FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 9, 1997

Diana M. Hawkins or

Vicki M. Boatwright



PETITION TO REMOVE RED WOLF FROM

FEDERAL ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST FOUND UNWARRANTED

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that a petition by the National Wilderness Institute to remove the endangered red wolf from the national list of threatened and endangered species does not present substantial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted.

According to the Service's Southeast Regional Director, Sam Hamilton, the decision followed a thorough review of the petition, the literature cited in the petition, other available literature and data, and consultations with wolf and molecular genetics experts.

Hamilton said that there were three reasons for the finding: first, neither the data submitted by the petitioner nor other available data provide conclusive evidence to support the petitioner's contention that the red wolf is a wolf/coyote hybrid; second, the petition misinterprets recent DNA data as being conclusive evidence of hybrid origin of the red wolf; and third, the Service has determined that the best scientific and commercial data available justifies continued listing for the red wolf. A notice of the Service's finding appeared in the Federal Register on December 9, 1997.

The endangered red wolf once roamed throughout what is now the southeastern United States, but predator control programs and shrinking habitat caused a serious decline in its numbers. By 1980, the species was considered to be extinct in the wild. The red wolf was declared an endangered species under the provisions of the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1967. With the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the red wolf recovery program was developed and implemented.

The Service's red wolf recovery program was begun in the 1970s when the Service initiated a captive-breeding program for the red wolf. To start the program, the last remaining red wolves were trapped in the wild and placed in captive-breeding facilities. Of more than 400 wild canids caught from 1974 through 1980, only 14 proved to be red wolves. These 14 founders represent the origin of the present red wolf program.

The Service's efforts to reestablish wild red wolf populations have met with significant success. From 1987 through 1997, 71 captive animals were released into the Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuges and adjacent lands and since 1991, 37 animals have been released in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Today, there are approximately 275 red wolves at 40 locations, including approximately 80 free-ranging red wolves at two reintroduction sites.

The red wolf is a shy, secretive, animal that preys mostly on a variety of small-to medium-sized mammals, from rodents to white-tailed deer. The species is not as pack-oriented as the larger gray wolf, and it is believed that red wolves mate for life.

Overall, public acceptance of the red wolf reestablishment program has been high. Since late 1995, three separate surveys have been conducted to assess the public's attitude towards the red wolf and to determine if returning the predator to the wild provides any tangible economic benefits.

These economic and attitude surveys consistently show that the majority of the residents of the southeastern United States and in various locations where red wolves have been released support the red wolf program. The economic studies also show substantial potential tourism benefits and a significant willingness on the public's part to pay for red wolf recovery.

Questions concerning the petition finding for the recovery program for the red wolf should be addressed to the Red Wolf Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801. Telephone: 704-258-3939, extension 226; Fax: 704-258-5330;

e-mail: gary_henry@mail.fws.gov.

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Release #: R97-110.


1997 News Releases

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