Red wolves like this one and coyotes are difficult to tell apart, even in daylight. Interbreeding with coyotes is also a threat to this species.
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.
A few weeks ago we told you about the record numbers of sea turtle nests in Florida. Well, it looks like Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina is also enjoying a banner year! And not just for sea turtles, but for shorebirds, tourism and the local economy as well.
Sea turtles nested at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in record numbers this season. The beach driving rule helps ensure that mother turtles can lay their eggs and return to the water safely.
A National Park Service rule that manages beach driving on the National Seashore in order to protect wildlife was implemented in February of this year. The final rule was developed after Defenders and the Audubon Society sued the National Park Service for failing for more than 30 years to regulate ORV use at the seashore.
It was a big source of concern for some in the region, who feared it would discourage visitors and kill profit for businesses that depend on tourism dollars. Instead, it appears the opposite is true: the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau reported that visitor gross occupancy of Dare County during the bird and turtle nesting season (the months of April, May and June 2012) was the highest on record. The National Park Service has also sold over 23,000 off-road vehicle (ORV) permits as of August 26.
While business was booming, sea turtles were thriving, with turtle nest counts exceeding all previous records at Cape Hatteras. As of August 29th, 222 nests were recorded and that number may increase through September as the sea turtle nesting season continues.
Piping plovers, a rare shorebird species that nests at Cape Hatteras, have also had a banner year: eleven rare piping plover chicks survived to fledge from nests laid on the seashore’s beaches.
Responsible beach management helps piping plovers thrive at Cape Hatteras.
And all this happened with only a few beach miles closed for protection.
Indeed, the National Park Service reported this week that 63.1 miles of Cape Hatteras Seashore ocean and inlet shoreline were open to the public, with only 1.8 miles temporarily closed for resource protection. Of those 63.1 miles, 46.1 miles were open to pedestrians only with another 17 miles open to pedestrians and ORV traffic.
What’s great about this news is that it shows how conservation can be a win-win for both wildlife and people. The National Park Service rule balances visitor enjoyment of its beaches with the needs of the animals that depend on them to raise their young. This rule and its positive outcome set a fantastic example for future wildlife protection decisions in the US and beyond.
Click here to read the Southern Environmental Law Center press release on this great news out of North Carolina.
Stop the presses! That little problem of global warming you’ve been hearing so much about? Well, worry no more. The state legislature in North Carolina has made climate change illegal.
State lawmakers passed a four-year moratorium on using forecasts that take into account the effect that warming oceans and melting ice are having on sea level. Governor Beverly Perdue had the chance to take a stand for science and veto the bill. Instead, she chickened out, and decided to “let the bill become law without her signature.”
How did this happen? Well, it all started in 2010, when a panel of climate scientists examined the potential sea level rise on North Carolina’s coast. Their report predicted that the combined effects of melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland and higher ocean temperatures would raise sea levels by over three feet by the year 2100.
Apparently, this wasn’t what state legislators wanted to hear. They created a bill this spring that forbids planners from using any sea level rise projections higher than the rate the state has experienced in the past, completely ignoring the science panel’s findings.
Unsurprisingly, North Carolina was mocked by everyone from scientists to late-night comedians. But the state legislature didn’t give up: they quietly revised the proposal to reduce the moratorium to four years, and that bill passed the State House 68-46 and the Senate 40-1. When the Governor allowed the veto deadline to pass, one of the dumbest climate bills in history became state law.
It’s easy to make fun of the state’s ridiculous actions, but the matter is quite serious. Ironically, the bill was intended to boost the economy by encouraging development on the coast, but ignoring sea level rise is going to cost far more down the line.
Building in locations vulnerable to rising sea levels heightens risks for flooding and erosion and creates a whole host of other problems and dangers. And it’s not just developers’ investments that are at risk when waters rise. Soil dissolving into estuaries can harm fish that use them as nurseries. Broken septic systems make the environment toxic to both animals and people. Road flooding after a severe storm can make it difficult for emergency vehicles to reach people in need.
In 2011, damage from Hurricane Irene in North Carolina caused an estimated $400 billion in insurance costs. Flooding was reported in Pamlico, Hyde, and Beaufort counties, all of which border the Pamlico sound.
And with this new measure in place, North Carolina is sure to experience even more damage, expense and habitat loss, leaving its taxpayers and native species to suffer the consequences.
According to museum staff, the female wolf (named 1287), has been showing signs of pregnancy. Recently, she has been digging more than normal, burying food, and removing areas of belly hair—a common preparation for nursing.
Once ranging throughout the southeastern U.S. from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Texas, habitat destruction and extermination nearly brought red wolves to extinction by 1980. Now, thanks to captive breeding programs and reintroduction to a restoration area in North Carolina, the species is slowly making a comeback.
A new wolf litter–between two to nine pups–would be a huge benefit to the fragile population of only 300 wolves (captive and wild combined). The parents of this potential litter have desirable genes that scientists want to keep in the mix. Creating diversity in the gene pool is extremely important to the survival of such a critically endangered species as the red wolf.
(Scene: hiker spots something in the woods at Alligator National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina)
“What was that? It looked like a wolf! Must have been a coyote… Wolves aren’t found in this part of the country, right?”
Oh, but they are!
The endangered red wolf (cousin to the gray wolf out West) roams the wilds of northeastern North Carolina. Historically, red wolves ranged throughout the southeastern U.S. from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Texas. But by 1980, the red wolf was virtually extinct in the wild because of habitat destruction and extermination. Now, thanks to captive breeding programs and reintroduction to a restoration area in North Carolina, red wolves number over one hundred.
Red wolves look like delicate versions of gray wolves, except with longer muzzles, larger ears, and fur tinged reddish brown in some spots. Like grays, they live in packs and are most active at night – that’s when they howl. The Alligator River NWR actually offers ‘howling safaris’, where you can visit the refuge at night and experience the thrill of hearing red wolves communicating with each other.
What Defenders Is Doing
Red wolves resemble coyotes, which unfortunately leads to many mistaken identity deaths caused by humans. To reduce the confusion, Defenders partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Red Wolf Recovery Team and the Red Wolf Coalition to produce a red wolf education guide for hunters.
Defenders is exploring the economic and environmental benefits of red wolves, in order to inform policy makers and landowners. Our latest report discusses the receptivity of landowners towards payment in exchange for conservation practices.