Red Wolf’s Struggles Chronicled by Visiting Author

Published 12:10 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013

This concludes a two-part series examining an author’s trip to the Tyrrell County area and the issues she encountered while writing a book about red wolves.
The Red Wolf Tomorrow.
“The Secret History of the Red Wolves” concludes by examining the future of the red wolf.
“I’d wager a guess that the road ahead will be a continual struggle to prove this animal’s conservation worthiness. Though the program has a history of working at the leading edge of wildlife management, the heated controversy over the animal’s origins still clouds its future,” says T. Delene Beeland in concluding portions of her book.

A changing habitat will also be a challenge for the red wolf. Beeland attributes this to climate change.

“Climate change will likely drive a variety of ecological disturbances in the wolves’ reintroduction area, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires and hurricanes,” she says.

Beeland relates an account in her book of the Pains Bay fire in 2011 spreading from private land onto the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The fire ended up burning 45,294 acres.

The fire was fueled, according to Beeland ,in part by the peninsula’s system of dikes and canals, which were originally built to drain the region’s wetlands. But the consistent and large-scale loss of freshwater has meant that large peat deposits have dried out over time in some places. Peat can become highly flammable when it is dry.

No red wolves were lost or injured in the Pains Bay fire. But the possibility of something like this happening again and again consistently could be deemed as a genuine threat to the red wolf.

Beeland examines climate change mitigation strategies put in place to combat shoreline erosion and saltwater instrusion.

One example is marshes put in place to blunt the effects of something like a hurricane damaging and changing a forest.

Much of the data and research regarding this issue is still ongoing.

Beeland acknowledges that the red wolf’s future will not be unmanaged. It will also face ongoing challenges. The state interprets the Endangered Species Act’s nonessential experimental population status in such a way that the wolves were only granted NEP status when they were on national wildlife refuge and national park lands.

“This leaves the red wolf’s protection status on private and state lands a very murky gray,” said Beeland.
Economic Development.
“The Secret History of the Red Wolves” does not deal with ecotourism in great length. One positive aspect of red wolves being in the Tyrrell County area could be to have tourists and locals come visit them. Several new developments such as the development of a red wolf viewing enclosure in Columbia took place after Beeland had done most of the work on her book. Therefore she had time to do research but not necessarily draw conclusions on the effectiveness of ecotourism.

“That is something I did look into writing about. But I did not make it a big part of my book. I did look at the results of a farm operator survey in one part of my book. It was done by Randall Kramer and Aaron Jenkins,” said Beeland.

Beeland is referring to “Ecosystem Services, Markets, and Red Wolf Habitat: Results from a Farm Operator Survey” done by Kramer and Jenkins, both professors from Duke University.
Kramer and Jenkins gathered the results of a survey of 298 farmers in the five northeastern counties in North Carolina where the red wolves are located.
A executive summary of the paper reads:
“While there is a lack of familiarity with ecosystem services terminology, many are interested in future payment for ecosystem services programs, particularly if the programs emphasize wildlife conservation or water quality.”
Payment levels are found to be an important factor in decisions to enroll, but other program attributes particularly contract lengths and program administration types are also important.
A payment for ecosystem services programs for red wolves is not widely supported according to results in the study.
“A targeted marketing and information campaign could be used to address a lack of familiarity with ecosystem services and markets and promote future sign-ups,” say Kramer and Jenkins.

The issue is more complex that just applying one method or approach to the problem. It would require the invested time and effort of many people.

“Some of the take from the biologists was that there would have to be a lot of investment by the counties in infrastructure to attract people to the area to look at birds, wolves, and other things like that,” said Beeland .

Beeland pointed out that people in areas like Tyrrell County would have to make sure that they are not just changing to accommodate outside expectations.

“One of the things that makes Tyrrell County what it is, is that there are not a whole lot of people there. So there has to be a balance between that sort of charm specific to the area and a little bit of development that people who don’t live there come to expect,” said Beeland.

Another issue associated with attracting ecotourism to the area would be distinguishing between people who are just in the area temporarily and those who want to stay longer.

Now that Beeland book is finished, she still anticipates being involved with the red wolf recovery program.

“There was a friends group that I started after a lot of conversations with the program coordinators about what the group might need. It focuses on fundraising and equipment for the Red Wolf Recovery Program,” said Beeland.