U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Failed to Offer Any Reward for Information on
Seven Other Red Wolves Killed in 2015
RALEIGH, N.C.— In a long-delayed attempt to prosecute the illegal killing of an endangered red wolf six months ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it is offering a $2,500 reward toward for information leading to an arrest. A red wolf was illegally killed on Oct. 31, 2015 near Fairfield in Hyde County, N.C., by suspected gunshot. Today’s reward was the first offered by the Service in more than 18 months relating to an illegally killed red wolf, despite the fact that at least seven other red wolves were either confirmed or suspected to have been illegally shot in 2015. Since 2014 the Service has slowly dismantled the red wolf recovery program, including law-enforcement efforts to protect the species, resulting in this delay between the crime and the reward being announced.
“Offering a reward six months after the crime occurred confirms that the federal government has turned its back on these critically endangered animals,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “By waiting until the trail has gone cold to take action, the Service is pandering to special interests opposed to wolves instead of doing its job to protect one the nation’s most-imperiled species.”
With as few as 45 wolves remaining in the wild, the red wolf is now one of the world’s most endangered carnivores. 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 the mid 1980s, and the population slowly grew to more than 130 wolves by 2012. But in 2014 the Service decided to curtail all aspects of the recovery program, in violation of the Endangered Species Act, including removing law-enforcement efforts to protect the species. Earlier this month the Center filed a lawsuit demanding that the Service release documents on its decision to abandon wolf recovery.
“The Service needs to get biologists back on the ground doing recovery work, it needs to restart reintroductions of wolves from captivity back into the wild, and it needs to get law-enforcement officers out there to protect the remaining wolves,” said Hartl.
The red wolf reintroduction program was once considered one of the world’s most innovative programs to restore a critically endangered carnivore. A 2014 report from the independent Wildlife Management Institute concluded that if the red wolf was going to recover, two additional populations would need to be established, with additional resources needed to build local stakeholder support for the red wolf recovery program.