Author Visits Tyrrell County Area to Write about Red Wolf

Published 12:56 pm Monday, July 15, 2013

22Beeland_Author Photo

T.Delene Beeland visited Hyde and Tyrrell County to write a book about red wolves

Red wolves have been featured in the news many times.

Whether it be for shootings, endangered species laws, or simply as a tourist attraction, red wolves have consistently gathered much attention.

T.Delene Beeland sought to take some of these issues head on in her book “The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America’s Other Wolf.”

Beeland visited parts of Hyde and Tyrrell County to do research and conduct interviews for her book.

The book is divided into three sections: The Red Wolf Today; The Red Wolf Yesterday; The Red Wolf Tomorrow” each examining various elements of the red wolf debate.

“This is the story of the red wolf, its flirtation with extinction, and its restoration to the wild. The red wolf is smaller than a gray wolf but has a huge story, and I think it is more fascinating than any other wolf I’ve come across. The book is a history of the species, as best we understand it, but it’s also a story about the people who have worked to recover the red wolf–those who have helped coax it from the brink of extinction and into one of the earliest, if not the first, Fish and Wildlife Service captive-breeding programs for a carnivore in the U.S,” said Beeland in a interview with the University of North Carolina Press in 2012.


Beeland’s book was copyrighted in 2013 with the University of North Carolina Press as publisher.

Beeland discussed parts of her book in a recent interview with the Scuppernong Reminder.
The Local Reaction

The first section of Beeland’s book is full of interviews with local people who have encountered the red wolf in some aspect of their daily life.

The interviews brought up some interesting responses.

“I tried to show that people can hold conflicting feelings toward this animal at the same time. Some farmers want the wolves on their land to deter deer, but when hunting season rolls around they want them gone. Another lady wanted wolves there because she thought they were wonderfully wild and a point of pride for her county — but if her kids wanted to sleep outside in the yard, she didn’t necessarily want them around! I think it’s normal to hold these sorts of yin-yang attitudes toward an animal that we have a complex relationship with,” said Beeland.
Beeland cites book comments from Mike Johnson, a private wildlife manager who works in Hyde County and lives in Dare County where he serves as a county commissioner.
Johnson states in the book that a lack of folklore about red wolves among local families that descend from some of the first Europeans settlers to the area in the mid-1700s and early 1800s leads to disbelieve that red wolves were everywhere present here historically.
“I might be missing it, but I have not found it. The only thing we have to go on when we decide whatever happened in an area is local history, local knowledge, local whatever, and there are no written stories in Hyde County or Dare County lore,” Johnson says in the book.

Later Johnson acknowledges that despite his stance against red wolves, he is starting to see that wolves are not as destructive or as ferocious as he once thought they might be.

“They are actually kind of docile,” he states in one passage.

Beeland acknowledged that she also has complicated feelings towards wildlife.

“I love that there are black bears in the mountains where I live. I love watching them, love knowing that they are roaming the slopes. But I hate picking up the garbage that gets strewn over my lawn when one gets fixated on our neighborhoods’ trashcans. And I do worry about encountering one sometimes when I’m hiking with my one year old,” she explains.

One element of the debate not in the book is how people living outside of the Hyde and Tyrrell County area would feel sharing the landscape with red wolves.

“For readers, I figured most people reading this book would not live in the area, and I wanted to provide them with a portrait of both the landscape and the people that live within it. I was aware that residents of the recovery area would read the book, of course, I just felt it was important to share their world with the rest of the nation,” Beeland notes.

A great deal of research has been devoted to people’s reaction to wolves in urban and rural settings.

However for the purposes of the book, much of the material was not used.

“I have to admit I feel I’ve missed an opportunity to provide an alternate perspective and ask the reader how they might feel sharing their landscape with red wolves,” said Beeland.

The Red Wolf Yesterday

The second section of Beeland’s book examines some of the history of the red wolf and different challenges it has faced.
Most Americans are aware of the iconic gray wolf, Canis lupus, and its reintroduction to the Northern Rocky Mountains. There is a separate species of wolf in North America called the red wolf, Canis rufus.

“Even fewer people are aware that the red wolf evolved solely in North America, unlike the gray wolf, which colonized our continent from a source population that arose in Eurasia. Historically, red wolves likely ranged from central Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to central Texas and southern Illinois; they covered most of the south and central East,” said Beeland in her UNC Press interview.

There are many versions to the red wolf origin story.

All these different versions leave the red wolf in a kind of “conservation” purgatory.