December 21, 2021 | By:

HNW Campaign Update: FWS Has Agreed to Release Captive Bred Red Wolves  

In 2020, The Rewilding Institute launched a campaign to Heal Nature’s Wounds as inflicted by the previous years of hostile management of land and wildlife across the country. We identify 25 specific actions that the current administration can take to help restore our natural heritage. In April 2021 we shared this update on each of those actions.

Here we are happy to share an update on the red wolf action item.

Red Wolf

Red Wolf (Source: USFWS National Digital Library)

Action #4:  Implement a science-based recovery plan for critically endangered Red Wolves.  Red wolves, native to the southeastern United States, were nearly exterminated from the wild in the mid 1900s and saved from extinction by captive breeding of 14 wild-captured wolves.  After being listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began a reintroduction project in 1987.  For its first 25 years red wolf reintroduction was generally successful, peaking in 2006 with 130 wolves in 20 packs throughout the recovery area. It is believed that some of these wolves are the result of cross breeding with coyotes.

In the last decade, however, responding to intense political pressures, the USFWS began to abandon recovery efforts, allowing the wild population of red wolves to dwindle to just 9 individuals today.  A successful lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity in November 2019 forced USFWS to prepare an updated recovery plan, with a draft plan expected to be released next year.  To meet the ESA’s mandate for the use of the best available science and avoid political influence, we urge the new administration to assemble a recovery team comprised of credentialed independent scientists to develop the necessary criteria for full recovery of red wolves in the U.S. Southeast.  Essential to successful recovery is an expanded recovery area, well beyond the Albemarle Peninsula in eastern North Carolina, to which red wolves have been constrained so far.

As of November 10, 2021, it seems the FWS has withdrawn its controversial plan management plan for the red wolf.  The FWS has agreed to release the captive-bred wolf population into the wild in eastern North Carolina.  To date, there are 241 captive-bred red wolves, but the number to be released is not yet known.  On November 20, a male red wolf named Ben was flown to NC to meet his partner, Karma, where they are hoped to mate before being released in the spring of 2022.

Although the original 1.7-million-acre release area has not been expanded, efforts are underway to be sure the area is not reduced in size.

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