Conservation Groups Announce Intent to Sue Federal Government Over Red Wolf Mismanagement
On Monday, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) of its intent to file suit for violations of the Endangered Species Act in connection with USFWS’ policies and management of the endangered red wolf in eastern North Carolina, the world’s only population of wild red wolves. SELC is representing the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute.
The wild red wolf population currently stands at only nine known (collared) individuals, a dramatic drop from the almost 150 that were counted in the late 2000s.
A Timeline of Mismanagement
In 2014 USFWS announced it would be conducting a review of the red wolf recovery program in eastern North Carolina and halted valuable and effective management efforts; they ceased captive-to-wild red wolf releases and terminated their adaptive management of coyotes in the region. As a result of this inaction and mismanagement on the part of the USFWS, coupled with illegal killings, the world’s only wild red wolf population plummeted. No wild litters were born in 2019 or 2020.
In June 2018, the USFWS released its proposal for managing the last wild red wolves – a single population in eastern North Carolina consisting of fewer than 30 individuals. The Service proposed to reduce the red wolf recovery area by nearly 90 percent and limit the wild population to just 10 – 15 wolves. The proposal would also eliminate protections for any red wolves that wander off the newly-designated recovery area, effectively allowing anyone to kill red wolves on private lands, for any reason.
Later that year, a federal judge ruled that USFWS has a duty under the ESA to protect and conserve red wolves and that their decisions to halt wild releases and allow landowners to kill red wolves violated their legal requirements under the ESA. Read more.
Challenges to Recovery Remain
Despite having been found in violation of the ESA in 2018, USFWS continues to violate the ESA by failing to further red wolf recovery and jeopardizing the continued existence of wild red wolves.