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Feds decide to put hold on wolf program

out redwolfReintroductions of endangered red wolves in eastern North Carolina will cease for the rest of 2015 following a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put a hold on the program. 

The time-out will allow for a new feasibility study on resurrecting the species, which should be completed by year’s end. Existing red wolves in the five-county coastal area will not be taken out, but no more will be reintroduced from the captive breeding programs until the study concludes.

They are the world’s only wild population of red wolves. Red wolves were briefly reintroduced in the Smokies, but the reintroduction was deemed unsuccessful.

The latest development follows a court battle between the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and a coalition of environmental organizations, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center. Environmental groups are opposed to coyote hunting in red wolf country. Coyotes and red wolves look the same, and mistaken identity by hunters has led to red wolves being shot.

In November, a compromise was reached to allow daytime coyote hunting in the five counties in question as long as hunters report kills and have a special permit — but no night hunting. Following, the N.C. Wildlife Commission asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to do an analysis of the red wolf reintroduction. 

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the move to suspend reintroduction efforts is the responsible choice, a way to make sure that all future efforts are based on fact and the best available science. 

“There will likely be some who will suggest we are walking away from recovery efforts for the red wolf, and simultaneously there will be others who might say we’re holding on too tight,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. 

According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, the decision is tantamount to a dereliction of duty. 

“The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with taking all measures necessary to recover the endangered red wolf, not study it into extinction,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney with the law center. 

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