A wolf bounty? Not in N.C. In a switch, there’s a reward for a human killer of rare red wolves

B. Bartel/USFWS – Two Red Wolves in Durham, N.C.

Wolves have a terrible public relations problem that dates back many centuries.

In old fables, they’re constantly up to no good, stalking Little Red Riding Hood and blowing down the houses of the Three Little Pigs. Their storied reputation might explain why people are quick to put a price on their heads for killing livestock or simply showing their faces.

But recently in North Carolina, wildlife biologists flipped the script. They are offering a bounty of sorts for information leading to the capture of whoever who shot to death two rare red wolves.

That species of wolf is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids — a group that includes jackals, coyotes and dogs. The $21,000 reward was raised by animal rights organizations after the dead wolves were found Oct. 28 and Oct. 30 on the flat plains of Washington County, on the central Carolina coast.

Accelerometers pinging in the wolves’ tracking collars informed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials that the animals’ hearts had stopped beating and led them to the dead bodies. The wolves were among 66 that authorities have tracked since they were old enough to wear collars.

The animals are monitored as part of the government’s Red Wolf Recovery Program, to reestablish them in the Southeast after federally sanctioned bounties nearly wiped them out.

Today, only 90 to 100 live in the wild, and each death is a major blow to the federal government’s effort to restore red wolves in their native habitat.

Authorities said the dead wolves were of breeding age, making their demise especially upsetting since there are too few adults to produce enough litters to reestablish the species.

“When we lose an animal, that obviously has an impact on a very small population,” said David Rabon, recovery coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife program. While there are 90 wolves in the wild, that doesn’t mean 45 of them have coupled. “About 13 pairs are breeding,” Rabon said.

Red wolves were once a lot more common in the Southeast, biologists say. Their numbers were reduced by predator control programs that put prices on the heads of native wolves as people encroached on their range. By the 1960s, they were on the brink of surviving only in zoos and museums.

The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the wolves as endangered in 1967 and frantically attempted to rebuild the population. Seventeen remaining red wolves were captured by biologists, and most went into a program that preserves their gene pool and breeds them.

With no more red wolves in the wild, they were declared extinct in the Southeast in 1980. It took seven years to breed enough of them to start a restoration program on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina’s rural northeast.

About 100 wolves roam an expanded range that includes three wildlife refuges on nearly 2 million acres. An additional 200 red wolves are in breeding, part of a Species Survival Plan in locations across the United States.

There is another species in North America: the gray wolf, or Canis lupus, with an even more fearsome and, many say, unearned reputation. In an ongoing battle with encroaching ranchers, gray wolves killed more than 250 sheep and about 90 cattle last year in Idaho alone.

22 thoughts on “A wolf bounty? Not in N.C. In a switch, there’s a reward for a human killer of rare red wolves

  1. Good article EXCEPT for the last paragraph “There is another species in North America: the gray wolf, or Canis lupus, with an even more fearsome and, many say, unearned reputation. In an ongoing battle with encroaching ranchers, gray wolves killed more than 250 sheep and about 90 cattle last year in Idaho alone.”
    Geez!…..250 sheep and 90 cattle! Out of how many millions of the range maggots and 1000 lb shit machines?!
    That said…I hope they catch the bastards that killed those wolves

    • I’ll second Jerry’s opinion! I’m guessing you got as pissed off as I did? Sweet photo, though, the photo is a keeper!
      I actually did have to put the tablet down after I read the confused writer, Darryl Fears’ Gray Wolf bullshit before I said something nasty! Does anybody know this idiot?
      I hope the reward grows leaps and bounds until people start talking. Once it gets to the point of stopping somebody’s foreclosure, I think the truth will come out? It blows my mind that the military can oops a 2 billion dollar plane, blame weather and order a new plane yet there are 13 mated pairs of Red Wolves left and FWS doesn’t have a clue how to handle this? Recovery only works if education and stiff fines/jail time make it STUPID to kill wolves or coyotes! Since that is obviously not working yet, time to bring in the collared Red Wolves before the batteries die or the wolves do or both. It’s a sadly failed experiment and I am not willing to watch the slaughter continue through denning season… I know for a fact people can’t tell the difference between a Shetland Sheepdog and a Red Fox there! No way can they tell an eastern coyote from a little Red Wolf through dense woods or a misty swamp if they are not educated. Best to ban hunting either one but even if that were done right away, I suspect the surviving Red Wolves would be targets for the usual misfits and wolf-haters?
      It will be a good day when FWS collars the trophy hunters.

    • The cows didn’t choose to be born in wolf habitat; they’re there because some fourth generation rancher’s forefather killed off the original wolves, claimed the land and stuck cows on it. If you want to blame someone, blame the real range maggots, today’s ranchers for continuing the practice. In other words, pick on someone with your own brain size. Cows know all they need to know to be a cow. A cow will never be born the next Einstein, but by the same token, no cow will ever be the next Hitler, Ted Bundy or Ted Nugent.

