Court Victory: Wild Red Wolves Get a Chance at Survival

https://www.southernenvironment.org/news-and-press/press-releases/court-victory-wild-red-wolves-get-a-chance-at-survival

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina today issued an order declaring that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in its rollback of protections for the world’s only wild population of red wolves living in eastern North Carolina.  On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Red Wolf Coalition, the Southern Environmental Law Center initiated the lawsuit in 2015.

Examining the agency’s decisions to allow private landowners to shoot and kill non-problem red wolves, to end releases of red wolves, and to end active management of coyotes, the court found that “taken together, these actions go beyond the agency’s discretion and operate to violate [the Service’s] mandate to recover this species in the wild.”  The court also made permanent its September 29, 2016, order stopping the service from capturing and killing, and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill wild red wolves.

“For four years now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been dismantling one of the most successful predator reintroductions in U.S. history,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The service knows how to protect and recover the red wolf in the wild, but it stopped listening to its scientists and started listening to bureaucrats instead.  The law doesn’t allow the agency to just walk away from species conservation, like it did here.”

The groups brought the federal court action over the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to allow red wolves that were not causing any problems to be shot and killed by private landowners, at the same time as it rolled back conservation measures that had helped red wolves grow from four pairs released in 1987, to over 100 animals in eastern North Carolina from 2002-2014. Since those management changes were made, the red wolf population has plummeted over the past four years to as few as 24 known red wolves in the wild today.

“Support for red wolf protection has been overwhelming,” said Jason Rylander, Senior Staff Attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “But, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ignored public support and moved forward with a proposal that will doom the species to extinction. Today’s decision by the court to protect red wolves from being shot and killed offers a glimmer of hope for species recovery and new energy to make this program successful once again.”

USFWS attempted to avoid a ruling in Conservation Groups’ lawsuit by proposing on June 27, 2018, a new rule to restrict wild red wolves to one National Wildlife Refuge and a bombing range in eastern North Carolina, while allowing the immediate killing of any wolves that live on or wander onto non-federal lands in what previously had been a designated 1.7 million acre five-county Red Wolf Recovery Area.

Conservation groups opposed this proposal, arguing instead for an alternative that would reinstate previous successful management measures.  “Rolling back protections is the opposite of what this species needs,” said Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition. “The court’s ruling today makes clear that the USFWS must recommit to red wolf recovery and resume its previously successful management policies and actions.”

The USFWS proposal would reduce the recovery area by almost 90 percent, eliminating protections for endangered red wolves from 1.5 million acres.  In 2016, a group of 30 scientists condemned such a scenario because the limited area proposed by USFWS could not support a viable population of red wolves and its proposal was inconsistent with the best available science.

“The District Court’s ruling today makes it clear that USFWS’s recent management decisions have failed to protect the red wolf population,” said Johanna Hamburger, wildlife attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute.  “Scientists have warned that if USFWS continues to ignore the recovery needs of the red wolf, these animals may once again be extinct in the wild by 2024. The court has ruled that this is unacceptable and that USFWS has a duty under the ESA to implement proactive conservation measures to achieve species recovery.”

According to the conservation groups, 99.9 percent of the 108,124 comments that the agency received on its proposed rule supported red wolf recovery in the wild.  Only 19 comments—with 13 of these coming from a single real estate developer—supported USFWS’s proposal to restrict red wolves to only federal lands in Dare County.

The red wolf recovery program served as a model for reintroduction efforts and was widely celebrated as a success for 25 years before the service began ending its successful conservation actions.  Once common throughout the Southeast, intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat drove the red wolf to extinction in the wild in the late 1970s. Later, red wolves bred in captivity were reintroduced on a North Carolina peninsula within their native range in the late 1980s.

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About the Red Wolf Coalition
The Red Wolf Coalition (www.redwolves.com) advocates for the long-term survival of red wolf populations by teaching about the red wolf and by fostering public involvement in red wolf conservation.

About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild.

About Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

About the Southern Environmental Law Center
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

CRISIS: A Death Sentence for Red Wolves

Donate Now!
Fewer than 40 red wolves cling to survival
in the wild. Help us fight for them!

