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Celebrating Independence Day is, and should be, a lot of fun. But please remember that those bright colors and thunderous explosions can have a real impact to wildlife.

Please be mindful. Here are some tips for watching out for wildlife!

This post originally appeared in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Open Spaces blog

Celebrating Independence Day is, and should be, a lot of fun. Barbecues, beaches, parades and fireworks can be great ways to celebrate our country’s tremendous journey since the Continental Congress made that declaration July 4, 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident… “ But please remember that those bright colors and thunderous explosions can have a real impact to wildlife. Here are a few ways you can help mitigate the harm to wildlife and their habitats while you celebrate the Fourth of July.

Be alert: The shock of fireworks can cause wildlife and pets to flee, ending up in unexpected areas or roadways, flying into buildings and other obstacles, and even abandoning nests, leaving young vulnerable to predators. If you’re out driving, please be on the lookout for animals.

Help prevent fires: The threat to wildlife doesn’t stop at startling lights and sounds, fireworks also have the potential to start wildfires, directly affecting wildlife and destroying essential habitat.

Keep it clean: Litter from firecrackers, bottle rockets and other explosives can be choking hazards for wildlife and may even be toxic if ingested.

If you’re on the beach, watch out for nesting birds: Fireworks are very disruptive to piping plovers as well as many other nesting birds so be on the lookout for signs. We can work together to protect nesting shorebirds.

Cut back on using plastic or disposable utensils: During holiday celebrations we tend to break out the plastic utensils, plates and cups. Avoiding plasticware can easily reduce the amount of waste we create and inevitably help wildlife and their habitat, especially given the growing concern of plastic waste.

Properly dispose of fishing gear: Anglers can reduce the injuries or deaths to wildlife simply by properly discarding fishing line and hooks. Retrieve broken lines, lures and hooks and deposit them in trash containers or take them with you.

Follow laws and use caution: Federal law requires professional shows to be at least three-quarters of a mile from protected habitat. As you celebrate, choose fireworks shows that keep a respectable distance from wildlife habitat. If you plan to set off your own fireworks, make sure it is legal, use caution and you pick up any resulting debris. Stay away from wildlife habitat and avoid dry areas. Keep in mind that fireworks can’t be brought onto federal lands. Violations can come with stiff penalties, including fines costing thousands of dollars to jail time. Law enforcement officers are on the lookout for possession of illegal fireworks and use of fireworks in prohibited areas.

Alternatives to Fireworks:If you are looking to celebrate without using fireworks, there are a number of alternatives. Here are a few ideas, but we’d love to hear other ideas.

  • Laser light shows
  • Gathering around a firepit
  • Participate in a parade or block party
  • Bubbles (for kids afraid of loud noises)
  • Glowsticks
  • Noisemakers and more

Stay safe this Fourth of July and thanks for keeping wildlife in mind as you celebrate!

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Every spring, red wolf field biologists in North Carolina listen for the whines and peeps of wild red wolf pups. Once dens are located, each pup is counted and blood samples are collected before the pup is carefully returned. Biologists use their findings to determine which dens will serve as the foster home for captive born red wolf pups. Although captive-to-wild pup fostering has been a successful way to allow genetically valuable captive-born red wolf pups to become integrated into the wild population since 2002, none of the Wolf Conservation Center​ pups were given this wild opportunity. Why?

Because the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission adopted resolutions calling for the end of the red wolf reintroduction project in the state and USFWS’ response is inaction.

Yesterday the Service announced that it will halt all reintroductions while the agency further reviews the recovery program. Why the big press release to tell us what we already know? Wolves have not been introduced to the NC recovery area in over a year. Also remaining on “hold” is a key management activity—the release of sterilized coyotes to prevent hybridization. So while we wait for USFWS to review the program, measures critical to the success of red wolf recovery have been put on hold.

The Southeast regional director for USFWS recently acknowledged that.“There will likely be some who will suggest we are walking away from recovery efforts for the red wolf.”

What say you?


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Fate of red wolves, endangered in the United States, remains uncertain

Originally Published in Science June 30, 2015
By Erik Stokstad

Can the red wolf survive outside of zoos? Is it really a distinct species? These are some of the questions that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) says it needs to answer before it can decide whether to continue managing the only population left in the wild. The agency announced today that it would spend the rest of the year evaluating its recovery efforts and conducting research on the controversial species, and won’t release any more animals into the wild for the time being.

Advocates are concerned that the agency is winding down its efforts to protect the wolf. “The emphasis and tone have moved far away from the conservation and recovery of an endangered species and seems to be preparing the public for its eventual extinction in the wild,” says Sierra Weaver, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Red wolves were nearly hunted to extinction in the 20th century. Biologists established a captive breeding population in zoos, some of which FWS released back into the wild starting in 1987. Between 50 and 75 red wolves (Canis rufus) remain on a peninsula in North Carolina. The main threat is hybridization with coyotes, which have encroached on wolf habitat. Until recently wolves were being shot by hunters at night, but a court banned the practice in 2013. Many landowners were upset, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) promptly demanded that FWS take a hard look at its wolf recovery program.

After a review by the nonprofit Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), completed this past November, FWS decided it needs to learn more. “The scope of our feasibility review will be broader and focus on questions and issues related to whether the overall recovery of the red wolf in the wild is truly attainable in light of the challenges identified in the Institute’s evaluation,” according to a statement. The major hurdles flagged by WMI are the need for multiple wild populations, hybridization with coyotes, the integrity of the wolf genome, and land ownership patterns in wolf habitat.

FWS is coordinating its research with NCWRC. Gordon Myers, executive director of NCWRC said in a teleconference that an important improvement would be upgrading the radio collars of red wolves that are captured on private land. This would allow researchers to identify wolves that repeatedly encroach and not release them again. FWS will convene a meeting of experts to try to come to consensus on the question of whether the red wolf is distinct species. Some scientists think it is a hybrid of red wolves and coyotes.

The agency also said today that it would not release new wolves to the peninsula while the review is underway (although it hasn’t done that in a year or so). Also remaining on hold is a key management activity—the release of sterilized coyotes to prevent hybridization—that NCWRC had prohibited. In addition, Cindy Dohner, FWS southeast regional director, said that the agency will improve communication with landowners who object to the wolves and establish a stakeholder forum to work with state, landowners, and conservation groups.

Read in Science Magazine here.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to Decide Fate of Last Wild Red Wolves TOMORROW (Tuesday) Afternoon. The wrong decision could mean extinction.

USFWS Media Release
Atlanta – On Tuesday, June 30, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Cynthia Dohner will announce decisions on the Non-Essential Population of Red Wolves in North Carolina. The announcement is being made after a comprehensive evaluation of the population and its role in the overall recovery effort for red wolves by The Wildlife Management Institute in November.

News release will be posted June 30, 2015, at 1:00 p.m. EST at:

Red wolves remain among the world’s most endangered species. With less than 100 in the wild, they are classified by as “Critically Endangered.” Only one place on the planet are wild red wolf populations viable and secure – North Carolina. But the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission has asked USFWS to terminate the red wolf recovery program there, a move which would inevitably result in the loss of the last wild population of red wolves and render the species extinct in the wild.

Tomorrow, USFWS will announce whether the agency will continue, modify, or end recovering this rare and periled species.

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