June 26, 2024 | By:

Save Red Wolves: Help Build Wildlife Crossings

Red Wolf © Eric Trefney

Red Wolf © Eric Trefney

In North Carolina, on the historic Albemarle Peninsula, the only endemic wolf found in the United States, the red wolf, fights to survive. U.S. Highways 64 and 264 cut directly through a large territory of the red wolf’s recovery area in and around Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Vehicle usage is extremely heavy on these two-lane highways, from local commuters to millions of out-of-towners heading to vacation in and around the Outer Banks. Even though these roads’ speed limits are listed as 55 mph, it’s not uncommon to see people driving at speeds up to 80 mph. Nearly 5 million people a year visit the Outer Banks with U.S. 64/264 as some of the only roads to travel to the historic barrier islands, and visitor numbers are growing. With only an estimated wild population of 20-25 red wolves, every death is a major blow to the species delicate recovery.

Red wolves often scavenge roadkill on U.S. 64/264 and in turn, become victims themselves to high-speed traffic while pulling carcasses from these dangerous roadways. The non-profit Wildlands Network has secured a generous pledge from a trusted donor who prefers to remain anonymous of $2 million to help build wildlife crossings on U.S. 64/264. The private conservationist has stated that they will donate $2 million if red wolf advocates can raise an additional matching $2 million. With the combined $4 million, North Carolina DOT will have enough funding to apply for a $20 million federal highway grant to build wildlife crossings and fencing to funnel animals toward the safe crossings/underpasses. The crossings will also protect black bears, snakes, birds, alligators, otters, bobcats, and of course people from being struck by vehicles.

According to the Wildlands Network, North Carolina DOT has wanted to pursue this project for a long time but hasn’t had the backing like it currently does from a large body of conservationists, biologists, and the public to help build these wildlife crossings.

The current deadline to match the donor’s $2 million pledge is August 31, 2024. It is imperative we match this generous offer and with your help, we can save wild red wolves from meeting extinction. You can donate directly here.

As seen with the wildlife crossings in Southern California, which raised millions of dollars from smaller donors, at first, to help isolated mountain lions connect with larger territories and mates, every penny counts and every conversation counts.

Wildlands Network plans to apply for a smaller federal highway grant to ensure donor money is used appropriately for the match if $2 million is not raised by August 31, 2024.

The donation page is supported by the Center for Biological Diversity, you can find additional details here.

Information about the Wildlands Network’s red wolf fieldwork can be found here.

Red Wolf © Eric Trefney

Red Wolf © Eric Trefney

Some red wolf facts:

  • Currently, there are only between 20-25 wild adult red wolves known to be on the landscape. All wild red wolves are located on the Albemarle Peninsula just outside of the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
  • Over the last 10 months, 20% of the population has been killed by car strikes.
  • You can find the USFWS recovery plan here which is a great resource to learn about the red wolf and USFWS approach to protecting them.
  • Red wolves were functionally extinct in the wild in the early 1980s, but several were found in the swamps of Texas/Louisiana, captured, and the USFWS began the SAFE program. This program allows for (but not limited to) captive breeding in participating U.S. zoos. Some of the SAFE red wolves are released into the recovery area in North Carolina. You can read about the SAFE program here.
  • All the red wolves in existence today are descendants from those last remaining wolves captured in the early 1980s.
  • Historically the red wolves range has been most of the southeastern U.S., eastern Texas up into Ohio over to New York and down the east coast into Florida.
  • The red wolf was one of the first animals to be added to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It is the only endemic wolf to the United States, truly America’s wolf.
  • Vehicle mortality along with gunshots and sometimes poisoning are the leading causes of death for red wolves.

Many dedicated people are trying to help bring the red wolf back from the brink, but without wildlife crossings, red wolves and conservationists alike face a major uphill battle. Please help save red wolves from unnecessary deaths by donating to the wildlife crossings fund. If you can’t donate, please share this information throughout your networks and help preserve the red wolf. As someone wiser once told me, as conservationists, it is our responsibility to provide a voice for the voiceless animals of the world.

This is your chance, you can be that voice!

Red Wolf Pup © Eric Trefney

Red Wolf Pup © Eric Trefney

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