The federal government seems bent on destroying what began as one of our nation’s greatest wildlife comeback stories.

As a result, red wolves are all but certain to go extinct in the wild – again.

You and I can’t let what began as such a success story end on such a heartbreaking and tragic note. This is a 100% preventable extinction.

Say ‘hell no’ to the red wolf extinction plan. Help us fight for the wildlife you love!

Last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to cripple the red wolf recovery program by:

  • Reducing the recovery area in Eastern North Carolina by nearly 90% – leaving barely enough room for a single wolf pack.
  • Allowing any wolf wandering outside the cramped confines of the Refuge to be gunned down, no questions asked.

30 years ago when the red wolf recovery effort launched it was destined to become a model for recovery of wolves across the U.S. The once nearly extinct population took root and grew to 150 wolves. But ever since anti-wolf extremists mounted an anti-wolf campaign, numbers have fallen.

Fewer than 40 red wolves cling to survival in the wild – won’t you help us fight for them?

Red wolves, native to Eastern North Carolina, are a key part of our natural heritage. In our not so distant past, these animals ranged from Florida to Pennsylvania and as far west as Texas. There are no words for how tragic it would be to see them disappear forever.

Your donation will help fuel our all-out effort to rescue the red wolf from oblivion. You’ll help fund public outreach efforts in North Carolina, build community support for wolf conservation, and help us hold Fish and Wildlife Service’s feet to the fire, including legal action if necessary.

The story isn’t over. With your help, we’ll get the happy ending we have sought for three decades. It’s the happy ending these wolves deserve

Camera-trap footage shows rare, much-debated red wolf in the wild

https://www.earthtouchnews.com/conservation/endangered/camera-trap-footage-shows-rare-much-debated-red-wolf-in-the-wild/

BY ETHAN SHAW NOVEMBER 09 2017

The status of the red wolf – that reddish-brown canid of the American Southeast that’s about midway in size and habits between a coyote and a grey wolf – has been in flux for decades, and these days it’s up in the air on a number of counts. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is reconsidering its strategy for recovering the animal, among the rarest of the world’s wild dogs, and meanwhile taxonomists continue to debate its position on the Canis family tree.

In light of all that political and scientific murkiness, it’s a pleasure to watch red wolves just doing their thing in the wild. Camera traps maintained by the Wildlands Network conservation group have collected some great video in the heart of the wolf’s precarious stronghold on northeastern North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula.

Ron Sutherland of the Wildlands Network told us all four clips here were taken in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, part of the 1.7-million-acre, five-county red-wolf recovery area that also encompasses Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and other federally managed holdings, state-owned lands, a government bombing range and private acreage.

Sutherland said the first video showed young wolves or possibly wolf-coyote hybrids, while the other three clips are most likely of the longstanding Milltail Pack.

The red wolf (Wa’ya to the Cherokee) once trotted over most of the American Southeast; where and how the boundaries of its range edged that of the grey wolf is one of many, well, grey areas of canid natural history in pre-Columbian North America. Weighing some 23 to 36 kilograms (50 to 80 lbs), red wolves were historically not only the grizzled chestnut colour that gives them their common name but also frequently black; early naturalists, for example, recognised a “Florida black wolf”.

Just_a_little_closer.jpg

A red wolf in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Wade into the taxonomy of the red wolf – and of the genus Canis in North America, for that matter – at your own risk. It’s a fascinating but thorny topic that’s far from settled, and loosely speaking involves about five canines: the Eurasian-evolved grey wolf (which may have colonised North America in multiple waves) and the New World-derived red wolf, Algonquin (aka eastern or Great Lakes) wolf, coyote, and the so-called “eastern coyote” (frequently referred to as a “coywolf”, though mammalogist Roland Kays takes some issue with that).

The species status of the grey wolf and coyote are firmly established; where the others fall in the Canis lineage is less settled, to say the least. A 2012 review concluded the red wolf, Algonquin wolf and coyote are likely relatives with a common ancestor; a 2016 genetic analysis, in turn, proposed red and Algonquin wolves derive from varying degrees of quite recent grey wolf/coyote hybridisation. Yet another assessment from last year, which scrutinised ancient canid remains from the American Southeast, suggested the red wolf may (a) have evolved from prehistoric coyote-wolf interbreeding, or (b) share a forerunner with the coyote.

