Red Wolf Recovery Program
Southeast Region

Red Wolf Program Review

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Science leads Fish and Wildlife Service to significant changes for red wolf recovery

September 12, 2016

Recovery of the red wolf in the wild is feasible with significant changes that must be implemented to secure the captive and wild populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today it will begin implementing a series of actions based on the best and latest scientific information gathered over the past 21 months. Today’s announcement comes after a two-year, two-step evaluation of the entire red wolf recovery program, including the evaluation of the captive population and the non-essential, experimental population in Eastern North Carolina, that began in 2014 with a peer-reviewed program assessment by the Wildlife Management Institute. This review was expanded last June to include the recommendations of a red wolf recovery team that examined feasibility of recovery in the wild, population viability, red wolf taxonomy, the historical range, and human dimensions.

This team completed a report with a series of options earlier this month. The steps announced today by the Service are guided by that work.

The current non-essential experimental population in Dare, Hyde, Washington, Tyrrell, and Beaufort counties in eastern North Carolina.
Current Red Wolf NEP. Map by Roy Hewitt, USFWS.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Review of Red Wolf Recovery Program

In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intent to gather additional science and research to guide recovery of the red wolf, protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for more than four decades. At that time, the Service reaffirmed its management practices would be confined to the 1995 special rule (10j) currently in place. Since that announcement, the Service has taken steps to involve state partners and key stakeholders in this review that will support the agency’s recovery effort in future actions for red wolves.

The Service is adjusting its timeframe to complete the review addressing what may be needed for recovery and whether it can be implemented across the landscape by summer 2016. One step the Service is taking today is to reconvene a multi-faceted red wolf recovery team to address current and future needs to restore red wolves in the wild. The Service is responsible under the ESA to provide the best science-based conservation management aimed at recovering the red wolf. This review is part of the Service’s continuing commitment to get the science right and foster trust with stakeholders as issues regarding the recovery of the red wolf are addressed and implemented.

On June 30th, 2015 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will suspend reintroductions of red wolf into the wild while it gathers additional science and research into the feasibility of recovery for the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service intends to complete its review by the end of 2015. Existing red wolves located in five eastern North Carolina counties will be managed in accordance with rules put in place in 1995 to govern this population, designated “non-essential, experimental” under the ESA.

Wildlife Management Institute's Evaluation of Red Wolf Program

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) contracted with the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) to conduct an independent review and evaluation of the red wolf (Canis rufus) recovery program. At the direction of the FWS, the review focused on numerous questions with respect to three elements of the recovery program: supporting science, program management, and human dimensions. WMI reviewed more than 200 documents received from the FWS, interviewed 20 FWS employees and 4 North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) staff at various management levels, commissioned literature reviews of red wolf genetics and ecology, conducted 2 public meetings in the red wolf restoration area, and conducted public opinion surveys.

Please direct all press inquiries to Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291.

Fish and Wildlife Service Documents Referenced in the Evaluation

Download all FWS referenced documents - (.zip 406mb)


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Supporting Science

Program Management

Human Dimensions

Last Updated: September 14, 2016