Breaking! North Carolina Court Rules For The Release Of Captive Red Wolves To Save The Last Seven Remaining In The Wild From Extinction

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled in a case brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must develop a plan by March 1, 2021, to resume its longstanding and successful practice of releasing captive red wolves into the Red Wolf Recovery Area in North Carolina. The case was brought on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute.

As reported by WAN last month, there are tragically as few as seven red wolves remaining in the wild today. The court order temporarily prohibits the agency from implementing its recent policy change that would prevent the release of captive wolves into the wild.

On November 16, 2020, the Southern Environmental Law Center sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina for violations of the Endangered Species Act. This was caused by new, illegal agency policies that bar the use of proven management measures to save wild red wolves on behalf of Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Animal Welfare Institute. It filed for a motion for preliminary injunction in the case on November 19, 2020.

“With only seven known red wolves left in the wild, it is past time for the Fish and Wildlife Service to resume conservation measures that it used successfully for decades,” Sierra Weaver, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the conservation organizations, said in a statement. “The court was clear that the agency has to stop managing red wolves into extinction and instead take meaningful action to rebuild the wild red wolf population in North Carolina.”

“We are grateful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will finally abide by its responsibility to protect this critically endangered wolf,” stated Ben Prater, Southeast program director at Defenders of Wildlife. “Releasing wolves into the wild is a common sense, science-backed approach to boost this population and stave off the red wolf’s extinction. While the species has a long way to go, this is a major step in the right direction.”

“This is a vital ruling that will breathe new life into the Red Wolf Recovery Program,” noted Johanna Hamburger, director and senior staff attorney for AWI’s terrestrial wildlife program. “The Court held that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s passive efforts to manage the wild red wolf population are woefully inadequate to recover the species. By ordering the agency to once again release wolves from captivity into the wild population, the Court is requiring much-needed action to prevent the continued downward spiral of this species.”

“The Red Wolf Coalition is grateful that the court saw the importance of releasing captive red wolves to the wild population,” said Kim Wheeler, Executive Director of Red Wolf Coalition. “These additional red wolves will add genetic diversity and breeding opportunities to the wild population in northeastern North Carolina.”

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