Federal government abandons plan to reduce habitat for North Carolina red wolves after criticism | State and regional news

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JONATHAN DREW Associated Press

Federal officials overseeing the world’s only wild population of endangered red wolves have announced that they are abandoning a 2018 plan to limit animal range and relax protections for those who stray.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service made the announcement as part of an ongoing legal battle with conservation groups who claim the federal agency violated endangered species law by abandoning strategies that supported the wild population of wolves. Conservation groups welcomed the move, but said more needed to be done to bolster the wild population.

Red wolves once occupied much of the eastern United States, but came close to extinction due to trapping, hunting and habitat loss before being reintroduced to North Carolina in 1987. Scientists at zoos and other sites have maintained a captive population of around 200 wolves in recent years. .

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said it would follow previous rules that recognize an area of ​​five counties in eastern North Carolina as wolf habitat – the only place in the world where the red wolf roams the state. wild outside zoos or shelters. The 2018 proposal would have limited wolves to two counties and given landowners more leeway to kill those who have strayed onto their property.

In the statement, federal wildlife officials also asserted the agency’s power to release more wolves from captivity to bolster the wild population. Federal authorities have resumed releases of captive-bred wolves after U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle ordered the government to come up with a plan to bring more of them into the wild. Prior to the ruling, the practice had largely been halted in recent years.


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