Red Wolf
© Corbis

Red Wolf

What Defenders is Doing

Defenders has been working on red wolf recovery since the mid-1980s through a combination of advocacy and public education. In 2016, Defenders brought on two full-time field conservation staff to lead a grassroots outreach effort in North Carolina to increase awareness of the critical situation for wild red wolves in Eastern North Carolina. 

Banning Night Hunting of Coyotes

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) proposed a rule that would allow 24-hour coyote hunting in the red wolf recovery area. Night hunting of coyotes led to misidentification and killing of wolves. Defenders, along with other conservation organizations, responded by filing an injunction against the NCWRC which the courts granted, banning night hunting in the five-county recovery area.

Litigating Against Endangered Species Act Violations

In response to the ban on night hunting of coyotes, local landowners led a targeted campaign against the red wolf recovery program. Landowners banded together to press the FWS to capture and remove wolves from their land. These “non-lethal” removals had dire consequences for the red wolves and many were unable to survive in holding pens or on the unfamiliar lands they were re-released on.  

In order to halt the rapid decline of red wolves as a result of these non-lethal takes, Defenders joined with fellow conservation organizations again to file suit against the FWS for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specifically, for reinterpreting its regulations in a manner inconsistent with the recovery of the species by utilizing illegal take and failing to complete the required studies under the ESA. We also petitioned for and were granted, an injunction on non-lethal takes of the wild red wolves. This litigation is currently ongoing. 

Advocating for a Better Management Plan

In the spring of 2017, the FWS announced plans to review and update the 10(j) rule that regulates management of the wild “nonessential experimental population” of red wolves in North Carolina. Defenders helped mobilize nearly 55,000 of our members and the public to speak up in support of the red wolf recovery program. A final rule is expected in early 2018, and Defenders will continue to advocate for wild red wolves throughout the regulatory process.

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The red wolf (currently recognized as a different species than the gray wolf) once ranged as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as central Texas. Because of its wide distribution, the red wolf played an important role in a variety of ecosystems, from pocosin lowlands to forested mountains.
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