Groups Seek to Protect Endangered Red Wolves in Recovery Area from Deadly Mistaken Identity

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Oct. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Conservation organizations today challenged North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission's authorization of coyote hunting—including by spotlight at night—in the five county area of eastern North Carolina inhabited by the world's only wild population of about 100 red wolves. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina on behalf of the Animal Welfare Institute, Red Wolf Coalition, and Defenders of Wildlife.

By authorizing the shooting of coyotes within the Red Wolf Recovery Area, the commission is causing unlawful take (i.e., harass, harm, hunt, or kill) of the red wolf. In July, the law center notified the commission that it was in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act by allowing hunting of coyotes within the Red Wolf Recovery Area, and that the groups would file a federal enforcement action unless the commission took steps to protect the wolves.

Red wolves and coyotes are similar in appearance so red wolves are frequently mistaken for coyotes, even in daylight. Since 2008, 20 red wolves have died from confirmed gunshot. Gunshot is the suspected cause of death for an additional 18 wolves. Five tracking collars cut from red wolves were also found during this period, indicating to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel that wolves may have been shot and disposed of unlawfully. Since 2012, five shooters who killed red wolves have reported to authorities that they mistook the wolves for coyotes.

"Following the mandate of the Endangered Species Act, the federal government has gone to great lengths to reintroduce the red wolf into the wild and provide for its recovery," said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. "For a state agency to encourage hunting—in the middle of the recovery area—of an animal that cannot readily be distinguished from the red wolf, and to further sanction such hunting at night, defies logic and certainly sabotages red wolf recovery."

Note to Editors:

SOURCE Animal Welfare Institute



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