[On a related note, we need to ban contest hunts on coyotes if we want to keep wolves safe from being targeted by that backwards, barbaric pastime…]
Story by Bruce Henderson
Monday, Dec. 16, 2013
Three conservation groups asked a federal court Monday to stop coyote hunting in five coastal N.C. counties, saying the practice is killing lookalike red wolves.
Five of the endangered wolves have been shot since mid-October, and only the cut-off radio collar of a sixth animal has been found. Rewards totaling $26,000 have been offered for information on the shootings.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission allows an open hunting season on coyotes, which have spread across the state in recent decades. Young red wolves look very much like coyotes.
The motion filed Monday asks that a U.S. District Court judge stop coyote hunting in Dare, Tyrrell, Hyde, Washington and Beaufort counties. Those counties include the 1.7 million acres where about 100 red wolves run wild on the Albemarle Peninsula.
Filed on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Welfare Institute, it says the practice allows the illegal taking of endangered wolves that are protected by federal law.
The Wildlife Resources Commission had no immediate response, spokesman Geoff Cantrell said.
The commission said in a statement last month that its coyote hunting rules are “in the best interest of the public, the environment and the agricultural community.” It denied breaking federal law.
So far this year, 14 red wolves are known to have died. Eight gunshot deaths were confirmed and two more suspected. Killing red wolves is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents the conservation groups, argues that wolves mistakenly shot as coyotes are hurting the breeding success of the recovery program. Eleven breeding pairs of wolves are now down to eight, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said.
Five shooters in the past two years have said they mistakenly killed wolves they thought were coyotes, the law center said.
Research shows that breaking up established pairs increases the odds that succeeding litters will be wolf-coyote hybrids, pairings that federal biologists go to great lengths to prevent.
In 2012 the Wildlife Resources Commission expanded coyote hunting by allowing shooters to spotlight coyotes, blinding them, and shooting them at night.
With that, said the injunction motion, the problem of telling young wolves and coyotes apart “becomes virtually impossible at night.”