This is what an American Icon looks like.
The red wolf is one of the few large carnivore species endemic to the United States – this keystone predator has never been found anywhere else in the world. Their importance to a balanced and resilient ecosystem is undeniable. And their recovery should be a matter of pride and priority for our nation. Hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the initial extinction of red wolves in the wild. Today the world’s most endangered wolf is facing extinction for a second time, but at the hands of our government.
In an op-ed published yesterday, Cynthia Dohner, USFWS Southeast Regional Director, attempts to defend the Service’s controversial plans for the red wolf and stating that USFWS’s goal is to save the red wolf and ensure its recovery. Her position seems to be that the red wolf recovery program up until now has been a failure.
The fact is that red wolf recovery program is regarded as a significant milestone not only for the rare species but for endangered wildlife conservation. The red wolf reintroduction was among the first instances of a species, considered extinct in the wild, being re-established from a captive population. In many ways the red wolf program was the pilot program, serving as a model for subsequent canid reintroductions, particularly those of the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) to the American Southwest and the gray wolf (Canis lupus) to the Yellowstone region.
For a while, thanks to sustained federal leadership, the red wolf recovery effort was making steady progress. The wild population peaked at an estimated 130 wolves in 2006 and remained above 100 for several years.
Unfortunately, in 2014 when USFWS halted all key management activity, the wild red wolf population plummeted to its lowest level in decades. Current estimates put the wild population at just 45.
So we ask Cindy Dohner, who rejects claims that the Service has turned its back on recovering the rare and at-risk species, to explain how its following actions represent the agency’s commitment to the world’s most endangered wolf.
- Eliminated its full time red wolf recovery coordinator position and to re-direct red wolf staff to other programs.
- Reduced or perhaps eliminated efforts to collar and track wild red wolves.
- Abandoned its scientifically-proven coyote placeholder program, through which coyotes are captured, sterilized and returned to the wild, to avoid hybridization.
- Halted all captive-to-wild release events and pup fostering
- Issued permits to private landowners to take and kill wolves.
- Refused to control coyote hunting in the recovery area despite the loss of red wolves killed by mistaken identity.
- Halted all red wolf education and outreach efforts.
- On September 12th announced its plan to remove almost all of the remaining red wolves from the wild landscape and place them in captivity.
Does this look like commitment to you?
USFWS, the very agency charged by federal law with protecting endangered species, is making red wolves pay the ultimate price for the its negligence and inaction.