For Immediate Release
For More Information Contact:
Wildlands Network: Susan Holmes, 202-329-1553
Conservationists Dismayed — Call upon USFWS to Renew Its Commitment to Restoring the Eastern Red Wolf
Durham, NC – (June 30, 2015) The Wildlands Network and the Endangered Species Coalition are dismayed by the United States Fish and Wildlife’s (USFWS) announcement today that it will suspend reintroductions for the Red Wolf Recovery Program. According to Ron Sutherland, Lead Biologist at the Wildlands Network “The program has already been suffering from a lack of resources including unfilled key staff positions and abandonment of important pup fostering efforts.” Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, added “The Agency has an obligation to recover these animals. Over 30 red wolves have been lost to gunshot and vehicle strikes since 2012, reducing the population by more than 15 percent.
The Service also announced that they will continue the highly controversial practice of allowing landowners to legally kill red wolves. Last week, the USFWS sanctioned the killing of a lactating red wolf mother by a landowner, a move that brings the estimated population of red wolves in the wild to less than 80 according the USFWS website. “Unintentional gunshot has been the leading cause of death for red wolves in recent years, and they will continue to sanction intentional gunshot. This could have devastating effects on the population,” said Dr. Sutherland.
According to both Huta and Sutherland, the USFWS should take this opportunity to renew its commitment to the Red Wolf Recovery Program. This would include pup fostering, reintroduction of more animals into the wild, comprehensive landowner outreach on wolf co-existence and coyote sterilization.
“The red wolf needs a science-based path to recovery, including better protections from being killed unnecessarily by humans. The agency needs to commit more funding to this critical program and to educate landowners about the value of carnivores. It is worth reminding people that there are fewer red wolves in the wild than there are giant pandas, snow leopards or whooping cranes, which our own citizens work valiantly to protect, “ said Dr. Sutherland.
Sutherland explained further, “We now know that the ecological value of our carnivores in North America is more important than ever. We don’t expect the agencies to go this alone. We’ve just completed a scientific study and mapping efforts that tell us exactly where the key wildlife corridors are that can accommodate the endangered red wolf. Likewise the red wolf conservation community is already expanding its outreach strategies to reach residents and landowners.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be actively reintroducing wolves to bolster the current population. We have over 200 animals in breeding facilities; what we need is more reintroduction sites and more outreach to explain why co-existing with wolves and other carnivores is not a choice, it’s a duty and an ecological necessity,” said Huta.
The news of the announcement is not expected to sit well with the more than 110,000 people who submitted comments in support of saving this highly endangered species. According to Sutherland, “North Carolina residents and people around the world are already reeling from the reprehensible shooting of a lactating red wolf mother and will be disappointed by this news.”
North Carolina is home to the only wild population of red wolves. Red wolves bred in captivity were reintroduced on a North Carolina peninsula within their native range in the late 1980’s after red wolves were declared extinct in the wild. Once common from Massachusetts to Florida, hunting and loss of habitat decimated wild red wolf populations. Today they are the most endangered wolf species in the world and the only wolf species that is found solely in the United States.
The Endangered Species Coalition’s mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery. We work to safeguard and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, a law that enables every citizen to act on behalf of threatened and endangered wildlife – animals, fish, plants, and insects – and the wild places they call home.
Wildlands Network’s mission is to reconnect nature in North America, to realize a future where native animals and plants thrive amidst healthy wildlands and other habitats. Working together with networks of people protecting networks of land, the 25-year-old conservation organization focuses on reconnecting habitats along four continental-scale wildlife pathways called the Eastern, Western, Boreal and Pacific Wildways. Alongside this effort, they work to restore carnivores and other wide-ranging animals throughout their natural ranges