Termination of the Red Wolf Recovery Program

Published 11:50 am Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on November 28 recommended termination of the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

The action came at the urging of Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC).

Below is the language in the Senate appropriations bill regarding the program:

“North Carolina Red Wolf. — The Committee acknowledges the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s request that the [U.S. Fish & Wildlife] Service end the Red Wolf recovery program and declare the Red Wolf extinct. The program has failed to meet population goals for the Red Wolf and has impacted North Carolina landowners and the populations of several other native species. The Committee encourages the Service to consider ending the program in fiscal year 2018 and expects the Service to work closely with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission during fiscal year 2018 as it determines further actions on this matter.”

In a Congressional hearing last year, Senator Tillis said, “Before we do anything more in North Carolina, I think it makes the most sense to shut the program down to figure out how to do it right and build some credibility with the landowners. There is a less than respectful history of dialogue between folks in North Carolina and the Fish and Wildlife Service. This is going to be an issue my office will be focused on for as long as I’m a U.S. Senator.”

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the world’s most endangered canids, according to the Fish & Wildlife Service website. Once common throughout the eastern and south central United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the early part of the 20th Century as a result of intensive predator control programs and the degradation and alteration of the species’ habitat.

The red wolf was designated an endangered species in 1967, and shortly thereafter the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated efforts to locate and capture the remaining wild wolves found in the Louisiana and Texas coast area. Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful captive breeding program. The founding red wolves had to be a pure bred species, meaning not a mixed breed of wolf and coyote.

By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include Pocosin Lakes and Pungo refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres.

Today, more than 50 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina [principally in Dare, Hyde and Tyrrell counties], and nearly 200 red wolves are maintained in captive breeding facilities throughout the United States, the Fish & Wildlife Services states.