Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 14, 2023

Contact:

Will Harlan, (828) 230-6818, WHarlan@biologicaldiversity.org

Reward Raised to $15,000 for Information on Red Wolf Killing in North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C.— The Center for Biological Diversity today increased the reward to $15,000 for information leading to a successful prosecution in the illegal killing of an endangered red wolf in Washington County, North Carolina.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a $5,000 reward last week, and the Center is offering an additional $10,000.

“We grieve the senseless killing of one of the most endangered mammals on the planet, and we want the perpetrator brought to justice,” said Will Harlan, Southeast director at the Center. “This is a cowardly act against one of the only red wolves in the wild. We hope someone steps forward with information.”

The red wolf was shot dead along a fence line south of Newland Road in Washington County on May 18. A necropsy revealed that the red wolf was shot in the torso, causing it to fall where it was found. Gunshots are the leading cause of death for red wolves.

Only 13 red wolves remain in the wild. Five counties in eastern North Carolina surrounding the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge are home to the world’s only wild red wolf population.

Red wolves are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Violations carry maximum penalties of $50,000 and a year in prison. Civil penalties can range up to $25,000 per violation.

Anyone with information about the red wolf killing should contact North Carolina Division of Refuge Enforcement Capt. Frank Simms at (252) 216-7504 or Special Agent Matthew Brink at (919) 856-4786 ext. 37.

Background

Red wolves were once common throughout the eastern United States. In the past century, they were hunted to extinction in the wild. Red wolves were one of the first species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

In the 1980s, the Service began a red wolf reintroduction program that released captive-bred red wolves into eastern North Carolina. The red wolf reintroduction program was one of the most innovative and successful programs ever for a critically endangered carnivore, and by 2010 more than 150 red wolves had returned to the wild.

Unfortunately, their populations crashed to fewer than eight in the past decade, primarily due to gunshot mortality, vehicle collisions and agency inaction. Instead of strengthening protections for critically endangered red wolves, in 2018 the Service announced it was halting its effort to help them recover in the wild.

The agency stopped releasing red wolves from captivity into their recovery area, stopped investigating red wolf deaths and ended a highly successful red wolf education program. With so few red wolves left, the Center released a comprehensive 2019 report outlining actions needed to save them from extinction. The Center also filed a lawsuit challenging the Service’s failure to revise its outdated recovery plan from 1990.

Following that suit and other advocacy, last year the Service announced it was renewing its efforts to ensure that the red wolves not only survive in the wild but make a full recovery. The Service recently committed to providing annual plans for releasing captive-bred wolves into the wild. Earlier this year, five red wolf pups were born in the wild and the red wolf population is increasing.

Red wolves are named for their characteristic red fur. They are slightly smaller than their grey wolf cousins but larger than coyotes, weighing between 45 and 80 pounds. They are classified as critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Red_Wolf_B_Bartel_USFWS_FPWC.jpg
Red Wolf. Credit: B. Bartel/USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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