SELC takes U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to court for failures to protect only wild red wolves

Wild red wolves are in serious danger due to poor oversight by federal officials, according to allegations in a complaint filed today by SELC and partners. (© B.Bartel/USFWS)

Thursday SELC and a coalition of conservation groups filed a complaint against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for its failure to protect the world’s only wild population of red wolves and illegal actions including authorizing the killing of a breeding female red wolf in a population of only 50-75 red wolves in the wild.

“Today we’ve gone to court to protect the world’s only wild population of red wolves that are now in critical condition,” said Derb Carter, senior attorney and director of SELC’s North Carolina offices. “The wild survival of America’s rarest wolf depends on whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acts responsibly and fulfills its legal duty.”

According to the service’s own estimates, the world’s only wild population of red wolves has declined by as much as half of what it was only a year ago when an estimated 100 red wolves lived within eastern North Carolina’s five-county red wolf recovery area.

Following the USFWS announcement in June 2015 that it had authorized the killing of a breeding female and suspended red wolf reintroductions into the wild, the complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina details the agency’s failure to investigate the recent decline of the wild wolves’ population, its actions and management that harm the survival of red wolves, and its failure to investigate how best to recover wild red wolves as required by law. Since 2007, the Service has not conducted the five-year status review required by the Endangered Species Act to inform recovery and management efforts.

North Carolina is home to the only wild population of red wolves in the world. Red wolves bred in captivity were reintroduced on a North Carolina peninsula within their native range in the late 1980’s after red wolves were declared extinct in the wild. Once common throughout the Southeast, intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat decimated wild red wolf populations.

The conservation groups involved in today’s litigation are the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) represented by SELC.

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