Shooters Reported Mistaking Endangered Red Wolves for Coyotes

Ten Wolves Killed by Gunshot in 2012 Exceeds Annual Average

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records, at least three of the ten endangered red wolves shot and killed in 2012 were reported by the shooters as mistaken for coyotes.  No responsible party or reason is reported or identified for the remaining seven wolves killed by gunshot in 2012. The ten wolves killed by gunshot in 2012 exceeded the annual average since 2002.

“These reports confirm that mistaken identity is a lethal, but preventable, threat to endangered red wolves,” said Derb Carter, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the groups. “It’s difficult to tell the difference between a red wolf and a coyote even in daytime and allowing night hunting substantially increases the risk to red wolves.”

A temporary rule that legalized spot light hunting of coyotes at night in North Carolina—including the five county area inhabited by the world’s only wild population of about 100 red wolves—was in effect August 2012 until November 2012 when it was suspended by Wake County Superior Court in a lawsuit brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Animal Welfare Institute, and Defenders of Wildlife. Now an identical permanent state rule is pending before the N.C. General Assembly.

Red wolves and coyotes are similar in size, coats, and coloring so red wolves are frequently mistaken for coyotes, even in daylight.  Gunshot deaths are a significant threat to red wolf recovery and a leading cause of red wolf mortality.


Note to Editors:
• A photographic comparison of a red wolf and coyote can be viewed at:
• Photographs of red wolves in North Carolina are available for use with appropriate photo credit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at

About Southern Environmental Law Center
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 50 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

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