to the federal government, coupled with state control versus federal, then multiplied by private ownership versus public policy versus the friction of environmental conservation. But bringing wolves back to environments where humans live can be a tough sell.
“More than most (problems), when you’re talking about endangered predators and their reintroduction,” Benjamin said, “it’s especially complicated.”
DJ Sharp of Kill Devil Hills worked in 2009-2010 as a wolf keeper at Alligator River. Sharp supports Wolves, but he acknowledges that success won’t come easy.
“I think the people involved are very conscientious and have done the best job possible,” Sharp said after the meeting. “Obviously the public has to support this for it to work.”
But under the circumstances, Sharp said, he thinks it will be “very difficult” to restore the wolf population to the current recovery area.
“A friend of mine spoke to some of the hunters,” Sharp said. “He said they told him if they had the chance to shoot a (wolf) illegally, they would do it without hesitation.”
Joe O’Grady, owner of Kitty Hawk’s Coastal Kayak Touring Co., which offers tours to the Alligator River refuge, said he sees the red wolves as an asset to an area that prides itself on its rich resources natural. Yet the coyotes may have ruined the wolves’ newfound chances of survival.
“Most people root for the underdog,” O’Grady said. “The coyotes moved in and it became a big human conflict.”
For O’Grady, the way to help wolves is to “stop shooting at them”.
“Educate people,” he said. “They don’t weaken the deer pack. On the contrary, they make the herd healthier.
Kim Wheeler, executive director of the nonprofit Red Wolf Coalition in Columbia in Tyrrell County, expressed concern about the recovery of wolves and wants to believe that Fish and Wildlife sees the wolf population as a value to the ecosystem.
“I think at this point it’s going to take everyone’s collective voices to make it work,” she said. “I think it’s important to involve stakeholders. I like to think we can all have a rational conversation.
At the same time, she said she saw nothing wrong with resetting the program.
“I just know we can’t go back in time,” Wheeler said. “I guess the simple answer is that we have to find a way to keep these animals in the wild. We owe it to them.
Public comments will be accepted until July 24. Once the proposed rule is complete – expected by the end of the year – there will be another public meeting and another opportunity to comment.
To submit comments
Electronically: Go to the Federal Online Rulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov. Search for FWS-R4-ES-2017-0006, which is the case number for this action. You can submit a comment by clicking “Comment Now!” »
By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or by hand delivery to: Public Comment Processing, Attn: FWS-R4-ES-2017-0006; Management Policy, Performance and Programs Division; US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.
Comments will be posted on www.regulations.gov
Comments and suggestions needed
- The appropriate size and extent of the non-core experimental population area.
- Contribution of the non-essential experimental population to the recovery objectives of the red wolf.
- Population management tools.
- Management strategies to control hybridization with coyotes.
- Appropriate arrangements for the “catch” of red wolves.
- Protocols for Red Wolves leaving the non-essential experimental population area, including but not limited to requests to remove animals from private lands.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING TO REVIEW PLANS FOR AN OUTSIDE BANKS EVENT CENTER
Dare County, North Carolina
Dare County Visitor Center
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Visitors Bureau will hold a public meeting to review plans for an Outer Banks Events Center. The meeting will be held on Monday, June 6, 2022 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Keeper’s Galley building in Haven on the Banks, 115 Dove Street, Nags Head North Carolina 27959.
Still in the conceptual phase, the Events Center is intended to provide a suitable and flexible space for year-round events, concerts, sports, meetings, smaller trade shows, galas and many more. other uses. Learn more about visitor and resident benefits and how the event center is planned to complement the new Soundside Promenade being designed.
The staff will be at your disposal to answer all your questions. For more information, please visit our Event Center FAQ Page.