U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Plan Threatens Survival of Endangered Red Wolf Population
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a decision to significantly scale back its extremely successful reintroduction of endangered red wolves into eastern North Carolina. After nearly 30 years of cooperation with local landowners that allowed North Carolina’s wild red wolf population to grow from 8 animals to a peak of 130, and the reintroduction area to grow from 144,000 to 1.7 million acres, the federal government says it is stepping back to reassess the program.
In response to today’s announcement, Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Sierra Weaver released the following statement:
“Today’s disappointing decision could mean the end of a decades-long effort to bring this incredible animal back from the brink of extinction. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with taking all measures necessary to recover the endangered red wolf, not study it into extinction. The Service’s decision to halt its successful reintroduction program reflects an abandonment of that duty. The announced actions will undermine the continuing recovery of the red wolf and could lead to the unprecedented action by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to cause the extinction of a species in the wild.”
North Carolina is home to the world’s only wild population of red wolves. 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 Southern Environmental Law Center has been involved with red wolf conservation since the wolf’s reintroduction into North Carolina. Recently the Center represented Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute in successful litigation over the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s authorization of coyote hunting in the Red Wolf Recovery Area. Following a court order in 2014, red wolf gunshot mortalities have fallen to their lowest level in over 10 years.
Note to Editors:
Photographs of red wolves in North Carolina are available for use with appropriate photo credit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
About the 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 nearly 60 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. www.SouthernEnvironment.org