Under the special rule for this population, FWS can authorize a private landowner to “take” a red wolf, including using lethal means, for no other reason than they don’t want them on their property. Moreover, because the mother’s den is apparently located on private property they are not allowed to access, FWS staff cannot retrieve the pups or get more information about their whereabouts and don’t even know if the pups are alive or if they have starved to death.
It’s absolutely unacceptable that FWS would allow this to happen to a known breeding female of such a fragile population, especially one who was exhibiting denning behavior at the time she was killed. The loss of any adult breeding wolf, especially a female, is a huge blow to the recovery of this critically endangered species. This entire event is a tragedy for red wolves and a black mark on the agency that’s supposed to be protecting them.
FWS should authorize the killing of endangered species only under extraordinary circumstances, such as when an animal is threatening human safety or repeatedly attacking livestock, and nonlethal methods to address the situation have proven ineffective. There is no evidence that such extraordinary circumstances were present in this case or that the female was doing anything other than behaving like a mother wolf with pups. Unfortunately, FWS policy sanctions the removal of red wolves from private property and even the killing of individual wolves simply because a landowner requests an animal’s removal. We think FWS owes North Carolinians and everyone who cares about red wolf recovery an explanation as to what nonlethal steps were taken to remove this female before she was shot.
We are calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to:
- Put an end to lethal control of red wolves—this species is far too critically endangered to allow the shooting death of even one individual, much less a breeding female.
- Revise the special rule to restrict the circumstances under which the FWS can authorize lethal removal of wolves from private lands at the request of the landowner.
- Release more wolves at additional release sites.
- Work on increasing social tolerance and reducing conflict in red wolf habitat.
We hope you will editorialize on this issue. We cannot allow missteps like this to continue when there are only about 100 red wolves that remain in the wild. FWS should never have signed off on the death of a red wolf, and this practice cannot continue if the species is ever to recover.
If you would like to interview our experts, have questions or would like additional information, please contact Haley McKey, 202-772-0247, 571-480-2113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.