Critically Endangered Red Wolf Mother Killed
We recently learned that last week, a private landowner shot and killed a six-year old female wolf – one of very few breeding females left in the wild. To make matters worse, it’s likely that the wolf had puppies at the time of her death. The fate of those pups is unknown, but our wolf experts are not optimistic they’ll be able to survive without her.
But the worst part of this incident: The wolf was shot with the express permission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In bureaucrat speak, these kinds of killings are called “lethal control.” It’s a measure that’s only supposed to happen under extreme circumstances, and only after non-harmful efforts are exhausted. But in this situation, there is no indication that any extreme circumstances existed, or that any non-lethal efforts were attempted to remove the wolf from the shooter’s property.
For decades, FWS has stumbled in its legally-mandated efforts to foster the recovery of these beautiful and secretive animals. Red wolves once roamed from Pennsylvania to Florida. Today, fewer than 100 animals survive in the wild in a small part of eastern North Carolina. The loss of a breeding female is a major blow to the species’ recovery.
News of this unconscionable shooting comes as the state of North Carolina is turning up the pressure to put an end to red wolf recovery efforts altogether. FWS’s actions represent a grave step in the wrong direction.
Double Jeopardy for Population of Alaska Wolves
A rare population of Alaska wolves is declining dramatically according to science that shows a 60 percent population decrease since 2013. The Alexander Archipelago wolves are a genetically and geographically isolated sub-species of gray wolf, found only in the old growth temperate rainforests of southeastern Alaska and British Columbia. The most significant population of Archipelago wolves, inhabiting Prince of Wales Island, consisted of 221 individuals in 2013. But according to a new scientific report, the Prince of Wales Island population declined to a mere 89 wolves in 2014, and that number could be even lower now.
Biologists believe one reason for the wolves’ dramatic decline is the intense logging in the area, an activity which has removed much of the island’s old growth forest – habitat the wolves and their prey, Sitka black-tailed deer, rely upon. Despite this rapid decline, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has made zero effort to modify its planned hunting season in the area this fall. Although circumstances are dire, there is a silver lining. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has until December to determine if this rare, imperiled population of wolves warrants listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Protecting these wolves under the ESA would significantly improve management of the forested lands where they live, as well as create stronger standards for conserving this population. We’ll keep you updated in the weeks to come.