Federal government abandons plan to reduce habitat for rare red wolves

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Federal wildlife officials who oversee the world’s only wild population of endangered red wolves said on Wednesday they were abandoning a …

Federal wildlife officials who oversee the world’s only wild population of endangered red wolves said on Wednesday they were abandoning a 2018 plan to limit animal range and loosen protections for wolves that have become extinct. away from this area.

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 a wild population of just 10 wolves.

A press release from the Federal Wildlife Agency 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 wolves wanders in the wild outside zoos or wildlife refuges. The 2018 proposal would have limited wolves to two counties and given landowners more leeway to kill wolves that have strayed on private property outside that area.

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 in January to come up with a plan to bring more wolves from captive-breeding programs back into the wild. Prior to the ruling, the practice had largely been halted in recent years.

Federal wildlife officials said in the press release that they are also working to sterilize coyotes that compete with wolves for the territory.

“The Service will continue to work with stakeholders to identify ways to encourage and facilitate a more effective coexistence between humans and wolves,” the statement said.

Ron Sutherland, a Wildlands Network biologist who closely studies wolves, applauded Wednesday’s announcement but noted that the wolf situation remains dire with only 10 confirmed wolves in the wild.

“The species is on the slippery and crumbling edge of the literal edge of extinction, and it is so crucial that we now see positive conservation action from federal and state agencies to save Canis rufus,” a- he said in an email.

A lawyer from the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents conservation groups that have sued the federal government said the agency must step up efforts to increase the wild wolf population.

“We are pleased that the Fish and Wildlife Service is finally withdrawing its nefarious proposal to remove protections for wild red wolves and significantly reduce their protected area, but the question remains: will the agency commit to taking action? conservation measures proven to save the world’s rarest wildlife? wolves, including reintroductions? attorney Sierra Weaver said in an email.

Red wolves once occupied much of the eastern United States, but were nearly extinct through trapping, hunting, and habitat loss before being reintroduced to North Carolina in 1987. Zoo scientists and other sites have maintained a captive population of around 200 wolves in recent years. .

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