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Press Release

Red Wolf Recovery Program to Resume in Earnest, Raising Ray of Hope for Survival

WASHINGTON -

After years of litigation and advocacy by the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday night that it is revitalizing the effort to save the red wolf from extinction. In an online meeting, the Service announced that it is redoubling its efforts to ensure that the red wolf not only survives in the wild but makes a full recovery.

“It’s heartening to see that the Biden administration has found the political will to save and restore the wild red wolf population on North Carolina’s Albemarle Peninsula,” said Perrin de Jong, North Carolina staff attorney at the Center. “We thank the Department of the Interior’s new, courageous leadership for bringing about this course correction.”

The agency has committed to meeting nearly all of the key demands that the Center has made of the Biden administration for this program, including:

  • Resuming robust releases of red wolves into the wild population;
  • Using a local coyote sterilization program to protect red wolf genetics;
  • Deploying a pup-fostering program to increase the size of wild red wolf litters;
  • Rewriting the red wolf recovery plan, including an exploration of new reintroduction sites for wild red wolves;
  • Taking steps to protect the safety of wild red wolves, including public outreach programs to build good will among local residents in the recovery area.

Last year the Biden administration officially abandoned a red wolf management rule proposed by the Trump administration that would have shrunk its protected range to 10% of the current size and legalized the killing of any wolf that wandered off federal lands.

Red wolves were once abundant across the Southeast, but the species is now the most endangered canid in the world. Today only eight known wild red wolves remain in the wild, surviving in five sparsely populated counties in eastern North Carolina. The last known red wolf litter was born in the wild in 2018.

“To stabilize and recover the wild population, the Service will need to not only begin, but maintain robust reintroductions of red wolves on an ongoing basis,” said de Jong.

In 2020 and 2021, seven adult red wolves were released into the wild population. In 2021 alone, seven red wolves were confirmed killed by vehicle strikes, gunshots and unknown causes. Gunshots are the leading cause of death for wild red wolves, followed by vehicle strikes.

“To fulfill the promise of the Endangered Species Act and truly restore the red wolf to the Southeast, the Service will need to not only save the North Carolina population but also restore the species to the many worthy sites across the region that can support it,” said de Jong.

Twenty thousand acres of prime habitat across five southeastern states have been identified as potential reintroduction sites for the species.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

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