      • Certainly, cows are but slaves to the vile for profit commercial meat industry that sees them only as a way to make a buck at the cost of the poor cow’s life on Earth. I like dairy cows on small family farms, most of them are very sweet.

  2. Here in the southwest there is another reward offered for information leading to the killers of Mexican Gray Wolves. It was raised by public interest organizations and private individuals (I’ve contributed to it myself). The last I heard it was up to $50,000. How I would love to see it claimed.

    • While these killings are certainly lamentable and I hope to see the bounty collected, the biggest threat to red wolves is not bipedal. It’s actually that their genome will be absorbed by coyotes. When red wolves were intentionally extirpated from Texas to establish the Alligator River population in North Carolina, 400 wolves were collected from East Texas near the Sabine River. Of those, only 43 were determined to be “pure” wolf, the rest were tainted with coyote DNA. Of those 43, only 17 were of reproductive age and healthy enough to be founding stock for a wild breeding population. The remainder either entered captive breeding programs in zoos or were destroyed. The Alligator River location in N.C. was ideal at the time because there were no coyotes, but coyote range has expanded to surround the red wolf program and F&W has aggressively defended the population along with the locals. The current paradigm is to trap and sterilize coyotes close to the wolves and release them as “placeholders”, but this is by nature an inefficient process, so culling is encouraged outside of the Alligator River population’s range. It isn’t easy to distinguish a coyote from a red wolf; they have hybridized to a large extent. Coyotes throughout the former range of the red wolf are larger and more pack oriented than Western coyotes. When these killings happen it’s likely a case of mistaken identity or ignorance of the possibility that the canid being observed is a highly endangered wolf rather than a coyote. It’s inaccurate to characterize F&W as inept or “having no idea how to handle” the red wolf problem. To the contrary, they are adequately funded and doing everything they can short of condemning private property and turning the East coast into a high-fenced wildlife refuge.

      • On some level I like the idea of allowing a large section of unadulterated wilderness to revert, but this obviously isn’t something that the charter of the United States provides for – and that’s a good thing if you walk on two legs. I was insufficiently clear earlier and would add that the five-county area around the Alligator River site has been subject to an ongoing awareness campaign for over 30 years and the people there are generally cooperative, supportive and leave the management to F&W. A very high percentage of the wolf population is tracked via radio telemetry on a daily basis and those are gradually being phased out with GPS, so the range of the red wolves is well understood. Even so, they are wild animals living at-large and you tracking them all isn’t practical or even possible. With humans and mature agricultural development in the immediate area, setbacks like these will happen given time. The overall results of the program have been successful beyond the wildest hopes of the originators and this program has been right in every way that gray wolf introduction has been wrong – but the hardest days remain ahead if the success continues. A successfully growing population will have to expand into new areas and conflicts with humans and agriculture is a given. After more than 400 years on this continent we still haven’t arrived at a solution to that problem.

      • Mr. Painter, I respect your historical knowledge even if I disagree on means used in species recovery. They distruction of coy-red wolves is sad. They should have been sterilized and released to their old homes. We have no right to break up their families or slaughter them because they were doing the only thing they could to survive! We have fucked over both species enough!
        If USFWS is so well funded then they should be fencing off purchased/leased property for Red Wolf recovery! There are too few animals left in the wild and idiots, wolf-haters and shit happens!
        The ONLY logical thing left to do is buy up habitat and fence it to keep the killers out! You may find inter-agency aid if you can find a military base that is fenced and no longer used. Wolves do quite well in abandoned human habitats with wild space, water and prey. As long as humans are not using a building, especially old barns and sheds, wolves quite enjoy them, especially in bad weather.
        You know what… here’s an offer that FWS can’t refuse if they really want to save the Red Wolf. I will lease them my wild prime wolf habitat for a dollar a year plus property taxes if they fence it and feed the Red wolves or have me or my family do wolf care and feeding. They have years of wolf rescue experience. The area is about 50 acres, includes pristine wetlands and woodlands, springs and great den sites. It once supported over 50 big Northeastern coyotes before hunters killed them. The fence will keep undesirables out and Red Wolves in and you don’t have to take anybody’s property, just lease and fence it! Now what do you think?

      • Melody: It can certainly be said that any flaws you may have are not of the heart, but a pack of red wolves would ideally have a range of about 30,000 acres to be comfortable and not crowded. The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge covers a little over 150,000 acres (not all contiguous). While it’s ideal in many senses, in others there just isn’t much room to grow… I would assert that there are not hordes of people lined up waiting for their opportunity to kill a red wolf, but there are going to be conflicts between people whose livelihood is attached to livestock and wolves that have been drawn out of the refuge by demand for food resources. Given the circumstances and the distance the red wolf has come since the 1970s, this is actually a very good problem to have.

