With fewer than 50 red wolves in existence in North Carolina, the Center for Biological Diversity is battling head on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a lawsuit against for violating the Endangered Species Act’s mandate to conserve protected red wolves and to implement a recovery program to ensure their survival and recovery in the wild.
“Never in its history has the Fish and Wildlife Service deliberately chosen to undermine the survival of a species entrusted to its care by doing the exact opposite of what its recovery plan recommends,” said in a press release Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center. “Director Dan Ashe and the Fish and Wildlife Service are condemning the red wolf to extinction.”
The red wolves were all but gone in North Carolina when it first returned thirty years ago for the times in decades. The response from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to this arrival was to capture the last remaining red wolves in the wild and to set up a small team with the task of running the foundation of a captive breeding program. The program seemed to be a success with its release of captive-bred red wolves into the wild at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The red wolves population in the wild numbered around 110 and was looked upon as exemplary for carnivore restoration. Grapes turned sour when the refuge attracted an influx of coyotes and hybridization became a concern. Poorly managed efforts to control coyotes and ignorance has resulted in red wolves getting shot, as they were mistaken for coyotes.
The News & Observer reports that “in 2012, no fewer than ten red wolves died from gunshots after the state of North Carolina authorized night hunting of coyotes in red wolf habitat.”
The Center for Biological Diversity claims that the Fish and Wildlife Service “bowed to political pressure from ranchers” and has stopped investing in all aspects of the recovery program for red wolves and is conducting a “feasibility review” as a pretext to dismantle further the program. The Service eliminated the program’s recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopped the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015. The agency ended its coyote-sterilization program to prevent hybrid animals from harming the red wolf’s gene pool, curtailed law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths, and stopped offering rewards to the public to help bring poachers to justice.”
At this moment, it appears that the population of the red wolves has declined to a mere 45 remaining animals, and is on the brink of extinction. The lawsuit claims that the Fish and Wildlife Service has not only completely failed on its mission to protect wildlife in distress but that it has contributed to the decline of the red wolves, and holds it accountable for its demise.
The lawsuit seems to have the support of 100 residents in North Carolina and a petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service circulating online has received the support of more than 100,000 individuals nationwide.