Decision imminent on fate of world's only wild red wolves

2016-09-04 18:25


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Raleigh - The fate of the world's remaining wild population of red wolves will be decided soon.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service plans to announce in September whether it will maintain, modify or abandon a 30-year effort to return the wolves to the wild in eastern North Carolina.

Meanwhile, conservationists say the wildlife service is already neglecting its duty and have asked a federal judge to step in. A September 14 hearing is scheduled on their efforts to block what they say are harmful or lethal ways of removing wolves from private land.

Conservationists say the preliminary injunction is needed to halt population declines that have left between 45 and 60 animals roaming the wild. The wild population peaked at approximately 130 a decade ago and stayed above 100 for years, according to court documents.

"Our hope is that the agency will recommit to the population as a whole and the programme as a whole. This injunction is really just to stop the bleeding," Sierra Weaver, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said. "The idea is to make sure we still have a red wolf population to recover by the time we get to the end of this litigation."

Once common around the Southeast, the red wolf had been considered extinct in the wild as of 1980 because of factors including hunting and habitat loss. Releases of red wolves bred in captivity started in 1987.

But in recent years, some North Carolina residents have complained that the wolves are increasingly straying onto private land and causing problems. Opponents also cite an outside evaluation from 2014 that found flaws in the recovery programme.

Tom MacKenzie, a spokesperson for the wildlife service, said federal officials would make a decision on the fate of the programme in September after a lengthy review, but he couldn't provide an exact date.

The conservation groups - which include the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Welfare Institute - note that the federal government has already halted practices that helped boost the population such as releasing captive-born pups into the wild and sterilising coyotes that sometimes interbreed with the wolves.

Not essential

Lawyers for the federal government, however, counter that they have maintained other efforts - such as tracking wolves with radio collars and providing veterinary care - while funding the programme with more than $1m in 2016.

They also note that another 200 or so red wolves live in captivity, justifying the designation of the wild wolves as "not essential to the continued existence of the species".

The conservation groups' request for emergency intervention hinges on arguments that the federal government twice gave landowners permission to kill wolves without meeting strict legal requirements since 2014. One wolf was shot as a result. Killing the endangered wolf is illegal in most instances.

Lawyers for the federal government say conservationists are misinterpreting the rules and that they also want the judge "to ignore the plain language of the red wolf regulations".

One of the kill authorisations was given in 2014 to a landowner who tried non-lethal removal methods after complaining that wolves were killing game on his land and scaring his children, according to court documents.

Lawyers for the wildlife service noted in a court filing that the two kill authorisations were the only ones it had issued, saying that "the Service worked for years with the landowners to non-lethally remove wolves from their property until it became clear there was no possibility of successful capture".

Read more on:    us  |  animals  |  conservation

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.