Washington, DC

Over the weekend, 33 U.S. representatives sent a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) leaders urging the agency to immediately implement a comprehensive plan to prevent the extinction of the critically endangered red wolf. The effort was led by Congressmen A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-4), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-3), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA-8) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC-1). Following a January 21, 2021 federal court ruling, the FWS has until March 1 to develop a plan to restart the release of captive red wolves into the Red Wolf Recovery Area in North Carolina. The red wolf is the world’s most endangered wolf species, with only 10 known wolves in the wild today.  

“The American red wolf is in peril, and the continued decline of this critically endangered species must be addressed with the urgency this extinction crisis demands,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “For six years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to release any captive red wolves into the wild population, and no wild pairs of red wolves have reproduced during the past two breeding seasons. The continued failure of the agency to resume its previously proven successful conservation measures has violated not only public trust, but also the Endangered Species Act. With only ten known red wolves left in the wild population, I urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately resume the release of captive red wolves into the wild. The American red wolf is a critically important species, and we must ensure its preservation and conservation.” 

In addition to releasing captive wolves into the wild, the letter asks the FWS to consider several other strategies to restore the red wolf, including introducing breeding pairs, restarting the coyote sterilization program, and protecting wild wolves from poaching.

“We’re grateful to the many members of Congress all across the country who are urging action on behalf of the red wolf,” said Heather Clarkson, Southeast outreach representative at Defenders of Wildlife. “With so few wild red wolves that you can count them on your hands, it’s mind-boggling that the Fish and Wildlife Service has taken this long to act. We hope that congressional support will change that.”

This congressional letter comes mere days after officials at the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources sent a letter to acting Secretary of the Interior Scott de la Vega asking the FWS to step up its restoration of red wolves. 

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 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 defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

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Jake Bleich
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