Following the shooting of two endangered red wolves in North Carolina last week, the Center for Biological Diversity is adding $5,000 to a $2,500 reward offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for information leading to the arrest, criminal conviction or civil penalty assessment for the killing of these two highly endangered animals. Since Jan. 1 six red wolves have been killed that the Fish and Wildlife Service has either confirmed, or suspects, were victims of illegal shootings. “Red wolves are among the most endangered mammals in North America, and the deliberate killing of these amazing animals is putting them on a direct path to extinction,” said Brett Hartl, the Center’s endangered species policy director. “We’re tripling the reward in the hope that someone with information about these terrible killings will come forward.”
Although once abundant along the entire coastal plain of the southeastern United States, after decades of relentless persecution the red wolf was on the brink of extinction. By 1970 the population had declined to fewer than 100 wolves; many were hybridizing with coyotes because they were unable to find other red wolves with whom to mate.
After the species was declared endangered in 1973 in a final attempt to save it, efforts were made to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Eventually 17 individuals were captured for captive-breeding efforts. Wolf releases began in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in the mid 1980s, but recovery efforts have repeatedly been thwarted by illegal shootings. The population of red wolves in North Carolina has remained around 100 animals in the wild.
“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service will increase both its law-enforcement and outreach efforts to stem the growing tide of illegal poaching,” said Hartl.
Anyone with information on the deaths of these red wolves, or any others, is urged to contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Sandra Allred at (919) 856-4786; Refuge Officer Chris Smith at (252) 926-4021; or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Robert Wayne at (252) 216-8225.