Taxonomic inquiries such as this could have bearing on how the US government classifies and treats the red wolf as a conservation priority. (The USFWS continues to regard it as its own species.) But as many of the researchers who’ve lately studied red and Algonquin wolf genetics have pointed out, whether these wolves are hybrids, subspecies or distinct species doesn’t detract from their “ecological authenticity” as apex carnivores in eastern North America. (The eastern coyote, too, certainly seems to be filling a significant ecological role in its freshly colonised range.)

As the authors of the 2016 study suggesting either long-ago hybridisation or unique lineage for the red wolf noted, “If red wolves have an ancient hybrid origin, it would not preclude the species from protection, and furthermore, it emphasises the dynamic nature of canid evolution.”

“Whether these wolves are hybrids, subspecies or distinct species doesn’t detract from their ‘ecological authenticity’ as apex carnivores in eastern North America.”

Genetic fingerprinting of the red-wolf line is complicated because of the very small founder pool. By the early 1800s, the lithe deer-, raccoon- and rabbit-hunting wolves of southeastern forests and swamps were already vanishing. By the mid-20th century they were mainly restricted to the Gulf Coast of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana (earlier strongholds apparently included South Florida’s Big Cypress and the Okefenokee Swamp on the Louisiana-Florida line).

The USFWS declared the red wolf endangered in 1967 and launched a recovery programme in 1973. Subsequently – with the future of the species in the wild deemed unlikely given habitat loss and interbreeding with coyotes – more than 400 wolf-like Gulf Coast canids were rounded up to initiate captive breeding. Only 14 of those several wild dogs were ultimately determined to be genetically “pure” red wolves, and the dozen of those that reproduced in captivity became the founders of today’s population.

In 1987, red wolves were reintroduced to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge: the first attempt anywhere to reintroduce a large carnivore to its former range. The following spring, biologists documented the first wild-born red-wolf pups in North Carolina since the animal’s extirpation.

Coastal North Carolina (as well as several southeastern islands where wolves are acclimated for release) has remained the outpost for wild red wolves in modern times; a 1990s reintroduction attempt in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Southern Appalachians was abandoned after wolves dispersed outside park boundaries.

Last year, the USFWS announced a shift in its red-wolf strategy: restricting recovery efforts in the wild to publicly owned acreage in a single North Carolina county while attempting to double the captive population to 400. A number of conservation groups decried the announcement, and in September 2016, a judge barred the agency from removing red wolves that aren’t directly threatening pets or livestock from private lands.

Earlier this year, the USFWS solicited public feedback on the changes it was proposing. An analysis of the 55,000-odd comments received, conducted by the Wildlands Network and several other conservation organisations, suggested 99.8% supported efforts to restore wild red wolves in North Carolina. The conservation coalition noted in a press release from this August that this support extended to the local level.

“Zooming in to northeastern North Carolina, more than two-thirds (68.4%) of the comments from the current five-county recovery region were supportive of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, undermining claims that local residents oppose red wolf restoration,” they wrote.

You can read more about the USFWS’s approach to red-wolf recovery here.

The presence of red wolves makes the Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes refuges especially impressive expressions of North Carolina’s wild heart. To fully appreciate it, be sure to browse the camera-trap galleries of the Wildland Network’s Flickr page: a rich cast of other characters from the Albemarle-Pamlico backcountry – including white-tailed deer, bobcats, and lots and lots of black bears – make cameos.

Coyote hunting ban would end under NC Senate bill, but some fear for endangered red wolves

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article132861439.html

Should the gray wolf keep its endangered species protection?

Gray wolves

Dan StahlerGray wolves are currently protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (and are not always gray).

Research by UCLA biologists published today presents strong evidence that the scientific reason advanced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act is incorrect.

