ACTON TIMELINE

1987 – Four breeding pairs of red wolves were released into Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, the ancestors of the existing wild red wolf population today.

1990 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a red wolf recovery plan calling for the establishment and maintenance of at least three reintroduced red wolf populations within the species’ historic range.

2011 – Wild red wolf populations stop growing after their peak of 130 in the mid-2000s as gunshot mortalities increased.

July 13, 2012 – The state of North Carolina authorized coyote night hunting, thereby increasing the threat of gunshot mortality to red wolves.

May 13, 2014 – Due to litigation (not involving the Center), a federal court issued a preliminary injunction blocking the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s authorization of coyote hunting — including at night — in the five-county area of eastern North Carolina inhabited by the red wolves. Coyote hunting threatens red wolves because sometimes red wolves are mistaken for coyotes and killed.

June 2, 2014 – The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission denied the Fish and Wildlife Service request’s to trap and sterilize coyotes — a key component of its red wolf adaptive management program. Sterilizing coyotes prevents their hybridization with red wolves, another threat to the wolves’ survival and recovery.

November 14, 2014 – The Wildlife Management Institutional issued comprehensive review of the red wolf recovery program, at the request of the Fish and Wildlife Service. The report concluded that the recovery program was a success and that a key future step would be to release wolves into two additional sites and gain the support of local landowners.

June 30, 2015 – The Service announced a halt of reintroductions of red wolves into the wild.

August 29, 2015 – The Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a “60-day review” and “feasibility study” of the red wolf recovery program at the behest of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to evaluate whether the red wolf recovery program should be continued.

September 9, 2015 – The Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding that the Fish and Wildlife Service release information about its “feasibility study” of the recovery program.

October 27, 2015 – The Service announced it would delay its review of the red wolf program review until summer 2016.

January 26, 2016 – The Center filed a petition to the Fish and Wildlife Service demonstrating local support to keep red wolves on private lands —  something the Service claimed was lacking.

February 2016 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released new population counts showing the nation’s only population of red wolves in an alarming free-fall, declining by 27 percent from 2014 to 2015 to as few as 50 individuals.

March 9, 2016 – The red wolf population fell to only 45 known individuals, with an estimated total population of 50–75 wolves in the wild.

March 24, 2016 – The Center filed a notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act’s mandate to conserve protected red wolves and to implement a recovery program to ensure their survival and recovery in the wild.

December 30, 2016 – The Center added $7,500 to the reward for information leading to a conviction or fine in the latest illegal killing of an endangered red wolf in North Carolina. The dead wolf was discovered Dec. 21 on the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, where red wolves are given the greatest amount of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

January 2017 – The Fish and Wildlife Service pledged to prepare an updated recovery plan in 2018 for the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves. Responding to a December petition for a revised recovery plan filed by the Center and allies, the Service explained that a revised recovery plan would incorporate new information about red wolves, including a “species status assessment” to be prepared by October 2018.

Red wolf photo by B. Bartell, USFWS