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Red Wolf Campaign

Wildlands Network is merging science with activism to ensure that red wolves in the southeastern U.S. remain wild and free. Red wolves are among the most critically endangered mammals in the world. Only 30–50 red wolves currently exist in the wild, all of them inhabiting eastern North Carolina. Unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) takes urgent measures on their behalf, red wolves may soon be gone from the wild forever.

History

Red wolves are native to the eastern U.S. Due to decades of persecution and habitat degradation, red wolves were declared extinct in the wild in 1980—when the last wild wolves were brought into captivity. Seven years later, the FWS reintroduced red wolves to North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. By 2006, the red wolf population had expanded to more than 130 individuals.

Broad shot of a wetland with sparse trees and a stormy sky
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina. Photo: Ron Sunderland

This success was short-lived, however, and the population once again dwindled. Today, after spending millions of dollars to increase the red wolf population in North Carolina, the FWS has caved to political pressure and is on the brink of abandoning the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

In 2016, FWS announced plans to scale back the recovery area to include only public lands in Dare County, North Carolina—which could sustain a maximum of 15 red wolves. Any wolves outside of this area will once again be brought into captivity. Anti-wolf agitators have spread false rumors about red wolves eating too many deer, and even the FWS has misled the public by stating that the captive red wolf population is at risk of decline—a blatant attempt to justify their disastrous plan.

Why Red Wolves?

Red wolves are native to the southeastern U.S., and presumably once played a vital role in regulating populations of deer, keeping them from overbrowsing rare plants, tree seedlings, and other vegetation. Red wolves also likely helped to control raccoons and possums, preventing these smaller predators from overpopulating to the point of endangering native songbirds. Coyotes—even those having some wolf genes—do not appear to be filling the red wolf’s ecological niche.

Wildlands Network wants to see healthy red wolf populations restored to all core natural areas in the Southeast, and connected by safe habitat corridors. If we lose North Carolina’s red wolf population, we might never see another attempt at recovery—nor another red wolf in the wild.

Film: Red Wolf Revival

A red wolf walking through the grass, with a Red Wolf Revival logo in the bottom right cornerRoshan Patel’s award-winning short film, Red Wolf Revival (2015), tells the story of the last remaining wild population of red wolves. Centered on the historic recovery effort in Eastern North Carolina, and co-starring Wildlands Network’s Ron Sutherland, the film documents the struggle to reintroduce one of the rarest animals on Earth in the face of cultural, economic, and biological challenges.

Watch Red Wolf Revival 

Campaign Priorities

Wildlands Network is focused on 3 primary activities to help save the red wolf.

  1. Conducting an ambitious wildlife camera-trapping project in North Carolina’s red wolf recovery area. Our ongoing results disprove any notion that wolves have eaten all of the deer or other game animals in the region. View our photographs at www.flickr.com/photos/redwolfreality/albums.

    Woman wearing field vest attaches a camera to a tree with a cord
    Wildlands Network’s Maggie Ernest deploys a remote camera to survey for red wolves. Photo: Ron Sunderland
  2. Promoting political pressure on the FWS to continue the Red Wolf Recovery Program. In 2016, we helped deliver a petition with nearly half a million signatures to FWS leaders, urging them to fulfill their legal duty on behalf of red wolves under the Endangered Species Act. We also organize informational meetings with Congressional and FWS staff in Washington, D.C.
  3. Advocating for red wolves in North Carolina via newspaper editorials, public presentations, and spirited rallies.

Partners

In our efforts to save red wolves in the wild, Wildlands Network collaborates with numerous organizations, including:

Take Action

Help us share our camera-trap results from the Red Wolf Recovery Area with as many people as possible view so they can see for themselves the diversity of wildlife in this area. Please circulate the link to our photos widely: www.flickr.com/photos/redwolfreality/albums, and support this project with your donation.

Also, with the election of a new governor in North Carolina, we have an exciting chance to change the political dynamics of red wolf protection.

Tweet for Red Wolves

Contact

For more information about our work to save red wolves, please contact Ron Sutherland, Conservation Scientist, ron@wildlandsnetwork.org.