A key justification for protection of the gray wolf under the act was that its geographic range included the Great Lakes region and 29 Eastern states, as well as much of North America. The Fish and Wildlife Service published a document in 2014 which asserted that a newly recognized species called the eastern wolf occupied the Great Lakes region and eastern states, not the gray wolf. Therefore, the original listing under the act was invalid, and the service recommended that the species (except for the Mexican gray wolf, which is the most endangered gray wolf in North America) should be removed from protection under the act.

A decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act may be made as early as this fall.

In the new study published in the journal Science Advances, biologists analyzed the complete genomes of North American wolves — including the gray wolf, eastern wolf and red wolf — and coyotes. The researchers found that both the red wolf and eastern wolf are not distinct species, but instead are mixes of gray wolf and coyote.

Bridgett vonHoldt and Robert Wayne

Reed Hutchinson/UCLA
Bridgett vonHoldt and Robert Wayne in 2009.

“The recently defined eastern wolf is just a gray wolf and coyote mix, with about 75 percent of its genome assigned to the gray wolf,” said senior author Robert Wayne, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “We found no evidence for an eastern wolf that has a separate evolutionary legacy. The gray wolf should keep its endangered species status and be preserved because the reason for removing it is incorrect. The gray wolf did live in the Great Lakes area and in the 29 eastern states.”

Once common throughout North America and among the world’s most widespread mammals, the gray wolf is now extinct in much of the United States, Mexico and Western Europe, and lives mostly in wilderness and remote areas. Gray wolves still live in the Great lakes area, but not in the eastern states.

Apparently, the two species first mixed hundreds of years ago in the American South, resulting in a population that has become more coyote-like as gray wolves were slaughtered, Wayne said. The same process occurred more recently in the Great Lakes area, as wolves became rare and coyotes entered the region in the 1920s.

The researchers analyzed the genomes of 12 pure gray wolves (from areas where there are no coyotes), three coyotes (from areas where there are no gray wolves), six eastern wolves (which the researchers call Great Lakes wolves) and three red wolves.

There has been a substantial controversy over whether red wolves and eastern wolves are genetically distinct species. In their study, the researchers did not find a unique ancestry in either that could not be explained by inter-breeding between gray wolves and coyotes.

“If you did this same experiment with humans — human genomes from Eurasia — you would find that one to four percent of the human genome has what looks like strange genomic elements from another species: Neanderthals,” Wayne said. “In red wolves and eastern wolves, we thought it might be at least 10 to 20 percent of the genome that could not be explained by ancestry from gray wolves and coyotes. However, we found just three to four percent, on average — similar to that found in individuals from the same species when compared to our small reference set.”

Red wolf

Dave Mech
Red wolf

Pure eastern wolves were thought to reside in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. The researchers studied two samples from Algonquin Provincial Park and found they were about 50 percent gray wolf, 50 percent coyote.

Biologists mistakenly classified the offspring of gray wolves and coyotes as red wolves or eastern wolves, but the new genomic data suggest they are hybrids. “These gray wolf-coyote hybrids look distinct and were mistaken as a distinct species,” Wayne said.

Eventually, after the extinction of gray wolves in the American south, the red wolves could mate only with one another and coyotes, and became increasingly coyote-like.

Red wolves turn out to be about 25 percent gray wolf and 75 percent coyote, while the eastern wolf’s ancestry is approximately 75 percent gray wolf and 25 percent coyote, Wayne said. (Wayne’s research team published findings in the journal Nature in 1991 suggesting red wolves were a mixture of gray wolves and coyotes.)

Although the red wolf, listed as an endangered species in 1973, is not a distinct species, Wayne believes it is worth conserving; it is the only repository of the gray wolf genes that existed in the American South, he said.

The researchers analyzed SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) — tiny variations in a genetic sequence, and used sophisticated statistical approaches. In the more than two dozen genomes, they found 5.4 million differences in SNPs, a very large number.

Carla Schaffer/AAAS
Genomic sequencing reveals that red wolves and eastern wolves are hybrids of gray wolves.

