The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting assistance with an investigation involving the suspected illegal shooting death of the fifth red wolf in the past month.
In the latest death, the federally protected wolf’s body was recovered with a gunshot would on Monday, Nov. 18 from private property north of the town of Creswell, in Washington County, North Carolina.
Anyone with information that directly leads to an arrest, criminal conviction, civil penalty assessment or forfeiture of property on the subject or subjects responsible for the suspected unlawful take of a red wolf may be eligible for a reward of up to $26,000.
Pledged contributions from the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Red Wolf Coalition, Humane Society of the United States, and the Center for Biological Diversity have increased the reward amount for information on the suspected illegal take of the five radio-collared red wolves that were found dead in the last month in Washington and Tyrrell counties, North Carolina.
A total of 13 red wolves have died since January 1. Of those 13, three were struck and killed by vehicles, one died as a result of non-management related actions, one was undetermined but appears to be the result of suspected illegal take, and eight were confirmed or suspected gunshot deaths.
The red wolf is protected under The Endangered Species Act. The maximum criminal penalties for the unlawful taking of a red wolf are one year in prison and $100,000 fine per individual.
Anyone with information on the death of this red wolf or any others, past or future, is urged to contact Resident Agent in Charge John Elofson at (404) 763-7959, Refuge Officer Frank Simms at (252) 216-7504, or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Robert Wayne at (252) 216-8225.
The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids. Once common throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations have been decimated due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat.
After being declared an endangered species in 1967, efforts were initiated to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful zoo-based breeding program. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.
But a remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. The first litter of red wolves born in captivity occurred in 1977. By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina.
Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres.
About 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in five northeastern North Carolina counties while nearly 200 red wolves comprise the Species Survival Plan managed breeding program in sites across the country, still an essential element of red wolf recovery.
The red wolf is one of two species of wolves in North America, the other being the gray wolf, (Canis lupus). As their name suggests, red wolves are known for the characteristic reddish color of their fur most apparent behind the ears and along the neck and legs, but are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs. Intermediate in size to gray wolves and coyotes, the average adult red wolf weighs 45-80 pounds, stands about 26 inches at the shoulder and is about four feet long from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.
Red wolves are social animals that live in packs consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring of different years, typically five to eight animals. Red wolves prey on a variety of wild mammals such as raccoon, rabbit, white-tailed deer, nutria and other rodents. Most active at dusk and dawn, red wolves are elusive and generally avoid humans and human activity.
To learn more about red wolves and the service’s efforts to recover them, please visit this Website.
© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.