UPDATE: FWS continues red wolf recovery in NC
The U.S. Fish Wildlife Service has decided to continue their nearly 30 year conservation effort of the endangered red wolf in northeastern North Carolina. But conservation groups aren’t happy with the announcement.
After a nearly three year, peer reviewed evaluation of the Red Wolf Recovery Program and the non-essential experimental population, a revamped management plan was announced Monday afternoon. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director Cindy Dohner outlined the plan in a media conference call, which shifts the focus of their conservation efforts to the captive breeding program.
“We must essentially double it to at least 400 wolves. Currently, there are slightly more than 200 in captivity. We must nearly double the number of healthy breeding pairs to a minimum of 52.”
Currently, an estimated 45 wild red wolves remain in Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties. Under the new plan, the Service is proposing to revise the existing experiential population rule to only include the Dare County Bombing Range and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Assistant Regional Director for Ecological Services Leo Miranda.
“If we get to the final decision on completing that rule making process with one county NEP (non-essential experimental population), then the animals that are outside that one county NEP will be removed and incorporated into the captive breeding population.”
The announcement is drawing criticism from conservation groups who fear the new plan could drive the world’s only population of wild red wolves to extinction. President of Pamlico-Albemarle Conservationists Attila Nemecz.
“Having a captive breeding program continues the genetics of the red wolf, but at the same time, the spirit and law of the Endangered Species Act is that there has to be wild populations.”
Other groups, including the Southern Environmental Law Center, Defenders of Wildlife and Wildlands Network agree that FWS is abandoning their obligations to protect the red wolf in the wild. Conservation scientist Ron Sutherland with Wildlands Network.
“It sounds like a comprise at face value but it really represents giving up on the idea of recovering red wolves in the wild in eastern North Carolina.”
The Service did say that they will begin searching for new sites that can support experimental wild red wolf populations. FWS Southeast Regional Director Dohner.
“We are committed to red wolf recovery, I am committed to red wolf recovery. We’ve said that from the beginning.”
The next step Dohner says is an environmental review, followed by a “significant opportunity” for citizens and stakeholders to comment on the proposal.