Section Menu

Red Wolf Recovery Program Requires Expanded Effort

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

This is post 1 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…

New report highlights successes of recovery program, calls for new red wolf populations

DURHAM, NC (Nov. 24, 2014) – Expanded red wolf recovery territories, establishment of new recovery sites, and new captive breeding programs are needed for a successful North Carolina wolf population, according to a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)-funded review of the red wolf recovery program. The review also acknowledges the lack of ecological research regarding the impact of the red wolf on other species, says Ron Sutherland, Conservation Scientist for Wildlands Network, an organization working to connect wildlife habitat in the eastern U.S.

“The fact that red wolves have now been surviving in the wild on North Carolina’s Albemarle Peninsula for almost three decades is a crucial measure of success for the program, but this report confirms that there is much more work to do,” said Sutherland, who is coordinating newly initiated ecological studies to fill the gap in scientific knowledge about red wolf impacts.  “We know survival of the endangered red wolf is a strong concern among the public, shown by the overwhelming number of comments, nearly 110,000, from people supporting the ecological and ethical value of saving this threatened species,” Sutherland noted.

While not yet adopted as a final recovery guideline by USFWS, the report’s conclusions will likely heavily influence the agency’s future actions on red wolf recovery. “This report does not mean that the red wolf or its protection program is safe in the future, but it makes a strong statement about what needs to be done,” said Sutherland, who recommended that those wishing to see a successful recovery program should contact the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NC WRC) to urge the state agency to cooperate more fully with the USFWS in support of the red wolf program. Sutherland was named to the USFWS red wolf recovery implementation team in 2013.

Findings of the review were bolstered by a recently settled lawsuit that resulted in a ban on nighttime coyote hunting in the recovery area and required the NC WRC for the first time to fully recognize the red wolf as an endangered species in North Carolina. Coyotes could be mistaken for red wolves due to their similar appearance. Although hunters have expressed concern about the potential impacts of red wolves on game species, deer harvest numbers have actually increased in the five-county recovery area since the wolves were reintroduced in 1987. Sutherland pointed out that the recovery area and the southeastern US as a whole contain plentiful food for wolves, and large, wild landscapes for wolves to safely roam, if the animals are protected from poaching.

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the world’s most endangered canid species. Once common throughout the eastern and south-central United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the early part of the 20th Century as a result of intensive predator control programs and alteration of the species’ habitat. Today, more than 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina.

The  USFWS report, conducted by the private consulting firm Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), further notes that the budget for the program should be expanded to $5.4 million per year to pay for establishing two new reintroduction sites that have long been called for by USFWS wolf recovery goals. “If the captive breeding program was expanded, as also suggested by the WMI review, then we would have sufficient numbers of pure red wolves to release at these new sites, greatly protecting red wolf genetics,” said Greg Costello, Wildlands Network Executive Director.

Learn More About the Review

Costello’s group has been working to protect critical wildlife corridors linking the red wolf recovery area to other major wildlife refuges in North Carolina, including bold new efforts to save the 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest near Jacksonville, NC, and further south, the Northeast Cape Fear River bordering Wilmington. Wildlands Network has identified southeastern NC— an imperiled landscape that could provide expansion routes for red wolves, black bears and numerous other species in the future if habitat corridors can be secured — as one of 16 priority wildlife connectivity zones in the Eastern U.S.

For more information about Hofmann Forest, please visit the Save Hofmann Forest Facebook page and For further information about the red wolf recovery report and red wolves, please visit


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,

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.

Tell us what you think! Note: All comments are moderated before appearing here.