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An adult red wolf walking stealthily in a caged enclosure at the zoo.
Information icon Adult Red wolf. Photo by Brad McPhee, Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

Federal and state officials request assistance in investigation of gunshot red wolf

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are requesting assistance with an investigation involving the suspected illegal take of a radio-collared red wolf that was recently found dead.  The federally protected red wolf was found with an apparent gunshot wound on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, east of Columbia, in Tyrrell County, North Carolina. Based on body condition and field sign, the actual date of death is estimated to be Sept. 26, 2014.

This is the third red wolf death of 2014 resulting from a suspected gunshot.  The previous two suspected gunshot deaths occurred in January and March.  A total of 10 wild red wolves were known to have died in 2014, including two struck and killed by vehicles, one died incidental to otherwise legal activities, one due to health reasons, three were confirmed or suspected gunshot deaths, and the causes of three incidents are currently unknown.  Two of these cases are currently pending necropsies. The remaining wolf death for 2014 is undetermined.

The red wolf in North Carolina is protected under the Endangered Species Act as an experimental, non-essential population. This means that relaxed regulations allow landowners to kill a red wolf if it attacks their livestock or pets.  Additionally, a red wolf that is taken incidentally to any type of legal activity (e.g., trapping coyotes following state regulations) on private lands in the red wolf recovery area does not constitute a violation of the federal regulation, provided that the taking is not intentional or willful, and is reported to the Service or the Commission with 24 hours.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes that no legitimate conservation purpose would be served by bringing an enforcement action under the ESA in such cases, and only intentional or willful take will be prosecuted on private lands.

It is important to report red wolf incidents quickly so that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel can respond quickly to minimize conflicts and retrieve any carcasses for necropsy before such carcasses deteriorate to the degree that necropsy results are compromised.

If someone accidentally kills a red wolf, they must report it by calling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service toll-free at 1-855-4-WOLVES (1-855-496-5837) or the N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission at 1-800-662-7137.

Anyone with information that directly leads to an arrest, a criminal conviction, a civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property on the subject or subjects responsible for the suspected illegal take of a red wolf may be eligible for a reward. The Service is offering a reward of $2,500 for information that leads to the successful prosecution in this case.

Anyone with information on the death of this red wolf or any others, past or future, is urged to contact Resident Agent in Charge John Elofson at 404-763-7959, Refuge Officer Frank Simms at 252-216-7504, or N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Robert Wayne at 252-216-8225.

To get up-to-date red wolf mortality information, visit http://www.fws.gov/redwolf/Images/MortalityTable.pdf.

Background

The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids.  Once widely-distributed throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations have been decimated due to intensive predator control programs, hybridization with coyotes and loss of habitat.  A remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana.  After being declared an endangered species in 1967, efforts were initiated to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible.  Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful zoo-based breeding program.  Consequently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.

The first litter of red wolves born in captivity occurred in 1977.  By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina.  Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres.

About 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in five northeastern North Carolina counties.  Additionally, nearly 200 red wolves comprise the Species Survival Plan managed breeding program in sites across the United States, still an essential element of red wolf recovery.

The red wolf is one of two species of wolves in North America, the other being the gray wolf, (Canis lupus).  As their name suggests, red wolves are known for the characteristic reddish color of their fur most apparent behind the ears and along the neck and legs, but are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs.  Intermediate in size to gray wolves and coyotes, the average adult red wolf weighs 45-80 pounds, stands about 26 inches at the shoulder and is about four feet long from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.

Red wolves are social animals that live in packs consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring of different years, typically five to eight animals.  Red wolves prey on a variety of wild mammals such as raccoon, rabbit, white-tailed deer, nutria, and other rodents.  Most active at dusk and dawn, red wolves are elusive and generally avoid humans and human activity.

To learn more about red wolves and the Service’s efforts to recover them, please visit fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/mammals/red-wolf.

Contacts

Art Beyer, USFWS
252-473-1132 x 241
arthur_beyer@fws.gov

Phil Kloer, USFWS
404-679-7291
Philip_Kloer@fws.gov

Geoff Cantrell, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
919-707-0186
geoff.cantrell@ncwildlife.org

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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