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Red Wolf Shot and Killed in National Wildlife Refuge


Contact: Haley McKey, 202-772-0247, hmckey@defenders.org


WASHINGTON (December 30, 2016) – A red wolf was shot and killed on or around Dec. 19 and found Dec. 21 in Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). UPDATE: as of Jan. 3, the reward for information leading to an arrest is at $16,500. Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups have contributed to FWS' original reward amount of $2500. 

Contact North Carolina Wildlife Officer Frank Simms at (252) 216-7504 or Special Agent Jason Keith at (919) 856-4520, ext. 34 with information regarding this incident.

Defenders of Wildlife Southeast Program Director Ben Prater issued this statement:

“This is a tragedy. We know that gunshot is one of the leading causes of death for red wolves and it can be prevented. The poaching of any wild animal is intolerable but the intentional killing of one of the world's most endangered species is inexcusable.

“With fewer than 45 red wolves left in the wild, this loss is a huge blow to the species. We are matching the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s award for information regarding this wolf’s death to send a clear message: poaching of these incredibly rare wolves will not be tolerated or go unpunished.”



Red wolves once ranged across the Southeast from Texas south to Florida and as far north as Pennsylvania. Due to habitat loss and extermination by humans, red wolves were reduced to a handful of individuals by the 1970s. In 1980 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured the 14 remaining red wolves and declared them extinct in the wild. The first captive-bred red wolves were released in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge on September 14, 1987. The program was successful and became a model for wolf recovery in the United States, with nearly 150 red wolves in the wild by 2012.

But just as red wolves began to thrive, coyotes, which are not native to the East, swept into the area. Coyote hunters have shot red wolves in a tragic case of mistaken identity. At the same time, FWS has been pulling back on conservation efforts for the wolf with catastrophic results. FWS has suspended releasing captive-bred red wolves into the wild and stopped managing coyotes in the red wolf recovery area to prevent hybridization.

Defenders of Wildlife joined the Red Wolf Recovery Team, convened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2015. But with no progress and the possibility of terminating the program on the table as an option, Defenders resigned from the team in early 2016. Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has continued its suspension of red wolf recovery activities. Because of this mismanagement, the red wolf remains the world's most endangered canid. Fewer than 50 red wolves remain in the wild.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a preliminary injunction in September 2016 that orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop capturing and killing and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill red wolves.

In October 2016, The scientific experts who drafted the Population Viability Analysis (PVA) for the red wolf, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) cited as the rationale behind its recent proposal to take red wolves from the wild and place them in captivity, sent a rebuttal to the agency saying “the September 12th decision on the future of the Red Wolf Recovery Program included many alarming misinterpretations of the PVA as justification for the final decision.”



Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org. For the latest news from Defenders, follow us at@DefendersNews