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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agrees to Resume Reintroduction of Red Wolves

— August 11, 2023

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had earlier suspended its wild red wolf reintroduction program, possibly due to heightened political pressure.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to continue releasing red wolves into the wild to fulfill the terms of a legal settlement.

According to National Public Radio, the agency agreed on Wednesday to participate in an eight-year plan to supplement wild red wolf populations by releasing captive-born animals in North Carolina.

N.P.R. notes that scarcely 30 red wolves are believed to remain in the wild.

The lawsuit, adds N.P.R., was filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Welfare Institute. In their complaint, the organizations claimed that the United State Fish and Wildlife Service had violated the federal Endangered Species Act by making critical concessions to politicians and agriculture lobbyists.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

Ramona McGee, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s wildlife program, said that the agreement puts the United States on a “path to restoring the red wolf to its rightful place as a celebrated success story.”

“We hope to see America’s wild red wolves rebound again, with generations born wild and free, as a result of this agreement,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Fish and Wildlife Service said that the agency has spent decades working to rebuild wild red wolf populations, while emphasizing that its initiatives require the public’s support and cooperation.

“We are committed to increasing transparency and communication for red wolf releases and adaptive management actions,” the agency said in a statement. “The success of the Eastern North Carolina Red Wolf Population sets the stage for the Service’s ability to fulfill our responsibility to recover the species – which we cannot do without the local community and our conservation partners.”

Red wolves, writes National Public Radio, were once found across much of the Eastern United States. However, over-hunting and habitat destruction has significantly reduced the wolves’ numbers.

Today, extant wild red wolves occupy only five counties in North Carolina, with a total population of scarcely 30.

While the United States Fish and Wildlife Service launched a largely successful program to re-introduce red wolves in 1987, it suspended operations in 2015, saying that it needed more input from scientists.

The Associated Press said, at the time, that it appeared the suspension coincided with “pressure from conservative politicians and landowners who deemed wolves a nuisance.”

The terms of this latest settlement will oblige the Fish and Wildlife Service to continue working with scientists and other experts to measure the performance of its red wolf recovery plans.


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