The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is taking heat from scientists for their September 12th decision to abandon the wild red wolf population in North Carolina in favor of captive breeding programs.
USFWS based their decision to remove 32 of the 45 remaining red wolves left in the wild on a population viability analysis (PVA) conducted by a team of scientists — the same scientists now rebuking the USFWS for that decision.
In their letter to the USFWS, the scientists write:
“The September 12th decision on the future of the Red Wolf Recovery Program included many alarming misinterpretations of the PVA.”
The scientists claim that the USFWS’ interpretation of their population models is inaccurate, and the decision to remove the wild wolves would have a severe consequences:
“A singular focus on the [captive breeding programs] will no doubt result in extinction of red wolves in the wild … [with] a median time to extinction of 14 years.”
It’s unclear why the USFWS has decided to interpret the scientists’ analysis the way it has, authorizing the capture or killing of the red wolves and abandoning efforts to sustain the wild population.
However, it is clear that the USFWS values the concerns of private land owners over the future of the red wolf. According the the USFWS’ decision memo:
“Acknowledging growing concerns from private landowners regarding management of Service’s Red Wolf NEP project in eastern North Carolina, the Service and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission met to discuss and develop a canid management strategy.”
These landowners’ concerns do not match those of the majority of North Carolinians, who actually support efforts to enhance the wild red wolf population, according to a poll.
North Carolinians are not alone. In a petition sent to the USFWS, half a million red wolf supporters urged the agency not to abandon the red wolf.
Two months later, in a court hearing on September 14th, the Southern Environmental Law Center called for an injunction to halt the capture and killing of red wolves in the wild. The injunction was granted on September 29th by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
But unless the USFWS can revise it’s protection plan and make good on its mission to “conserve, protect, and enhance” these animals and their habitats, the future for the red wolf looks bleak.
According to Ron Sutherland, a conservation scientist at Wildlands Network:
“The red wolf is now one of the world’s most endangered mammal species.”