BY BRUCE HENDERSON
A federal wildlife agency is offering a $2,500 reward for information on the poisoning death of an endangered red wolf in coastal North Carolina.
The animal was found dead Jan. 27 in Tyrrell County. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a reward for information that leads to a successful prosecution in the case.
Once extinct in the wild, wolves were restored in the 1980s to North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. They now roam five coastal counties, much of it private land, but their numbers are falling fast as landowners complain about the animals.
A federal judge found last September that the North Carolina population had dropped from about 130 wolves in 2006 to as few as 45 by early 2016. Of the 47 wolves found dead between 2013 and 2015, 17 died of confirmed or suspected gunshot wounds and one was poisoned.
Federal law protects red wolves in North Carolina as an “experimental, non-essential” population that lets landowners kill wolves that attack livestock or pets. They can also be killed legally if the deaths occur as part of legal activities such as trapping coyotes and are reported.
The Fish and Wildlife Service last year proposed severely limiting the wolves’ range to federal land in Dare County. Wolves on private property would be removed and made part of a captive wolf population.
U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle temporarily blocked that plan in September. Boyle sided with conservationists by saying wildlife officials couldn’t remove wolves from private land unless the animals threaten humans, pets or livestock.
Anyone with information on the death of the Tyrell County wolf is asked to contact Resident Agent in Charge John Elofson at 404-763-7959 x222; Special Agent Jason Keith at 919-856-4520 x34; North Carolina Zone Wildlife Officer Frank Simms at 252-796-3004 x223; or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Robert Wayne at 252-269-6734.