Wayne said the Endangered Species Act has been extremely effective. He adds, however, that when it was formulated in the 1970s, biologists thought species tended not to inter-breed with other species, and that if there were hybrids, they were not as fit. The scientific view has changed substantially since then. Inter-breeding in the wild is common and may even be beneficial, he said. The researchers believe the Endangered Species Act should be applied with more flexibility to allow protection of hybrids in some cases (it currently does not), and scientists have made several suggestions about how this might be done without a change in the law, Wayne said.

Co-authors of the study include lead author Bridgett vonHoldt, an assistant professor at Princeton University and former UCLA graduate student and postdoctoral scholar who worked in Wayne’s laboratory; Beth Shapiro, UC Santa Cruz associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; Jacqueline Robinson, a UCLA graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology in Wayne’s laboratory; and Zhenxin Fan, an assistant professor at China’s Sichuan University, who was a visiting graduate student in Wayne’s laboratory.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Turner Endangered Species Fund, the Wilburforce Foundation, and the Morris Animal Foundation.

Red Wolf Population Plunges to as Few as 50 as Feds Gut Recovery Program

For Immediate Release, February 16, 2016

Contact: Brett Hartl

 Anti-wildlife Groups Spur Halt to Recovery Efforts, Poaching Investigations

WASHINGTON— The nation’s only population of red wolves is in an alarming free-fall, declining by 27 percent from 2014 to 2015 to as few as 50 individuals, according to new population counts released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Red wolf population graphThe total estimated population has declined by about 50 percent since 2012, from 100 to 120 individuals to just 50 to 75 in 2015. The declines have occurred since the Service bowed to political pressure from the state of North Carolina, eliminating the program’s recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopping the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015.  The agency also ended a coyote-sterilization program to prevent hybrid animals from harming the gene pool, drastically reduced law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths, and stopped publicizing cases where poaching was determined to be the cause of deaths.

“Director Ashe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are deliberately condemning the red wolf to extinction,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The red wolf recovery program was once a shining example of successful conservation. Under the direction of Dan Ashe, the program has been quietly dismantled to appease a few anti-wildlife zealots. It’s disgraceful.”

Red wolf releases in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge began in the mid-1980s and pushed the population to more than 100 wolves by the mid-2000s. The population stopped growing in 2011 as gunshot mortalities increased. Red wolf mortality skyrocketed after North Carolina authorized nighttime hunting of coyotes because red wolves and coyotes are nearly indistinguishable in the dark. Following a successful lawsuit to stop nighttime hunting, the Fish and Wildlife Service faced increased political pressure to curtail the red wolf recovery program.

“Conservation scientists have shown that recovering the red wolf is completely achievable and know what steps need to be taken next,” said Hartl. “Rather than following the science, the red wolf program is in disarray because the Service won’t stand up to this political pressure.”

A 2014 report from the independent Wildlife Management Institute concluded that if the red wolf is going to recover, two additional populations need to be established in the wild, and additional resources need to be invested to build local support for red wolf recovery.

There is strong local and national support for red wolves. Recently 100 citizens who live in the red wolf recovery area in North Carolina sent a petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service expressing their support for keeping endangered red wolves in the wild. In addition, 110,000 people from around the United States, including more than 1,500 North Carolina residents, submitted letters in support of the red wolf program.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

USFWS Grants Landowner Permit to Kill Critically Endangered Red Wolf

USFWS Grants Landowner Permit to Kill Critically Endangered Red Wolf

Landowners who own property in the vicinity of the Red Wolf Recovery  Program, a 27-year federal project aimed at restoring to the far-eastern  edge of North Carolina one of nature’s most fragile species, claim red  wolves are invading their private property and impacting their  longstanding cultural tradition of deer hunting.   Although the deer  population has dropped somewhat, NC Wildlife Resources Commission  representatives believe the decline is more likely the result of  increased doe hunting than impacts by red wolves.

USFWS Red Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Dave Rabon, said opposition to  red wolves isn’t pervasive. Cultural differences in Eastern North  Carolina make it difficult for people to support a government-funded  predator program. “A lot of them will work with us,” he said. “But  they’re not going to advertise it. They’re not going to put a bumper  sticker on their car.”

