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Public Comments Show Overwhelming Support for Protecting Red Wolves in the Wild

In this closeup shot, a red wolf stares straight at the camera, his ears alert and snout pointed downward.

This is post 5 of 8 in "Red Wolf Recovery Plan."

Throughout this series, we follow the deterioration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Red Wolf Recovery Plan. Learn more about how the plan would disastrously affect the already endangered wild red wolves in North Carolina and how you can help save this icon of American wildness from extinction. All posts in this series…

Washington, D.C. (August 14, 2017) – Nearly all comments submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) during the public comment period following the announcement of their red wolf management plan support recovering the wild red wolf population in the southeastern United States, according to an analysis announced today by a coalition of conservation groups. 54,992 out of 55,087 public comments (99.8%) supported recovering the red wolf in the wild in North Carolina, compared to only 25 anti-wolf comments (0.045%) and just 10 comments (0.018%) that supported the federal agency’s proposed plan to remove most red wolves from the wild and into captivity.

Statements from North Carolina residents similarly support restoring and conserving the red wolf. Fully 98.6% of comments from North Carolinians encouraged the FWS to do more to save the critically imperiled species, one of the most endangered carnivores in the world. Zooming in to northeastern North Carolina, more than two-thirds (68.4%) of the comments from the current 5-county recovery region were supportive of the Red Wolf Recovery Program, undermining claims that local residents oppose red wolf restoration.

Conservation groups and a team of scientists also submitted detailed comments to the FWS. These letters cite evidence that the agency’s proposal to pull back on red wolf conservation actions would cause the extinction of the red wolf in the wild. In the hopes of dramatically shifting the scope of FWS decision-making on Canis rufus, the letters also offer proactive suggestions for recovering the species across the southeastern US, including generous landowner incentive programs and more robust law enforcement.

Statements from Conservation Leaders

“This overwhelmingly positive response sends a crystal clear message: Americans support red wolf conservation and want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do the right thing and restore this species throughout its native range in the southeastern United States,” says Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “The Service needs to roll up its sleeves and put in the time and effort needed to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.”

“Many of the comments showed a profound appreciation for the ecological importance of returning the red wolf to southeastern landscapes,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, Conservation Scientist for the Wildlands Network. “People drew frequent comparisons to the better-known situation at Yellowstone National Park, where the reintroduced gray wolves have been shown to be essential to the health of the Park’s ecosystems.”

“The statements posted during the required public comment period demonstrate the overwhelming support for red wolf conservation,” remarked Kim Wheeler, Executive Director of the Red Wolf Coalition, Inc. “The Red Wolf Coalition encourages the USFWS to use the comments provided by the American public in developing the new rules that will govern the management of the critically endangered red wolf.”

“Every voice raised in support of wildlife can make a difference and Americans overwhelmingly support red wolf recovery,” said Maggie Howell, Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center. “We’re counting on USFWS to take notice and follow the best available science to ensure that the world’s most endangered wolves remain a living, breathing part of the southeastern landscape.”

“This tremendous public support should prompt the feds to finally commit to working toward red wolf recovery,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science shows that red wolves can be saved, but with fewer than 50 left in the wild, the clock is ticking.”


Recent Events

  • The wild red wolf population is classified as a nonessential experimental population under the 10(j) rule of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). FWS is considering a reclassification to manage the wild and captive populations as one metapopulation. FWS  announced  in September 2016 that it intends to remove from private and public lands most of the world’s only remaining population of red wolves in the wild, threatening the continued existence of this highly imperiled species in its native habitat. FWS opened a public comment period from May 2017 to July 2017, soliciting feedback about the scope of its planned changes to the red wolf recovery program.
  • Soon after the FWS announcement, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a  preliminary injunction  that orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop capturing and killing — and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill — members of the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves.
  • In October 2016, the scientific experts who drafted the Population Viability Analysis (PVA) for the red wolf, which FWS cited as the rationale behind its recent proposal to take red wolves from the wild and place them in captivity, sent a rebuttal to the agency saying, “The September 12th decision on the future of the Red Wolf Recovery Program included many alarming misinterpretations of the PVA as justification for the final decision.”
  • In July of 2016, a coalition of conservation groups submitted a combined petition to the FWS with almost 500,000 signatures, all calling on the agency to renew its commitment to recovering the red wolf. In August 2016, public polling in North Carolina revealed that a solid majority of citizens in NC supported helping save the red wolf from extinction. Earlier in 2014, conservation-minded citizens sent in over 110,000 pro-red-wolf emails to FWS in response to an ongoing review by the Wildlife Management Institute.

About the Red Wolf

  • The red wolf (Canis rufus) is the only species whose range falls entirely within the continental United States and is the only wolf on the East Coast.
  • After the species was hunted to the brink of extinction, FWS rounded up fewer than 20 remaining red wolves to be bred in captivity, declaring the species extinct in the wild in 1980. The wolves were reintroduced into northeastern North Carolina in 1987, eight years before the gray wolves were reintroduced at Yellowstone. Approximately 200 captive red wolves reside at 38 captive breeding facilities across the United States. The reintroduced wild population grew to a high of 150 animals by 2005, proving that recovery was feasible. However, after a sharp increase in gunshot mortality in recent years, fewer than 45 red wolves currently live in the wild, all in North Carolina.
  • Historically, red wolves ranged throughout the southeastern U.S. from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Texas. Today, wild populations roam more than 1.7 million acres throughout northeastern North Carolina, including Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Red wolves can benefit ecosystems in North Carolina and other southeastern states by hunting invasive pests such as nutria, regulating a healthy deer population and outcompeting coyotes. Returning top carnivores like red wolves can also protect human health by reducing the rate of deer-vehicle collisions, and possibly even limiting the spread of Lyme Disease.

Red Wolf Footage

For media use, we are happy to provide videos and photos of wild red wolves from eastern North Carolina, courtesy of the ongoing camera-trapping program being conducted by Wildlands Network.

Additional high-quality videos and photos of captive red wolves can be provided by the Wolf Conservation Center upon request to


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.


Haley McKey, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0247,

Ron Sutherland, Wildlands Network, 919-641-0060,

Kim Wheeler, Red Wolf Coalition, 252-796-5600,

Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, 914-763-2373,

Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, 651-955-3821,

2 thoughts on “USFWS Announces Plan to Allow Hunters to Kill All But 10-15 Remaining Red Wolves

  1. In my comments at the July 2018 hearing in Manteo I maintained that no Red Wolves should ever be killed. If a landowner wants a Wolf removed then it should be humanely trapped by USFWS and moved to public land. USFWS i maintained should get serious about other sites. There National Forests in SC, Georgia and Florida. Also why not Eglin AFB. near Panama City Fla , that is over 700,000 acres. No hunters there.

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