11 September 2012 North Carolina’s Red Wolf: in the Spotlight and in Peril Posted by: Haley McKey | 1 comment The red wolf is a normally a secretive animal that avoids humans, waiting for nightfall to hunt and socialize. But in North Carolina, these endangered creatures can no longer find safety under the cover of darkness. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission recently approved a temporary rule allowing night hunting of coyotes with spotlights, putting the rare wolves at risk of being accidentally shot. Defenders of Wildlife, along with the Animal Welfare Institute and the Red Wolf Coalition, has filed a court challenge against the NC Wildlife Resource Commission and a request to stop this rule. Not only does the rule threaten an endangered species, but the NC Wildlife Resource Commission also adopted it illegally, via a temporary rulemaking procedure that violates state law. Red wolves and coyotes are easy to confuse even in daylight because they are similar in both in color and physical appearance, and adolescent wolves are similar to adult coyotes in size. At night, it’s even more difficult to tell the difference (click here to see the two species side by side). The rule is catastrophic for several reasons. This species was once extinct in the wild, and slowly began to recover after captive wolves were reintroduced into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. However, there are still only about 100 wild red wolves in the wild. With such a small population, each individual is vital to the survival of the species. But every year, about 7-9 percent of red wolves are killed by North Carolina hunters, a number that will almost certainly increase with night hunting. Red wolves are also threatened by interbreeding with coyotes. To prevent this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sterilizes coyotes that live in red wolf habitat. But shooting sterilized coyotes allows fertile coyotes from other areas to move in and interbreed with wolves. There are only about 100 red wolves left in the wild, and all of them live in the state of North Carolina. Presently, the red wolf only exists in the state of North Carolina, and with a population so small and fragile, an increase in red wolf shooting deaths and interbreeding with coyotes could mean they’ll never recover. Defenders is committed to fighting this rule and protecting these rare and beautiful animals. Look out for updates as we continue our mission to keep red wolves alive and thriving. Click here to learn more about the night hunting rule in North Carolina and the challenge filed against it. Haley McKey, Communications Associate Haley's beat areas include Defenders’ Florida and Alaska offices, climate change, right whales, sea turtles and government appropriations.