Tragically, Only 9 Critically Endangered Red Wolves Remain In The Wild; A New Lawsuit Is Pushing For A Recovery Plan To Save Them

Photo by B. Bartel, USFWS

According to a legal agreement reached as a result of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must update its plan for saving critically endangered red wolves in the next two and a half years. Red wolves, which are native to the southeastern United States, have sadly dwindled to only nine known individuals in the wild, living in the eastern part of North Carolina.

“With only nine wolves known to remain in the wild, the red wolf desperately needed this good news,” Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center, said in a statement. “The science shows that the red wolf can be saved, and I am hopeful that a new recovery plan will put the species back on the road to recovery.”

The agreement, approved on October 2nd by a North Carolina federal court, requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a final revised recovery plan for red wolves by February 28, 2023.

This victory is the result of the Center’s 2019 lawsuit, which challenged the Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to revise the outdated recovery plan from 1990. The Center filed its suit after the Service failed to follow through on its commitment to update the decades-old recovery plan by the end of 2018.

The Endangered Species Act requires that the agency prepare plans that serve as roadmaps to species recovery, identifying measures needed to ensure conservation and survival, such as reintroductions.

Last year, the Center released a report identifying five potential reintroduction sites that together could support nearly 500 breeding pairs of red wolves. All the sites are on public lands in: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service has not taken steps to reintroduce red wolves elsewhere and has stopped taking action, such as widespread sterilization of coyotes to prevent hybrid animals from harming the gene pool which is necessary to conserve the remaining wild population.

“Time is running out to save red wolves and government foot-dragging has only made the problem worse,” continued Adkins. “It’s frustrating that we’ve had to sue time and again to get action. Hopefully this win finally gets these vulnerable wolves the help they need.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release a draft revised red wolf recovery plan next year. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the draft plan.

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