With only 35 red wolves accounted for within the U.S., the rare species of wolf is considered critically endangered. Found only within eastern North Carolina, preserving this unique species has been a controversial topic among residents and conservationists. In fact, the red wolves recovery efforts have been met with strong opposition from wildlife officials and landowners. This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) presented a proposal that would limit the red wolves range to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, which is currently home to only about a dozen of the 35 wolves, The Washington Post reports.
If the proposal is passed, this refuge would be the only safe place for the wolves to live. Any wolf that wanders onto private property could be shot by the landowner under this proposal, essentially making the 30-year recovery efforts moot.
Leopoldo Miranda is FWS’s assistant director for ecological services for the southeast region. He says that the proposal would focus on managing “a small population of 10 to 15 red wolves at the refuge to preserve their genetic value and wild behaviors” while the state looks for a better area for the wolves to live; however, future locations for the wolves have not been released.
“Success for me right now is to keep this smaller wild population as intact as possible,” Miranda told The Washington Post.
The proposal has angered many, especially Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ.) who is the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t just neglecting its duties, it’s actively undermining its own role as the protector of our nation’s endangered species,” Grijalva said. “Their only native home is the United States. FWS is passing a death sentence on an animal as American as the bald eagle.”
Should the proposal be approved, roughly two dozen of the rare red wolves “would be left to survive on their own or potentially be legally shot by property owners,” according to The Washington Post. A public meeting is scheduled for July 10 to discuss the proposal and FWS will be collecting public comments on the proposal starting Thursday. If you wish to weigh on the topic, click HERE.