As Few as 45 Survive in North Carolina
RALEIGH, N.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today under the Freedom of Information Act requesting that the agency hand over public records that explain why it pulled the plug on the red wolf recovery program. Early last fall the Center requested public records related to the Service’s decision. In the seven months that followed, the Service has sent a total of only eight documents to the Center, and continues to ignore the Freedom of Information Act’s mandated deadlines.
“The Service’s bunker mentality has put the last few red wolves in the wild on the chopping block, and has made a mockery of every citizen’s right to know how our government makes decisions,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center. “The Service’s obstinate behavior is a telling indicator of just how political its actions have been in this disgraceful attempt to kill off a historic recovery program and condemn red wolves to captivity.”
The red wolf is now one of the world’s most endangered carnivores, with as few as 45 wolves remaining in the wild. The species was declared endangered in 1973 and, in a final attempt to save it, 17 wild red wolves were captured for captive breeding. Wolf releases began in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. The population grew to more than 130 wolves in the wild as recently as 2012, but has now declined by 50 percent following the Service’s recent actions to curtail the program.
“We don’t know why the Service eliminated the recovery program coordinator position, or why it stopped offering rewards for information on poaching cases, or why it ended its highly successful pup-fostering program,” said Hartl. “The Service is using every stalling tactic in the book to let the red wolf program wither and die, and its refusal to turn over any documents keeps all of us in the dark about what’s going on.”
In the wake of political pressure from North Carolina and anti-wildlife individuals, the Fish and Wildlife Service has stopped virtually all aspects of the recovery program for red wolves and is conducting a “feasibility review” as a pretext to further dismantle the program. The Service eliminated the program’s recovery coordinator in 2014 and stopped the introduction of new red wolves into the wild in July 2015. The agency ended its coyote-sterilization program to prevent hybrid animals from harming the red wolf’s gene pool, curtailed law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths, and stopped offering rewards to the public to help bring poachers to justice.