Fourteen red wolves died in 2013 that the coalition knows about,  including nine dead by suspected or confirmed gunshot wounds. Another  wolf was found killed, apparently shot, on Jan. 7.  “Because of the  similarity of appearance between red wolves and coyotes, it is nearly  impossible for individual hunters to avoid shooting red wolves,” said  the recent lawsuit that the Red Wolf Coalition and other wildlife groups  filed against the state in its claim that it is not doing enough to  protect.

To date, there are no known red wolf attacks on humans and few  documented livestock kills. Still, resentment started building early on.  Though red wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act,  locals were promised that they would be classified as “nonessential and  experimental,” giving landowners more leeway in dealing with them.

Farm owner Jett Ferebee has recently been granted by the USFWS the  first (and only) known permit to kill one of the red wolves that they  had not been able to trap and remove it from his Tyrell County  property,  as long as the taking was done while trying to legally kill  coyotes on his farm.

Relief for landowners depends on what they expect,” said USFWS Red  Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Dave Rabon.”  Canids of some kind, whether  wolves or coyotes, will always be in the area.  With Mr. Ferebee,” he  said, “we’ve been very successful removing animals from his property  when he’s called us. But it’s temporary. They’re going to come back.  Something is going to come back.”   Rabon added that opposition isn’t  pervasive. Cultural differences in Eastern North Carolina make it  difficult for people to support a government-funded predator program. “A  lot of them will work with us,” he said. “But they’re not going to  advertise it. They’re not going to put a bumper sticker on their car.”

Fourteen red wolves died in 2013 that the Red Wolf Coalition knows  about, including nine dead by suspected or confirmed gunshot wounds.  Another wolf was found killed, apparently shot, on Jan. 7.   “Because of  the similarity of appearance between red wolves and coyotes, it is  nearly impossible for individual hunters to avoid shooting red wolves,”  said the lawsuit that the Red Wolf Coalition and other wildlife groups  filed against the state.

If successful, the suit could stop coyote hunting altogether in the  five eastern counties. If it does, one can expect continued conflict  between pro-recovery efforts and landowners.

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the world’s most endangered  canids.  Once common throughout the eastern and southcentral United  States, red wolf populations were decimated by the early part of the  20th century as a result of intensive predator control programs and  habitat loss.  We oppose USFWS’ action to allow this landowner to  lethally remove a red wolf. Thus, we ask that you express your  opposition with a respectful email to the parties below:

By email:

cynthia_dohner@fws.gov (Regional Director, Southeast Region)

leopoldo_miranda@fws.gov (Assistant Regional Director, Southeast Region)

d_m_ashe@fws.gov (Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Animal Welfare Institute plans lawsuit over red wolf deaths

By Hayley Benton on 02/08/2014

From Tara C. Zuardo
Wildlife Attorney at the Animal Welfare Institute

To Whom It May Concern:

On October 29 2012 and you did stories on the red wolves being found shot dead in North Carolina (by Jake Frankel). There is a hearing on the next step of this campaign on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 in case you are interested for Mountain Express: We are suing the North Carolina state wildlife agency for authorizing day and night hunting in the red wolf’s recovery area of an identical looking animal – coyotes – and hence violating the Endangered Species Act, which the red wolf is listed under. Again, the hearing on our injunction is this coming Tuesday, February 11, 2014. I have included below a list of facts about this red wolf population, and I am happy to send you anything else you need – a press release, mortality statistics, court documents, etc.:

