Some residents show support for red wolf; others not so sure

Published 9:29 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The comments are in, and according to conservationist groups, they showed “overwhelming support” for red wolves in the wild.

“Fully 98.6% of comments from North Carolinians encouraged the FWS to do more to save the critically imperiled species,” a press release submitted by the Wildlands Network states.

There were 12,279 online comments submitted to the document set up by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the 60-day, public comment period. This does not include written comments or comments given at two public forums in June.

The data in the press release, however, was tallied based on a total of 55,087 public comments received from New York to Texas to Oregon. Comments were also submitted from Spain, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom, among others. The Wildlands Network, Defenders of Wildlife, Red Wolf Coalition, Wolf Conservation Center and Center for Biological Diversity compiled the data set this month. Compiled comments were submitted over a two-month period, starting in late May.

USFWS decided to halt reintroductions of red wolves into the wild in 2015, due to concerns over sustainability and crossbreeding with coyotes. By the end of this year, the Service plans to reduce the program’s five-county span over northeastern North Carolina to just Dare County. This decision brought criticism from some residents, who viewed it as abandonment of conservation efforts.

Some Beaufort County residents offered their input on the matter.

Marilyn Larson, of Chocowinity, wrote: “It seems to me that when FWS describes the red wolf population as ‘non-essential experimental’ the outcome of the program has already been decided. Surely it is wrong to (intentionally) condemn a wild species to extinction. How many of the decisions being made are political rather than scientific. I hope further efforts will be made to save the wolves.”

Lois Hoot, of Washington, wrote that she believes new techniques are needed to properly manage the red wolf population in the wild. In her comment, she suggested sterile placeholder coyotes to reduce crossbreeding, as well as disease monitoring and prevention plans.

“Perhaps most importantly, the red wolf program needs a 10(j) rule that prioritizes red wolf conservation and recovery instead of allowing landowners to kill wolves, especially when nonlethal methods of avoiding conflict are widely available, and the population is so vulnerable,” Hoot wrote.

George Kean, of Aurora, wrote: “Please continue the Red Wolf program; it is magic to hear them at night and to learn about them. It should be possible to accommodate our lives with theirs with education and tolerance.”

Despite the outpouring of support, others are not as confident in continuing the Red Wolf Recovery Program as before.

In a recent online poll conducted by the Daily News, 117 voters expressed their approval for the Service’s decision to reduce the span of the program for the purpose of reassessment. Landowners have expressed their concerns with the wolves in the wild and the possible dangers to loved ones, livestock and pets, as well as property damage.

The Service also maintains that the decision to halt reintroduction is not an attempt to scratch the program, but rather a way to ensure its sustainability in the future. It plans to complete a Species Status Assessment of the red wolf by October to determine the best way to proceed.

“Recovery of the red wolf in the wild is feasible with significant changes that must be implemented to secure the captive and wild populations,” a USFWS press release states. “The best science now available to the Service shows the captive population is not secure for the foreseeable future.”

Multiple representatives from USFWS were contacted Tuesday for comment regarding the conservationist groups’ data set. However, none were immediately available for comment.