Thursday, December 13, 2012

Red Wolves Under the Gun

Sixteen endangered red wolves (Canis rufus) have been killed in North Carolina in 2012. A temporary change in state law that allows hunting of coyotes at night, appears to be contributing to the slightly built red wolf being mistaken for a coyote. The wolves are frequently mistaken for coyotes even in daylight since they are similar in coat and coloration. Yearling wolves are also similar in size and weight. Seven of the wolf deaths were caused by gunshots. The red wolf is one of the world's most endangered canids. It was declared extinct in the wild in 1980, but successful breeding from a remanent population found along the Gulf Coast allowed it to be introduced into the wild. A restoration program began at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina in 1987. Since then the experimental population expanded to three more wildlife refuges and other state and private property. Now about 100 red wolves live in five north eastern counties of North Carolina, and 200 wolves are still part of the captive breeding program.

Unfortunately red wolves, which are not as large as their grey wolf* relatives, interbreed with coyotes, a species not native to the region. The numerous coyote is considered a "pest species". The US Fish & Wildlife Service sterilizes coyotes living in red wolf habitat. Shooting sterilized coyotes will defeat effective biological control of coyotes and further jeopardize the survival of the native red wolf population. A National Forest Service ranger was fatally shot by a Georgia hunter who claimed he was shooting at coyote eye shine in the night. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a court challenge to the temporary rule allowing spotlight hunting for coyotes at night. A preliminary injunction was granted by Wake County Superior Court to stop night hunting for coyotes in the five counties that are inhabited by red wolves. A permanent rule allowing spotlight hunting of coyotes is still under consideration by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

*Grey wolves are once again being exterminated in the Rocky Mountains since loosing their protected status under the federal Endangered Species Act. Nine Yellowstone Park wolves have been killed since hunting began. The latest victim of this remorseless persecution was the Alpha female of the notable Larmar Valley pack. She was wearing a research telemetry collar when she was killed accross the Park boundary in Wyoming. Such senseless killing makes no-hunting buffer zones around the Park a necessity to protect it's beloved wildlife from UNFRIENDLY humans.