USFWS plan ignores public comments, which were 99.8% in favor of protecting the wolf
Durham, N.C. (June 27, 2018) — Today the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) unveiled their new plan for managing the wild red wolf population in eastern North Carolina, the only site in the world where the wolves remain outside of zoos. The agency’s preferred alternative plan mirrors a preliminary announcement made in 2016, and calls for contracting the recovery area for the wolves down to federal protected lands in just one NC county (Dare).
By their own estimation, the revised area would only support 10-15 wolves in at most 2 packs, down from a peak population size of 150 wolves that was reached a decade ago. The goal of the agency would also noticeably shift, from a decades-long attempt to recover the species in the wild in North Carolina, to maintaining a small group of wild wolves to draw from in the future if new reintroduction projects are started in other states. The agency apparently has no immediate plans to begin additional recovery efforts around the southeastern US, however.
Under the new plan, any wolves that either remain or wander outside of the greatly reduced recovery area would lose all federal protection, unless they stay on other national wildlife refuges in the region. Otherwise, hunters and landowners would be allowed to kill red wolves with no repercussions, apart from a request from FWS to return the radio-collars from dead animals.
The agency considered but rejected a second alternative that would actually focus on recovering the red wolf in the wild, including a greater focus on law enforcement and landowner outreach and incentives. According to the nonprofit group Wildlands Network, public comments received last year by the agency strongly favored doing more to protect the wild red wolves.
Dr. Ron Sutherland, Conservation Scientist for Wildlands Network, reported that “of the 55,087 comments received by FWS, 54,992 were in favor of protecting the red wolf in the wild. Only 10 out of 55k comments were in favor of the FWS plan to scale back the recovery effort, which makes it shocking that the agency chose that alternative today.”
Sutherland noted that the red wolf plan does acknowledge that only 7 confirmed cases of livestock depredation have been attributed to the wolves since 1987. On page 46 of the Environmental Assessment released by FWS, the agency indicates that a recent study of public attitudes in the red wolf recovery area revealed that “the vast majority of survey respondents indicated that red wolves do not cause them any problems.”
Last week Wildlands Network released a video showing 3 years of camera trap photos from a single site at Alligator River NWR. The video, which shows steady streams of both wolves and deer, not to mention incredible numbers of black bear, has hit 44k views, and can be viewed here.
The video appears to contradict rumors that have blamed the wolves for perceived declines in other wildlife species such as deer and wild turkey. Wildlands Network has continued to post all of the photos from their 20+ camera traps in the red wolf recovery area to our Flickr page.
- Additional video footage of red wolves from Wildlands Network’s camera traps can be downloaded here.
- Additional photos of red wolves from the camera traps (all wild, except as noted from the Museum of Life and Science in Durham) can be viewed here.
- Wildlands Network has also recently added a comprehensive “Red Wolf Myths vs. Facts” page to our website.
Wildlands Network envisions a world where nature is unbroken, and where humans co-exist in harmony with the land and its wild inhabitants. Our mission is to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so life in all its diversity can thrive.
Ron Sutherland, Wildlands Network, 919-641-0060, email@example.com