Red Wolf, ©B. Bartel/USFWS

Red Wolf, Red Herring

FWS Proposal is a Disaster for the World’s Most Endangered Wolf

On September 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its proposal on the fate of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. To say that I am disheartened would be putting it mildly. I’m a lot closer to: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

While the FWS tried to spin it that they are still committed to recovery of the red wolf, the agency’s proposed actions speak much louder than their rhetoric. Here’s what FWS proposed – and what’s wrong with it.

First, the FWS proposed “to move quickly to secure the captive population of red wolves, which we now know is not sustainable in its current configuration.” This was, in our book, very clearly a ‘red herring’ for the red wolf and here’s why:

  • By looking at the FWS’s own Population Viability Analysis (PVA) – an assessment frequently used in conservation biology to determine the probability that a species will go extinct within a number of years – there is no more than a 0.5 percent chance that the captive population of red wolves will go extinct over the next 100 years.
  • The same analysis shows that without immediate action, the wild population of red wolves could perish in less than ten years.

Next, the FWS proposes “to determine where potential new sites exist for additional experimental wild populations by October 2017.” While expanding release sites and recovery locations throughout the red wolf’s original range in the Southeast makes total sense for the species, giving up on wolves in North Carolina absolutely does not. That move makes me howling mad.

  • A recent poll shows that 81 percent of voters statewide agree that: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help the endangered red wolf population recover and prevent its extinction.”
  • Additionally, 27 legislators from North Carolina wrote to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in August 2016, asking that the agency redouble its efforts to recover the red wolf.

This program was once the model of success for wolf recovery efforts in the United States. Despite the efforts of dedicated on-the-ground staff, poor decision-making by FWS’ Southeast Regional Office has caused this program to crumble. As a result, the population of wild red wolves in North Carolina has crashed from a high of 150 to less than 45 wolves today. That’s reason to fix the program, not to close it down. It will take years to build new recovery programs and public support for wild wolves in other locations, and in the meantime, we could be learning from an expanded effort in North Carolina.

FWS also proposes “to revise the existing experimental population rule to apply only to the Dare County Bombing Range and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge…” What does this actually mean for wolves on the ground in North Carolina?

  • Starting in 2018, FWS plans to reduce the habitat of the world’s only population of wild red wolves from 1.7 million acres spread over public and private lands, down to 200,000 acres of public lands in one county. This reduces the red wolf recovery area and habitat to just 12 percent of its former range.
  • Additionally, FWS wants to round up any red wolves outside of Dare County and put them into a captive breeding program in zoos across the country.

This is a complete disaster for wild red wolves. Restricting wolves to one small space in the wild doesn’t put them on the road to recovery and goes against their very biology. Thankfully, our legal team working with our conservation partners recently won a preliminary injunction against the Service, limiting how red wolves can be removed from private land. But the fact that officials would even suggest this measure doesn’t bode well for future management decisions.

Finally, FWS proposes to “complete a comprehensive Species Status Assessment and five-year status review for the red wolf (by Oct. 2017), building on the foundation of work accomplished over the past two years and past history. This will guide the Service’s recovery planning in the future.”

All I can say is this is a massive game of kick the can down the road. This proposal is, essentially, a plan for extinction. Clearly, the current administration is backing away from a nearly 30-year investment in recovering red wolves in the wild and passing the buck to the next administration. The FWS decision undoes nearly three decades of work to recover the red wolf in North Carolina. The Red Wolf Recovery Program was the example for wolf restoration efforts in Yellowstone National Park and for the Mexican gray wolf in the Southwest.

There will be public comment periods on this proposal once the FWS begins to make official decisions. When this happens, we’ll be calling on everyone who cares about red wolves to tell the FWS to do its job and recover endangered species in the wild, not just in captivity. We will be organizing red wolf supporters to stand up for their native wolf. And we will continue working with private landowners, elected officials and the public to build on the strong support for red wolves in North Carolina.

It is time for the public and the conservation community to stand firm and united behind red wolf recovery. Together we can lead this program towards a better future, and save the world’s most endangered wolf from extinction.

Speak Up for Red Wolves

Red wolves are dangerously close to extinction in the wild, and they need your help. Insist that FWS recommit to red wolf recovery – before it’s too late!

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Categories: Red Wolf, Wildlife

21 Responses to “Red Wolf, Red Herring”

  1. Lorna Goodman

    Please let our animals live their lives without the threat of needless murder.
    It is so sad !!

  2. Bonnie age 9

    I LOVE WOLVES TO BITS and they are my entire life, and to hear that people will do what ever it takes to kill wolves, like you said, it makes me HOWLING mad!
    If the red wolf goes extinct I would cry my eyes out. I love wolves so much, I just recently raised £100.32 for wolves and gave in my Gran-dad’s old stamp book, some of which are from the 50’s, thanks Grand-dad!
    I also read your blog every day because I think your website and work is amazing.
    I really appreciate your work for all animals especially wolves (obviously!)
    I hope you keep up your amazing funding projects with wolves and I will keep in touch with you and I wish you good luck!
    keep howling with the wolves
    Bonnie Davies (aged 9!)

