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Scientists Dispute Agency Plan to Pull Red Wolves from the Wild



Contact: Haley McKey, 202-772-0247

WASHINGTON (October 18, 2016) - The scientific experts who drafted the Population Viability Analysis (PVA) for the red wolf, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) cited as the rationale behind its recent proposal to take red wolves from the wild and place them in captivity, have sent a rebuttal to the agency saying “the September 12th decision on the future of the Red Wolf Recovery Program included many alarming misinterpretations of the PVA as justification for the final decision.”

FWS proposed to reduce the range of red wolves in the wild from five counties in North Carolina to just one wildlife refuge and a bombing range in Dare County. The process of capturing red wolves could cause stress, harm or even death of the fewer than 45 individuals remaining in the wild.  The agency has said its proposal is needed to help bolster the captive population, but this claim is challenged by the PVA authors.

Their letter cautions that the proposal focuses too heavily on the captive breeding program for red wolves called the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP), stating that “a singular focus on the SSP will no doubt result in the extinction of red wolves in the wild.” The letter also states that “the SSP does not ‘need’ wild red wolves from North Carolina for its security.”

In light of the scientists’ letter, Defenders of Wildlife is calling on the FWS to rethink its proposed plan to dramatically reduce the number of red wolves remaining in North Carolina.  Defenders urges the FWS to meet with the PVA team to gain a better understanding of the scientific issues related to the red wolf recovery effort, and to reconsider its approach to conserving red wolves both in captivity and in the wild.

Statement from Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark:

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s misguided proposal to remove from private and public lands most of the world's only remaining population of wild red wolves is clearly not supported by scientific experts. The agency’s plan is like driving the wrong way for fifty miles because you misheard the directions.

“The scientists’ letter makes clear that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to withdraw red wolves from most of their range in North Carolina has no scientific basis and confirms that the agency’s conclusion that the captive population is at risk is wrong. 

“The FWS’s misunderstanding of the relevant science is deeply troubling when they are the sole federal agency tasked with the wolf’s protection. The agency needs to recommit to recovering wild red wolves, and that means resuming the release of captive red wolves, evaluating new release sites in other parts of the region, enforcing the laws that protect red wolves from being shot and standing up to anti-wolf landowners trying to undermine the wolf’s very survival.

“This letter confirms what red wolf advocates have been saying all along: capturing wild red wolves and placing them into captivity isn’t the answer. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to recommit to red wolf recovery in the wild.”


Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 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 For the latest news from Defenders, follow us at@DefendersNews

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