Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 30, 2015

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Feds Halt Red Wolf Reintroductions in North Carolina, Put Recovery Program in Limbo

Decision Ignores Scientists' Recommendations to Expand, Strengthen Program

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it was dramatically scaling back the recovery program for endangered red wolves, ceasing to reintroduce additional wolves from captivity into the wild. The backward step comes as the Service conducts another review of the red wolf program, despite the fact that a recent Service-requested review of the program by the independent Wildlife Management Institute found it was successful in many ways but needed to be expanded. Last year the Service suddenly eliminated the position of recovery coordinator for the program. 

“Make no mistake, this is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abandoning endangered red wolves while they stand at the brink of extinction,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency can dress it up in bureaucrat-speak but there’s no avoiding the fact that the recovery program for the red wolf, whose population stands at just 100 animals left in the wild, is being left to wither on the vine.”

The red wolf reintroduction program has long been considered one of the world’s most innovative and successful programs to restore a critically endangered carnivore species. The species was declared endangered in 1973 and, in a final attempt to save it, 17 wild red wolves were captured for captive breeding. Wolf releases began in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in the mid 1980s, with an objective of obtaining 35 to 50 wolves in the wild. The current population stands at roughly 112 wild wolves.

The 2014 Wildlife Management Institute report concluded that if the wolf was going to recover, at least two additional populations would need to be established, and the Service would need to spend more resources to build local stakeholder support for the red wolf recovery program. While the program is generally supported by the public, a small but vocal group of anti-wildlife activists has demanded it be scaled back.

“More study of the red wolf recovery program is not needed — we know how to recover and restore red wolves to the landscape,” said Hartl. “What is needed right now is real leadership from the Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce more wolves in more places in the Southeast — and for the agency to stop appeasing radical right-wing elements in North Carolina that despise wildlife and want to see the Endangered Species Act repealed.”    

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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