September 15, 1997

Diana M. Hawkins or

Vicki M. Boatwright



Wildlife biologist Brian T. Kelly, who for the past 16-years has been immersed in the study and research of black bears, coyotes, foxes, red wolves and other predators, was recently appointed lead biologist and coordinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's red wolf field projects.

From his new base of operations at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge near Manteo in northeast North Carolina, Kelly will supervise 2 biologists, 2 biological technicians and oversee field project activities throughout the Southeast.

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, and by 1980 the species was considered to be extinct in the wild.

The Service's red wolf reestablishment program, in which Kelly now plays a leadership role, came into being in the late 1970's when the Service initiated a captive-breeding program for the red wolf. Animals were trapped in the wild and placed in captive-breeding facilities. Of more than 400 wild canids caught during this period, only 14 proved to be viable, reproducing, red wolves. These 14 founders represent the origin of the present red wolf program.

Kelly, who holds a degree in fish and wildlife science from Utah State University in Logan, Utah, and a masters degree in wildlife resources from the University of Idaho, has authored scientific publications on such topics as coyote food habits, predation and population dynamics and is currently coauthoring a book chapter on red wolf restoration.

Immediately prior to taking his current position with the Service, Kelly served as Manager of Animal Care Resources with Hill's Pet Nutrition in Topeka, Kansas. He held another private industry position with EG&G Measurements Inc. of Goleta, California, where he spent a little more than 2 years studying kit foxes, beginning in May 1983.

His new appointment is not his first stint with a Federal agency. He began his career in wildlife biology and conservation in 1981, when he performed predator-prey research for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Utah. Later, he spent 4 years conducting research for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Predator Ecology Project, starting in October 1992. During his career, he has also conducted studies and performed wildlife research for the Wildlife Research Institute, the University of Idaho, Utah State University and as a private contractor.

. The Service's efforts to reestablish red wolf wild populations have met with significant success. From 1987 through 1997, 71 captive animals were released into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent lands. There are now 70-80 wolves living in northeastern North Carolina. The red wolf is a shy, secretive, animal that preys mostly on small-to medium-sized mammals. Red wolves prey on a variety of species, from rodents to white-tailed deer. It 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 predators to the wild provides any tangible economic benefits.

The most recent study, conducted by Cornell University last year, found that in a telephone survey of 507 randomly selected heads of households in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, 75 to 79 percent of those surveyed favored red wolf recovery at existing sites and 70 percent favored a third recovery site. More than 70 percent of the participants said they wanted to visit one of the recovery areas; and 37 percent said that if the red wolves were removed they would be less likely to visit.

A conservative estimate based upon the results of the Cornell study indicates that, as a tourist attraction, red wolf activities could attract an additional 25,204 households per year to the eastern North Carolina reintroduction area and an additional 87,351 households per year to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park reintroduction area. Based upon reported average household spending per trip by past visitors to these areas, these increased visits would be expected to generate $37.5 million per year in eastern North Carolina and about $132.1 million per year in the national park area. The public's willingness to pay for red wolf recovery, therefore, far exceeds the cost of the program, which is estimated at $3.27 million per year for the 8 states surveyed and an annual $18.3 million, nationally.

In another study, East Carolina University surveyed 68 individuals from 11 eastern North Carolina counties that are most likely to be affected by the presence of the red wolf. This survey showed strong support for the red wolf recovery program at the local level, with 80 percent of the respondents indicating that they believe the program is important and 58 percent indicating that they believe that the reintroduction program has been successful. The most striking result was that 76 percent of the local participants thought the program so sufficiently worthwhile that they would be willing to contribute funds to support the program.

A third major study was an attitude survey conducted by North Carolina State University in 1995 in five northeastern North Carolina counties. It was conducted during a congressional review of the Endangered Species Act that was accompanied by much adverse publicity directed at endangered species including the red wolf. This study involved interviews with 600 people in Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington counties and found that 52 percent of the people interviewed supported the reintroduction of red wolves, while 30 percent opposed it and 18 percent had no opinion.


Release #: R97-85

1997 News Releases

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