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Red wolves endangered by rule designed to protect them - 7th wolf killed

11/12/2012 17:48:29

Seven Red wolves have been confirmed as shot in 2012, and 2 died 'during capture'.

Endangered by coyote hunt 

There are around 110 Red wolves alive in the wild today. At least seven have been shot dead this year, and wildlife authorities blame a change of rules that allows shooting coyotes at night. And why are they hunting Coyotes? Apart from the usual shoot anything mentality, coyotes have been identified as a threat to Red wolves through interbreeding. However it seems unlikely that a suitable answer to this problem is to shoot the animals that they are meant to be protecting.

Seventh Red wolf shot dead - Rule change threatens Red wolves with extinction

December 2012. Yet another Red wold has been shot in North Carolina; at least 7 have been killed since a rule change in the law to allow hunting of coyotes at night. This radio-collared red wolf was found dead with a suspected gunshot wound on November 29, 2012, south of Columbia, in Tyrrell County, N.C.

16 Red wolves have died in 2012
A total of 16 red wolves have died since January 1, 2012. Of those 16, two were struck and killed by vehicles, two died during capture (Two small pups were killed by a parent after the pups had a microchip fitted under their skin), five died of unknown causes, and seven were suspected gunshot deaths.

World's most endangered canid?
The red wolf is one of the world's most endangered wild canids. Once common throughout the south-eastern United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the 1960's due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat. A remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. After being declared an endangered species in 1967, efforts were initiated to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful captive breeding program.

Extinct in the wild in 1970s
Consequently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.

The first litter of red wolves born in captivity occurred in 1977. By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in north eastern North Carolina.

Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres.

Statement from Red Wolf Recovery Program

Unfortunately, we experience an increased rate of mortality during the fall hunting seasons. The 4 wolves that have been killed as a result of suspected illegal means is not uncommon, at least in the numbers we have seen over the last 7 years. However, it is much higher than what we experienced during the first 17 years of our reintroduction program. 

I think a certain amount of persecution is occurring. However, it is difficult to quantify. People still carry their beliefs that top-level predators are dangerous and must be eliminated. Also, we have a situation where two closely related species (the red wolf and the coyote) occur in the same area. One is a critically endangered species (the red wolf), whereas the other is considered an pest species (the coyote).

This certainly leads to confusion when the current method for "controlling" the pest species is indiscriminate killing.We estimate the wild red wolf population at between 100 and 120 animals. About 70 of the wolves wear radio-telemetry collars. We also have about 40 coyotes that wear radio-telemetry collars and are managed by the Red Wolf Recovery Program. 

Regarding the possibility of someone tracking the wolves from the signal on their collars, it is highly unlikely that this is occurring. It is more likely that there are more people in the woods during the fall hunting seasons and therefore more people encountering the wolves.

100 in the wild
About 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in five north eastern North Carolina counties. Additionally, nearly 200 red wolves comprise the Species Survival Plan captive breeding program in sites across the United States, still an essential element of red wolf recovery. Interbreeding with the coyote, a species not native to North Carolina, has been recognized as a significant and detrimental threat affecting restoration of red wolves in this section of their historical home range.

Currently, red wolf population managers are using adaptive management strategies to reduce the threat of coyotes while building the wild red wolf population in north eastern North Carolina.

Red wolves
The red wolf is one of two species of wolves in North America, the other being the gray wolf, as their name suggests, red wolves are known for the characteristic reddish colour of their fur most apparent behind the ears and along the neck and legs, but are mostly brown and buff coloured with some black along their backs. Intermediate in size to gray wolves and coyotes, the average adult red wolf weighs 45-80 pounds, stands about 26 inches at the shoulder and is about 4 feet long from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.

Red wolves are social animals that live in packs consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring of different years, typically five to eight animals. Red wolves prey on a variety of wild mammals such as raccoon, rabbit, white-tailed deer, nutria, and other rodents. Most active at dusk and dawn, red wolves are elusive and generally avoid humans and human activity.

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