Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) released its “Proposed Replacement of the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of Red Wolves in Northeastern North Carolina, a scientifically unsound plan that will no doubt result in the extinction of red wolves in the wild.
Beyond reducing the red wolf recovery area by nearly 90%, USFWS, the very agency charged by federal law with protecting endangered species, will allow people to kill red wolves who stray beyond the newly-designated recovery area – and without any repercussions.
While the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) has been a vocal and visible advocate in trying to protect and preserve critically endangered red wolves, the center is also active in physically safeguarding representatives of the rare species that have been entrusted to its care.
The WCC supports the North Carolina Alligator River reintroduction project through its participation in the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan’s carefully managed captive breeding program.
If enacted, USFWS’s proposed rule will create an unnaturally unsafe environment for captive wolves chosen for release.
“It is natural for wolves to wander; wolves are wide-ranging animals,” said Maggie Howell, Executive Director of the WCC. “Leaving one’s family unit or “pack” to find a mate and establish new territory is a way of life for wolves. Dispersing helps maintain genetic diversity within wolf populations. To create an environment where it is ‘explicitly permissible’ for local landowners to kill an endangered wolf for leaving its newly-assigned area is unethical and will no doubt result in the extinction of red wolves in the wild.”
There is a perceived notion that red wolves are a local or regional issue and that only the residents of North Carolina are impacted by the results of this recovery effort. Endangered species recovery, however, is a matter of pride and concern for all U.S. citizens. This is not an isolated issue for North Carolina. By succumbing to political pressure, the USFWS is allowing a small group of vocal landowners to dictate endangered species policy instead of adhering to proven scientific principles and practices.
The agency’s proposed rule significantly changes the size, scope, and management of the current red wolf recovery program in North Carolina.
- The proposal seeks to: reduce the area wolves can roam from five counties to less than one by limiting red wolves to northeastern North Carolina’s Dare County Bombing Range and the nearby Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Although wolves that stray beyond those boundaries would be considered part of the NC NEP, under the new rule, the USFWS won’t enforce measures to prevent the killing of any red wolves on private lands and non-Federal public lands. “The proposed rule would require only that the Service be notified within 24 hours regarding the take of any collared animals and that the collars be returned to the Service.”
- A small group (i.e., one or two packs likely consisting of fewer than 15 animals) of red wolves would be maintained in the NC NEP management area. The wolves in this NC NEP management area would be actively managed under the RWAMWP.
- In an effort to counter the increased mortality rate outside the smaller NC NEP management area, USFWS proposes to funnel up to 5 red wolves annually from the captive population.
The public comment period opens June 28, 2018, and will continue through July 30, 2018. Information on how to comment can be found at regulations.gov under docket number FWS-R4-ES-2018-0035.