In September of last year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed significantly reducing the range of the existing wild population of red wolves by removing individual wolves from the wild in order to increase the captive breeding population—something the scientific community has said is unnecessary and harmful to red wolf survival. (See AWI Quarterly, winter 2016.) Due to the USFWS’ gross neglect, the population is now in such dire condition that leading scientists have said that continuing to manage in this manner would likely lead to the species’ extirpation within eight years.
The USFWS held two hearings in June in rural areas of North Carolina, and invited the public to submit written comments—supposedly to give citizens a chance to weigh in on the wild population's importance to the red wolf recovery goals, as well as on methods for population management, strategies to address hybridization with coyotes, and when it’s appropriate to “take” and/or remove red wolves.
The USFWS will now likely produce either an “environmental assessment” or an “environmental impact statement” to fulfill its obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act. It will then issue a new “10(j)” rule under the Endangered Species Act that will seek to redefine the parameters of its “experimental” population of wild red wolves in such a way that would give the agency more leeway in disrupting the population. AWI will be closely monitoring this process and will provide updates on the USFWS’ actions and our responses as warranted.