  3. Caryl Sawyer

    What the hell is going on in DC? Fish and Wildlife has not been monitored, and the BLM is taking massive kickback from rich ranchers. Nobody seems to be overseeing either of these corrupt groups.

  4. Linda Shadle

    So far as I’m concerned the USFWS is about as useful as a third leg. This so-called ‘proposal ‘ is a blueprint for extinction loud and clear. They obviously don’t give a damn about species sustainability and doing the job they were created for……..recovery and sustaining our vanishing wildlife.

  5. carole p ryan

    We must protect the Red Wolf or they will become extinct in the wild. Sadly, USFWS. is abandoning wolves for murky political reasons. Shameful, unethical, immoral attitudes and policies from FWS will be the death of many species if we do not stand strong!

  6. Linda Morrison

    Out planet is a giant game of Jenga, with each species going extinct a hole in the tower. How many more species must die before the whole tower collapses?

  7. Annette McKimmie

    Wolves have every right to exist so please quit killing them 😥😥😥

  8. Mak

    While the Red Wolf has for decades been known to share some alleles with coyotes and with the Algonquian Gray wolves of the eastern part of the continent, recent accurate genome studies merely corroborates the fact that the Red Wolf contains a number of unique genes.
    As anyone who studies wolves, predators, or population distributions in North America, easily recognizes that SOMETHING besides size or ferocity or any other labile or changeable characteristic prevented the larger Gray Wolf from occupying or excluding the Red Wolf from the low, wet, warm US Southeast from the Delta area out to Houston, to the higher, cooler Missouri, to the area I still remember by the old name, after passing through as a child long ago, the “Great Dismal Swamp” of eastern Virginia dn the Carolinas.

    The best hypothesis so far has been the one that suggests that the important genes involved in Red Wolf maintenance of this huge territory, is that Dirofilaria immitis, the Heartworm parasite, which clearly encounters significant resistance by Red Wolves, but no pure coyotes, Algonquian wolves, or the Western and Northern Gray Wolf (and certainly not the dry-country adapted Mexican Wolf which was genetically represented by one of the many excessive subspecies names of the latter 19th c. (Canis lupus monstrabilis of west TX , which like mogollensis of AZ was so close to baileyi that their size, known behaviors and prey were identical).
    The public and the largely antiwolf Euroamerican-elected governments, whether local, state, or national, either ignores or twists information in order to create highly aroused partisan politics, commonly breaking out in violence toward wolves.

    Only early education will help. Last evening I attended a lecture by a Wisconsin wolf scientist who remains convinced that lethal management should be common and public hunting and trapping of wolves be a management method, when in fact the huge preponderance of peer-reviewed evidence shows thaat lethal management is counterproductive, and public sport-targeting of wolves leads to lower tolerance than does banning this nonviable management “by sccattergun” as I put it when observing the ecrazed goings-on in Idaho even in the two month offseason.
    I have consorted with hunters who expend thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for long-distance sniper rifle technology, with night vision semiauto weapons, specialty long-distance loads , trail cams alerting them at any hour via phone, and GPS electronic calls, pricy manufactured lure scents, electronic calls that imitate targeted species better than almost anyone can do with practice, and more, just to target wolves and coyotes.
    I have heard claims by Alaskan hunters when they visited the lower 48, that if they saw a wolf, they’d just shoot it, no matter ESA state or federal. These things have been shown to me because I do not advertise my opinions, and merely state scientific findings extremely mildly only when it seems there might be health effect, and with most, no such comment can be made at all.

    Because of the hyperarousal of the human animal combined with their possession of deadly firearms and intractable psychological attitudes (I once majored in psychology, and still read the literature on the incapacity to change the minds of others except when establishing significant bonds; I still look for ways to help individuals change, although without optimism) I left off study and advocacy, but the increased level of vituperation is so prominent throughout US sociality that the continuing genetic plight of Red and Mexican Wolf will surely see their extinction within or lifetimes if something is not done to change the culture.

    First, I hope to suggest here that wildlife advocates enter into far more concentrated education on the aspects of the problem. Then, I encourage that they use their new knowledge to create substantive comments, as you are excoriated by some older, opinionated older scientists with biases toward gun and trap as management. These are still vocal, disguising their personal anthropocentric easy answers of kill wild species to placate the most violent opponents of conservation.
    That is not conservation, and much work is being done by highly respected pro-wildlife biologists, ecologists, even psychologists (like Jeremy Bruskotter) and philosophers (Michael P Nelson is one) to assist the public in understanding the far more accurate worldwide and Canadian and US findings of recent population dynamics, wolf behavior, and other biological disciplines.

