For the first time in years, the endangered red wolf recovery program in coastal North Carolina has released captive-born red wolves into the wild. The releases could represent a major step toward restoring a viable wild population of this critically endangered species which is native to this state.
The eight wolves (four adults and four cubs) were released this month pursuant to a federal court order requiring the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to return to the planned releases. Before these releases, the USFWS had effectively abandoned the species recovery effort, allowing the wild red wolf population to dwindle from 130 in 2000 to as few as seven last year.
The new releases from the red wolf captive breeding programs came about due to the Red Wolf Coalition’s victory in court. The coalition was represented by the Southern Environmental Law Foundation, and have fought for the species’ recovery in part of its historic range, through the recovery effort based in wildlife refuges of Eastern North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula.
“The Red Wolf Coalition is grateful to the Species Survival Plan participants that made these releases possible,” said Kim Wheeler, executive director of Red Wolf Coalition. “Our hope is that these newly released red wolves will flourish in the wild, and that the USFWS Red Wolf Recovery Program will continue to take actions that offer a path forward toward recovery in North Carolina.”