Stronger Regulations Needed to Stem Illegal Shootings, Expand Where Wild Wolves Can RoamWASHINGTON— Conservation groups submitted an emergency petition today calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take immediate steps to bolster flagging protections for the world’s only wild population of red wolves, which has declined by more than 50 percent in just two years, to as few as 45 wolves. The decline occurred after the Service – responding to pressure from those opposed to wolf recovery – deliberately abandoned wolf-recovery efforts and dramatically curtailed investigations of illegal wolf-shootings.
“Red wolves face the very real possibility of vanishing from the wild if they don’t get the help they need,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Sadly the Fish and Wildlife Service seems more concerned about appeasing a small minority of anti-wildlife extremists in North Carolina than preventing the extinction of these wolves.”
Recently obtained records via the Freedom of Information Act demonstrate that the Service’s red wolf biologists recommended strengthening protections by eliminating loopholes in regulations that have facilitated excessive illegal shootings of red wolves. As recently as 2013, the Service had considered following these recommendations and had even drafted new regulations. But the biologists’ recommendations were ignored, the regulations were never finalized, and the red wolf continues to suffer unsustainable levels of mortality.
Today’s emergency petition requests that the Service revise the current red wolf regulations in order to reduce red wolf shooting deaths, establish additional wild populations of red wolves, and reclassify all reintroduced populations of red wolves as “essential” experimental populations. Currently, wild red wolves are classified as “non-essential,” which severely limits the protections they receive under the Endangered Species Act.
“It is completely arbitrary that this lone wild population of red wolves, which was reintroduced almost 30 years ago, is still classified by the Service as a ‘non-essential’ species,” said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “The Service has turned its back on this species, and is undermining rather than bolstering red wolf recovery.”
The organizations that filed today’s petition include the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Endangered Species Coalition, the South Florida Wildlands Association, WildEarth Guardians, Wildlands Network, and the Wolf Conservation Center. Learn more about the Critically endangered red wolf and the our efforts to recover them.