U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week it will begin to
dramatically scale back its controversial red wolf recovery
agency said in a news release it will begin implementing a series of
actions based on scientific information and divided public
opinions gathered during the past 21 months. The plan is
to limit the area that the endangered wolves are able
to roam freely to a federal wildlife refuge and adjacent land in
Dare County by the end of 2017.
move is in response to complaints by private landowners in
the existing five-county recovery area, but wildlife conservation
groups criticized the decision.
is a devastating blow to the world’s most endangered wolf. The U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service has abandoned its obligations to protect and
recover the red wolf. This retreat flies in the face of what
the majority of people in North Carolina
want,” Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie
Rappaport Clark said in a statement on the group’s website.
are to limit the population in the wild to the Dare County Bombing
Range and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, where the agency
said stable packs exist on federal land. They also plan to find
other locations in North Carolina or the southeastern U.S. where red
wolves historically roamed until they were listed as extinct in the
wild in 1980.
Red wolves bred in captivity were released into Alligator National Wildlife Refuge starting in 1987.
proposed action will change the scope of and goals for the experimental
population and is expected to be completed by December 2017,” the
agency said, and it will undergo an environmental review and a public
agency said it will next determine where potential new sites exist for
additional experimental wild populations by October 2017, and ensure
they will comply with environmental rules and include public engagement.
full evaluation of the program was undertaken two years ago after
evidence surfaced that dozens of captive-bred wolves were released
mistakenly on private lands in parts of the five counties and
interbreeding with coyotes became rampant.
Some 200 red wolves are currently held in captive breeding facilities across the United States, including one at the refuge.
listed as an endangered species, the wolves that have been released are
classified by the agency as a “non-essential, experimental population”.
wildlife regulators called on the Fish and Wildlife Service last year
to end the reintroduction of the red wolf in the region and to remove
all wolves that were released on private lands.
release program was suspended in June 2015, while existing wolves were
allowed to continue roaming over an area covering 1.7 million acres of
Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, Washington and Beaufort counties.
hunting was restricted in that area after a lawsuit by environmental
groups in reaction to at least eight incidents in which red wolves were
shot and not reported, which violated state and federal regulations.
announcement Monday comes after a two-year, two-step evaluation of the
entire red wolf recovery program, according to the federal agency.
initial report by the Wildlife Management Institute in June 2015
criticized how the Fish and Wildlife Service interacted with residents
and property owners surrounding the refuge in the five-county area
after the program got underway.
same findings praised Fish and Wildlife for the science behind the
program and noted that it proved to some degree that the red wolf could
survive in coastal eastern North Carolina.
Earlier this month, the final results of the study were submitted to the agency.
service commissioned these numerous studies, and the updated research
and information coming from a diverse group of experts was invaluable
to us in making the management decisions we’re announcing today,” said
Cindy Dohner, the service’s Southeast Regional Director.
and Wildlife said it will move quickly to secure the captive population
of about 200 red wolves because it is not sustainable in its current
configuration, with just 29 breeding pairs in captivity.
five-year status review for the red wolf will also be completed by
October 2017, examining whether the red wolf is a valid, list-able
entity and whether it is appropriately classified as an endangered
To Learn More
- Red wolf program review
- Read the service’s decision memorandum
article is provided by Coastal Review Online, an online news service
covering North Carolina's coast. Sam Walker is a reporter for the Outer
Banks Voice. For more news, features, and information about the coast,
go to www.coastalreview.org.)