The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has agreed to a legal settlement, committing to an eight-year plan to boost populations of endangered red wolves in North Carolina.
Legal Resolution: USFWS is settling a lawsuit filed by conservation groups by agreeing to continue releasing red wolves into the wild in North Carolina.
* Conservation groups claimed the USFWS had violated the Endangered Species Act, putting red wolves at risk of extinction to appease politicians and ranchers.
* The agency defended its commitment to red wolf recovery and emphasized the role of local communities and conservation partners in these efforts.
Historical Context: Red wolves were nearly driven to extinction by hunting, habitat loss and competition from growing coyote species.
* The wolves originally inhabited much of the Eastern U.S. but are now inhabiting only five counties in North Carolina.
* The wild population of red wolves has dwindled down to just over 30, according to a count in June 2023.
Recovery Program: The USFWS launched a program to recover the red wolf species in 1987, which led to the population stabilizing around 100 wolves by 2012.
* However, breeding and releasing of captive red wolves was suspended in 2015. The pause was planned to allow for a recovery program update, but coincided with “pressure from conservative politicians and landowners.”
The Settlement: Under the new agreement, USFWS will work with scientists, experts and adaptive management strategies to revive the red wolf population.
* The agency is also committed to decrease human-caused mortality and sterilize some local coyote populations.
* Wild red wolf pups were seen again in the wild in 2022, indicating a potential population upswing.
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