In November 2012, the Animal Welfare Institute and several other organizations sued and obtained a preliminary injunction against spotlight hunting of coyotes at night in the five-county area of eastern North Carolina inhabited by the world’s only wild population of red wolves (Canis rufus), which are frequently mistaken for coyotes due to similarity in appearance.
Data obtained from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records indicates that ten red wolves (out of total population of around 100) were killed by suspected gunshot in 2012. This is higher than the average rate of red wolf gunshot mortality documented between 2004 and 2011 (seven per year). Nine of the 10 deaths in 2012 occurred after the temporary rule went into effect in August, and at least three of these deaths were reported by hunters who thought they were shooting at a coyote when in fact it was a red wolf.
These reports indicate that mistaken identity between coyotes and red wolves is common and restrictions must be placed on coyote hunting. Unfortunately, an identical permanent rule that would allow spotlight hunting of coyotes at night in North Carolina could still go into effect if it is not blocked by the state legislature this month. AWI and others notified the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission that it is in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act by allowing spotlight hunting of coyotes, and the groups will file a federal enforcement action unless the Commission takes steps to protect the wolves.