The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the red wolf on Dec. 21 and is offering a reward of $2,500 for information regarding the culprit. Defenders of Wildlife, whose regional director Ben Prater called the death a “tragedy” that is “inexcusable,” will match the FWS award.
Though fewer than 45 red wolves remain in the wild, the species once ranged from Pennsylvania to Florida and west to Texas. However, habitat loss and hunting reduced the population until it eventually became extinct in the wild. The FWS has since tried to reintroduce them in the wild, with a failed effort in the Smokies followed by a reintroduction in eastern North Carolina.
The population in eastern North Carolina has been the subject of a legal back-and-forth in recent years. The most recent chapter in the story involved the FWS’s decision to curtail reintroduction efforts in eastern North Carolina, a decision that many environmental groups decried.