Another federally protected red wolf was found shot dead and was the third to be killed since a new law that allows hunters to shoot coyotes at night went into effect in August.
Red wolves were essentially extinct by the 1960s due to habitat destruction and predator control programs. They were declared extinct in the wild in 1980. In 1987, red wolves who were part of a captive breeding program were released in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
Since then, their range has expanded to include 1.7 million acres covering five counties in northeast North Carolina — the only state where they reside — and their population is now estimated to be 100.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private organizations are offering a reward of up to $8,000 for information leading to the conviction for the person or persons responsible for killing each of the radio collared wolves. Under the law, illegally killing one of these wolves can result in one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against spotlight hunting of coyotes at night because they believe the similar appearance of red wolves can lead to confusion.
They also want hunting in red wolf recovery area stopped altogether.
“We hope that the commission will take necessary measures to avoid killing of red wolves,” said Derb Carter, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the groups. “The killing of an endangered red wolf just over a month since the commission allowed spotlight hunting of coyotes at night is a clear signal that the rule is a danger to wild red wolves. We’ve asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to confirm reports that additional wolves have been shot since the rule went into effect.”
Despite opposition, North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission passed the new rule this spring, arguing that night hunting would allow for better predator control. The groups believe that the decision was made in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
“With fewer than 100 red wolves in the wild, we cannot afford to lose a single one to accidental shooting,” said Jason Rylander, senior staff attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “Spotlight hunting of coyotes is a new and unnecessary threat to the conservation of red wolves.”
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