Four Critically Endangered Red Wolves & Four Pups Were Released From Captivity Into The Wild To Save The Last Seven Remaining From Extinction
Photos from the Endangered Wolf Center
Promising news as four critically endangered red wolves were just released into the wild in North Carolina. Four red wolf pups were also released to be raised by a female wild red wolf who will serve as their foster mother. The goal of the releases is to assist maintaining the only wild population of the most critically endangered wolf in the world.
The release of the four American adult red wolves from the Endangered Wolf Center, Wolf Conservation Center, and Wolf Haven International into a protected refuge in North Carolina took place on April 30th and May 1st. As noted by the Endangered Wolf Center on its website, this marks the first time since 1998 that adult American red wolves were released into the wild from managed care facilities.
The move comes after conservation groups won a federal court ruling in January that required the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to prepare a plan to release captive red wolves into the wild to avoid irreversible harm to the critically endangered population during ongoing litigation.
“Getting more red wolves in the wild in North Carolina is what we’ve been fighting for, and this is finally a step in the right direction,” Sierra Weaver, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement. “The ultimate question is going to be whether this marks a return to the service’s historic conservation commitment, or whether it is going to take more court orders to keep this up.”
Only seven red wolves remained in the wild following the agency’s refusal to release any captive wolves for the past six years. In 2015, the USFWS suspended its longstanding and successful practice of releasing captive red wolves within the approximately 1.7-million acre Red Wolf Recovery Area.
By contrast, during the first five years of its red wolf reintroduction program in eastern North Carolina, the USFWS released an average of eight wolves per year, totaling 134 red wolves over the program’s 35-year history. Proven conservation measures, such as captive red wolf releases, helped the wild red wolf population grow to nearly 130 animals in the late 2000s, and it was estimated at 100 or more wolves from 2002 to 2014.
As previously reported by WAN, The Southern Environmental Law Center sued the USFWS in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina on November 16, 2020, on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Welfare Institute for violations of the Endangered Species Act. This is caused by illegal agency policies that bar the use of proven management measures to save wild red wolves.
The groups filed for a motion for preliminary injunction in the case on November 19, 2020, seeking to temporarily prohibit the agency from implementing its recent policy change barring the release of captive wolves into the wild. That motion was granted on January 22, 2021, when the court ordered the USFWS to develop a plan for the release of captive red wolves into the wild during the pending litigation. This release of captive wolves into the wild population is pursuant to that plan.
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