Americans Want to Preserve North Carolina’s Endangered Species
WASHINGTON— Nearly all public comments submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about red wolves support recovering the wild population in the southeastern United States, according to an analysis announced today by a coalition of conservation groups.
“This tremendous public support should prompt the feds to finally commit to working toward red wolf recovery,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science shows that red wolves can be saved, but with fewer than 50 left in the wild, now is the time to act.”
Of all public comments about red wolves, 54,992 of those – 99.8 percent – supported recovering the red wolf in the wild in North Carolina. Just 25 of the comments the Fish and Wildlife Service has received opposed wild red wolf recovery, with just 10 comments supporting the agency’s proposed plan to remove most red wolves from the wild and place them in captivity.
Statements from North Carolina residents similarly support recovering the red wolf. Fully 98.6 percent of comments from North Carolinians encouraged the Service to do more to save the critically imperiled species, one of the most endangered carnivores in the world. At the local level, more than two-thirds, or 68.4 percent, of the comments from the current five-county red wolf recovery area in North Carolina supported the red wolf program, debunking the myth that red wolves lack local support.
“This overwhelmingly positive response sends a crystal clear message: Americans support red wolf conservation and want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do the right thing and restore this species throughout its native range in the southeastern United States,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “The Service needs to roll up its sleeves and put in the time and effort needed to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.”
“Many of the comments showed a profound appreciation for the ecological importance of returning the red wolf to southeastern landscapes,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, conservation scientist for the Wildlands Network. “People drew frequent comparisons to the better-known situation at Yellowstone National Park, where the reintroduced gray wolves have been shown to be essential to the health of the park’s ecosystems.”
Conservation groups and a team of scientists also submitted detailed comments. These letters cite evidence that the agency’s plan to pull back on red wolf conservation actions would drive the species extinct in the wild a second time and offer proactive suggestions for recovering the species across the southeastern United States.
“The statements posted during the required public comment period demonstrate the overwhelming support for red wolf conservation,” said Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition, Inc. “The Red Wolf Coalition encourages the USFWS to use the comments provided by the American public in developing the new rules that will govern the management of the critically endangered red wolf.”
“Every voice raised in support of wildlife can make a difference and Americans overwhelmingly support red wolf recovery,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center. “We’re counting on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take notice and follow the best available science to ensure that the world’s most endangered wolves remain a living, breathing part of the southeastern landscape.”
The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered species and can only be found in the wild in North Carolina. From an initial reintroduced population of 14 wolves in 1987, the population grew to 130 individuals by 2006. But now, only a reported 45 red wolves are left in the wild. Shootings and nonlethal removals threaten the wolves by disturbing pack dynamics and promoting hybridization with coyotes.
The best available science demonstrates that red wolves are still recoverable. A 2014 report written by the Wildlife Management Institute concluded that recovery would require reintroduction of two additional wild populations and an investment of additional resources to build local support for red wolf recovery. Yet the Service has proposed confining red wolf recovery to federal public lands, shrinking the animals’ recovery area from five counties in North Carolina to just one bombing range and one wildlife refuge in a single county.