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Legal Victory Secures New Recovery Plan for Endangered Red Wolves

With Nine Collared Wolves Left in Wild, Species Remains on Brink of Extinction

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must update its plan for saving critically endangered red wolves in the next two and a half years, according to a legal agreement reached as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. Red wolves, which are native to the southeastern United States, have dwindled to just nine known individuals in the wild, living in the eastern part of North Carolina.

“With only nine wolves known to remain in the wild, the red wolf desperately needed this good news,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center. “The science shows that the red wolf can be saved, and I’m hopeful that a new recovery plan will put the species back on the road to recovery.”

The agreement, approved Oct. 2 by a North Carolina federal court, requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a final revised recovery plan for red wolves by Feb. 28, 2023.

This victory is the result of the Center’s 2019 lawsuit, which challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to revise the outdated recovery plan from 1990. The Center filed its suit after the Service failed to follow through on its commitment to update the decades-old recovery plan by the end of 2018.

The Endangered Species Act requires that the agency prepare plans that serve as roadmaps to species recovery, identifying measures needed to ensure conservation and survival, such as reintroductions.

Last year the Center released a report identifying five potential reintroduction sites that together could support nearly 500 breeding pairs of red wolves. All the sites are on public lands in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has not taken steps to reintroduce red wolves elsewhere and has stopped taking many actions — such as widespread sterilization of coyotes to prevent hybrid animals from harming the gene pool — that are necessary to conserve the remaining wild population.

“Time is running out to save red wolves and government foot-dragging has only made the problem worse,” Adkins said. “It’s frustrating that we’ve had to sue time and again to get action. Hopefully this win finally gets these vulnerable wolves the help they need.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release a draft revised red wolf recovery plan next year. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the draft plan.

Red wolf. Photo courtesy of B. Bartel, USFWS. Image is available for media use.