  3. Joanne…….I’m setting up a reward fund for a grizzly killed in Montana.
    Would like to know if you contributed directly to USFWS or how it was handled?
    Jim…it’s ok to give joanne my email address.
    Thanks

  4. Mr. Painter, I do understand the ‘crowded’ issue! Have you ever visited a large facility of private citizen wolf experts on a begging for dog food budget of donations trying to save captive-bred puppy mill wolves? You do what you can with what you have! Every donation is cried and prayed over, every wolf is precious as an individual and as part of a mated pair. Also as part of living history. Killing anybody is not an option unless they are too sick or injured to live much longer anyway and are suffering.
    In the highly populated Northeast, getting a chunk of land only two hours north of Boston that is remote as where I live is way too expensive and hard to find than most people are willing to extend themselves for! Those that do, must make do! Wolves, dogs and wolfdogs are kept in enclosures and have shelter food and water and love. Once daily, they get time in a large fenced in area to run and jump and play. Due to extremes of weather, they sleep overnight, next to their mates, indoors in crates. Since I rescued habituated animals most of my adult life, I have learned much. Because I don’t breed, my animals are sterilized, as per State law. Due to my age and disabilities, I do not take puppies, and the few animals left will probably die naturally before I do? The animals I do have would have been PTS if they were sent to a county facility. I don’t do adoptions, these few animals live out their lives here with their mates. Miles and miles of woods is prefered but not necessary as long as the food aggressive ones are fed in their crates. If you want to know the things I know, get my e-mail address from Jim and ask me. I am not using that bottom 50 acres and unfenced, it has been a spot that attracts the most undesirable type of hunters, which is a problem for me. So I would be happy to see it fenced and be used to recover an endangered wolf family bring new members into the world. Thanks for sharing info. It is appreciated!

    • Melody: I honestly believe that you are describing an honorable and admirable enterprise. I’m licensed by my state to rehabilitate raptors (and I have a real soft-spot for raptor-like passerine birds like shrikes), I support wildlife rescue with my time and my money and I agree that each animal is precious in its own right (particularly if that animal is one of less than one hundred)… But we also have to live in a world with property boundaries, taxes, mortgages, tuition and other debts and the unfortunate reality is that conflicts between large mammalian predators and humans will happen when the two cohabitate. I don’t know what can reasonably be done about that beyond what measures are already in place.

      A word about wolves and other wild things… I’m not a particualrly big fan of Joel Salatin, but I identify with something he said about pastured chickens in one of his books. He says that a chicken that lives outside of a cage and scratches up its own food has its “chicken-ness”. That was immediately intuitive to me and I internalized the application of the language. With wild raptors, the bird is never tamed. It doesn’t matter how acclimated a red tailed hawk has become to your presence, he will never be anything other than a wild predator. If you want him to do something, you have to negotiate. If you give him any opportunity, he’ll remind you that he’s a hawk – which can mean a trip to the hospital for stitches. He’s just biding his time until he’s well enough for release. If you raise a hawk from a chick, that bird doesn’t know what he is. He’s a caged bird forever. He doesn’t have his “hawk-ness” and becomes something less than what he was born to be. To me, a wild wolf is the same. He loses his “wolf-ness” when kept in an enclosure and dependent on people for food. Maybe it’s better to be alive in an enclosure than dead in the wild, but then again, maybe not if you’re a wolf. Coydogs and other hybrids are one thing, but a wolf? I honestly don’t know. I do know that creature comforts, certainty and affection don’t mean as much to wild things as they mean to you and me… Just a thought.

      • I do understand. I think when it is wolves, it is an individual thing. Each and every one has a different, complex, highly intelligent personality. You kind of have to take it case by case. Or pair by pair. Every day with a wolf is a new day to test your boundaries. As for dangerous, not much. I am covered in bitez and scratch scars, akmost none of them cane from wolves. Most were barn cats and small terrier dogs. All were catching them to bring them to the vet or in rendering first aid. Bird watchjng is great in the marsh.

  5. Jim, I find veal to be a wretched enterprise, too. It is more gross in Europe with the gourmet chefs demanding the cow fetus be pulled out of the cow early and killed immediately as a preemie.this has to do with the light color of the meat being ‘pure’ and tender because the baby never used it’s muscles.
    Nobody I know would sell a calf for veal. In the US, veal calves were fed no iron to get that light pink in the meat and it was very painful for the calf. I have never bought veal, even when I was young. Anybody I know has one or two cows for milk for the kids and the calves. They keep any calves for future use as dairy cows or oxen to plow with or cart rides. I’ve seen many too many feedlot cattle in the area north of Denver. That is repulsive and cruel and those people are a bunch of inbred rednecks undeserving of any animal! Their whole operation is toxic to the calves and those who eat them!

    • Sounds idyllic; if only everyone had enough land and elbow room to treat animals right. The rest of the seven billion people and counting who also consume dairy products have created the demand for massive feed lots and veal farm situations. The U.N. recently came up with a figure of 1.5 billion humans on a sustainable Earth. That figure is still a gross overestimate–1/4 to 1/2 a billion would be closer to the truth for long term sustainability.

  6. Sorry about my bad spelling. My tablet is defective. Hope Santa buys me a new one! Good deal on tablets with a keyboard at Biglots tomorrow. $79.99 with wi fi and bluetooth! Not much RAM though. Jellybean 4.1 OS. If I get there early enough, I might get lucky?

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