-The red wolf (Canis rufus) once ranged throughout the eastern and southcentral UnitedRed-wolf-and-pups-240x300 States. Intensive predator control programs and the degradation and alteration of the species’ habitat had greatly reduced its numbers by the early 20th Century, however. Designated as an endangered species in 1967, the red wolf was declared extinct in the wild in 1980. In 1987, an experimental population of red wolves was reintroduced into eastern North Carolina. Four pairs were released into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The red wolf recovery area is approximately 1.7 million acres along North Carolina’s Albemarle Peninsula. This is the home to the only population in the wild.
-Between June 2013, when the Red Wolf Education Center opened, to December 2013, there were approximately 2,000 visitors from around the world who came to learn about red wolves. The Red Wolf Coalition gave 40 scheduled programs and about 12 special programs for various organizations. There is much local support of and interest in the wolf population.
-Total current estimated population is only 90-110 wolves, making the red wolf one of the most endangered species in the world. –
-USFWS has determined that gunshot mortality is the single biggest threat to the recovery of the wild red wolf population. Since 2008, up to ten percent of the wild population has been shot each year (confirmed death for 20 wolves, suspected cause of death for additional 18 wolves). The number of wolves killed by gunshot increased between 2012 and 2013.
-Because of the similarity of appearance between red wolves and coyotes, it is nearly impossible for individual hunters to avoid shooting red wolves, during the day or night. Larger coyotes can weigh 35 to 40 pounds, and while red wolves are typically in the 60-pound range, smaller females can weigh 45 to 50 pounds, infringing on the typical size of a large coyote. Judging 60 pounds versus 40 pounds at a distance might be incredibly difficult. U.S. Fish and -Wildlife Service (USFWS) red wolf recovery team members believe the wolves tend to be killed because they are considered to be large coyotes and thus make for larger hunting trophies.
-To combat interbreeding and lower coyote populations in the area, the USFWS captures and sterilizes coyotes. Sterilized coyotes are then outfitted with radio collars, released back into the wild and utilized by the USFWS to expand the range of red wolves. Hunting coyotes in the red wolf recovery area – and thus the shooting of sterilized “placeholder” coyotes — allows unsterilized coyotes to move into red wolf territory, increasing opportunities for inbreeding between red wolves and coyotes, decreasing the genetic integrity of the wild population, and injuring red wolves by disrupting population dynamics.
-Daytime coyote hunting has been authorized in the recovery area by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) since 1993, and they proposed adding night time hunting with spotlights in February of 2012. A coalition of conservation organizations (Animal Welfare Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, Red Wolf Coalition and Southern Environmental Law Center) sued and obtained a temporary injunction to block the temporary rulemaking (authorizing night time hunting with spotlights in the recovery area) in November 2012. However, the North Carolina General Assembly then allowed the permanent rulemaking (again, authorizing night time hunting with spotlights) to go into effect in July 2013. There is no language in the state regulations indicating the red wolves should be avoided when killing coyotes, and no information distributed to hunters to let them know that red wolves live in the recovery area and should be avoided when hunting or simply shooting coyotes.
-Just between Oct 28 and Nov 19, 2013, USFWS recovered the bodies of five red wolves with gunshot wounds, and a collar for a sixth. A month later, they found a bullet-ridden body of a seventh red wolf. Nearly 10 percent of the population died during this time span.
-Anyone found responsible for illegally “taking” or killing red wolves is subject to up to a year in prison and $100,000 fine, but the threat of this punishment and the $25,000+ reward offer still has not led to any leads for fall 2013 deaths.
-According to USFWS, red wolves rely heavily on the set social structure of a pack, comprised of five to eight wolves, to grow and maintain the population. One component of that pack involves breeding pairs, or “breeders” — two wolves that bond for life and mate once a year in February. All seven wolves killed during the fall 2013 span were adults, and by extension, potential breeders. These breeder deaths can damn populations in the future because they are what actually contribute to the growth of the population. In addition, the total number of red wolf pups born during whelping season has decreased each of the last three years, from 43 pups in 2010, to 34 pups in 2013.
-The 60 day notice of intent to sue for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission for violations of the Endangered Species Act; causing the illegal take of endangered red wolves by authorizing day and night hunting was filed on July 30, 2013. The federal complaint was filed on October 17, 2013. The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed on December 16, 2013. The hearing on the injunction is February 11, 2014.

 

Lawsuit: Ban coyote hunting to stop red wolf shootings

[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…]

 

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/12/16/4549879/lawsuit-ban-coyote-hunting-to.html#.UrCQSbCA1y0

Story by Bruce Henderson
bhenderson@charlotteobserver.comRed-wolf-and-pups-240x300

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.”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/12/16/4549879/lawsuit-ban-coyote-hunting-to.html#storylink=cpy