Court stops U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from capturing, killing wild red wolves

The only known population of wild red wolves, which lives in eastern North Caroilna, has been reduced by more than 50 percent in the last two years (© National Geographic)

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina today issued a preliminary injunction that orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop capturing and killing—and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill—members of the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves.

On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Red Wolf Coalition, SELC argued in a September 14 court hearing that a preliminary injunction was needed to stop USFWS from harming these native wolves in the wild. Earlier that same week, the agency announced its proposal to remove most members of the world’s only wild population of red wolves that roam a five county area in northeastern North Carolina and put them into captivity. This approach means abandoning all protective efforts except in one refuge where one pack lives and in a bombing range.

“This is a great day for red wolves and for anyone who loves nature in eastern North Carolina,” said Senior Attorney Sierra Weaver. “The court was clear that it’s the Fish and Wildlife Service’s job to conserve this endangered species, not drive it to extinction. The agency cannot simply abandon that responsibility.”

The groups brought the federal agency to court for its failure to protect the world’s only wild population of red wolves—previously estimated to be over 100 animals and now consists of only 29. Court filings detail a population decline of more than 50 percent over the course of two years, as well as the agency’s ongoing actions and inactions that imperiled the survival and recovery of the species in the wild. Previously, USFWS stopped key conservation actions and began authorizing private landowners to kill red wolves on their land. It also has been capturing wolves throughout the five-county red wolf recovery area, and holding them for weeks or months before releasing them into unfamiliar territory, separated from their mates and pack.

“This wolf is running out of time. We have a short window to put red wolves back on a path to recovery or we will lose the last wild population in America,” said Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to get its red wolf program back on track and start taking actions that will help, not hinder, recovery.”

A strong majority of North Carolinians support the effort to recover the native red wolf, according to a new poll conducted by Tulchin Research. The new poll revealed that 73 percent of North Carolinians said they support red wolf recovery. The survey also found that more than 80 percent of registered voters throughout North Carolina believe the USFWS should make every effort to help the endangered red wolf population recover and prevent its extinction.

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