    If you are as strongly aroused as your short insubstantial comment indicate, please engage in more satisfying and effective advocacy, by looking into the ever-growing research.
    Just reading the abstracts and conclusions alone will inform your public comment; it will also help you to educate the young, who are more moral and less self-centered than those who have settled into society. THIS is the most valuable in the long term.

    Many state wildlife agencies have very easily subscribed wolf, bear, or other species program news. Just go to state wildlife agency sites to subscribe.

    Just this am I found on the Idaho Fish & Game site this highly interesting page:
    https://idfg.idaho.gov/press/think-twice-taking-roadside-shot
    I followed it up, as there is a crisis of increasing wolf poaching going on in the west:
    THe Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust offers those ASA’s mentioned in the ID F&G for free to agencies and perhaps other orgs to technically assist in catching potential poachers. Because they are not well-known, and because many poachers are just haters not keeping up with deterrents, these have the capacity to identify even those who have previously shot, shoveled, and shut up. You can donate to effective wildlife protective grouups; they range from scientific to advocates who will equip you to speak with knowledge to the agencies and legislatures that must be influenced to accomplish the necessary change.
    The California Wolf Center raises Mexican Wolves for release, has programs to aid ranchers in nonlethal deterrence, offers information to visitors, and when necessary works through science to affect wolf policies.
    I have traveled a thousand miles one way to visit them, and financially support as much as I can their sanctuary needs and larger goals of creating social tolerance for wolves.
    DoW, here, is deeply involved in such goal, allying with everything from range rider nonlethal protection to litigation organizations across the US west. Please use their massive history of educational materials and connections to inform and make yourself an effective individual for wolves and all wildlife.

  9. Pent icuffjohn

    God bless what you have done. It’s sad a lot of ranchers and unethical hunters does seem God’s creatures in the same light this is very sad.

  10. Dr. Sanford Leffler

    I am disappointed that there is no mention of the captive breeding program of Red Wolves at Ft. Defiance Zoo, Tacoma, Washington.

  11. Virginia Bennett

    In response to articles simiar to this, I have the same comment: Sheep & cattle ranchers don’t need to kill wolves, they need to invest in protecting their livestock!!
    Why is it that every other type of entrepreneur is willing to invest in protecting his/her investments, but ranchers refuse to do so?? What do I mean by that? Most businessmen/women carefully protect & guard their assets, yet cattle/sheep ranchers just want to leave their livestock unprotected on their pasturing grounds!!
    They’re too cheap to hire shepherds or cowboys and herding dogs to guard / protect their living “inventory”.
    For millenia, humans guarded their flocks/herds “in situ” by working as shepherds & cattlemen. Now they just want to “throw up fences”, let their animals fend for themselves, & have the rest of us pay for the USF&WS personnel to go against their duties to protect our wildlife, by shooting our large predators & thereby sending them into extinction!!

  12. Carolyn McCracken

    We must protect the delicate balance of all animals for the benefit of future generations.

  13. Greg Hamby

    I am a supporter of The Red Wolf. I must correct an inaccuracy in your letter.
    The size of the combined area in Dare County Nc where the recovery began. The size of the DOD inert target range and Alligator River wildlife refuge together is 12×40+ miles. In acreage that is 311,200 acres. Around this area are private lands that are in a natural state or in timber production. This area is essentially impenetrable . I have lived in Dare County for 40 years. The good thing here is that there is no hunting allowed in that area. i feel that the environmental movement should be accurate as the critics always say we are exaggerating the problems. The Court has invalidated the Sept 12th ruling by FWS.

  14. Susan Canale

    It is so sad the way we treat the wolves,bear,deer,and all the wildlife on this earth..
    If we would have just left the planet alone,and stopped taking away their habitat,
    We have to over develop everything,and no one gives a damn about the effect on our environment….
    I pray that we will still have some of the endangered animals here on earth for the next generation to enjoy…
    Thanks for all you do..

  15. kathy

    thank you to all who protect the wolf and all wildlife. the wolf especially is seen as a threat and incorrectly so. they need our protection or we may lose them forever. that would be unforgivable. it is our responsibility to see that does not happen.

  16. Linda Paczer

    I believe all life should be protected & red wolves like most wolves are poorly misjudged. I appreciate finding this on my friend’s facebook wall. i think its good to try to make a difference in this world when so much as become so bad.

  17. MTG

    Why is this United States agency not in the business of protecting wildlife, and representing the majority of people??? Disappointingly, it seems as though this almost useless agency needs to be extinct, since the financing with tax dollars does not go to benefit wildlife. It surely sounds like case after case of greed, lack of empathy, and lazy self absorbtion sitting behind big cushy desk jobs. Ridiculous.

  18. selma castanheira dos santos

    temos que ajudar a defender o bem-estar dos anjos que são os animais.

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