The red wolf, Canis rufus, currently exists only as a small population in one part of North Carolina. It’s listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered, which means it’s one step away from being extinct in the wild.
That’s why it strikes us as odd that, hidden in a Senate report related to funding for the Department of the Interior, is an order to end the red wolf recovery program that’s currently being run by the federal government.
“The Committee acknowledges the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s request that the [Fish and Wildlife] Service end the Red Wolf recovery program and declare the Red Wolf extinct,” it said.
It cites impacts on “landowners and other species” as being the reason, also noting that “the program has failed to meet population goals for the red wolf.” The text contains no citations to any research that backs up these claims.
“The Committee encourages the Service to consider ending the program in fiscal year 2018,” it concludes.
Right now, thanks to habitat destruction in the 1960s, there are only around 45 to 60 red wolves left in the wild. They had to be reintroduced after an extensive breeding program succeeded in bringing them back from being extinct in the wild in 1987.
At the time of writing, it still says on the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) website that red wolves are “one of the world’s most endangered wild canids.”
“Currently, adaptive management efforts are making good progress in…building the wild red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina,” it adds.
Despite this, the aforementioned North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission has for several years now wanted to end the recovery program for the reasons cited in the report. Landowners and hunters generally support the move to push red wolves into extinction.
Most scientists and conservationists, however, disagree, and it seems the FWS has been on their side until the recent changing of the guard.