Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 24, 2018

Contact: Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821,

Report: North Carolina's Endangered Red Wolves Down to 40, Could Be Extinct in Eight Years

WASHINGTON— There are just 40 endangered red wolves left in the wild in North Carolina and the population could go extinct within eight years, according to a new five-year status review and species status assessment released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency says the wolves must remain protected under the Endangered Species Act and more help is needed to ensure their survival.

“Time is running out for red wolves. We need to move fast if we’re going to keep them from disappearing forever,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For starters, we need immediate measures in place to stop people from killing them.”

Today’s status review documents an increase in human-caused red-wolf deaths by causes such as gunshot, poisoning and suspected illegal activity. Conservation groups, including the Center, have called upon the Service to revise the current red-wolf regulations to reduce red-wolf shooting deaths.

Another threat to red wolves is hybridization with coyotes. In the documents released today, the Service found that hybridization can be effectively addressed through a “placeholder program” where sterilized coyotes are released so they can hold territories until red wolves can replace them.

“Red wolves face the very real possibility of vanishing from the wild if they don’t get the help they need,” said Adkins. “It’s good the Service is acknowledging that we need more breeding pairs and new reintroduction sites to spur red-wolf recovery.”

The Service is continuing to work to identify additional sites for red-wolf introduction, according to the documents released. Conservation groups have pushed for a new recovery plan that identifies additional reintroduction sites. The agency pledged to update the plan this year, in response to a December petition filed by the Center and several other seven animal-protection and conservation organizations.

By late summer the Service expects to release for public comment an environmental assessment and new proposed rule with alternatives covering future management of the wolves. Nearly all the public comments submitted to the agency this past summer support recovering the wild population in the southeastern United States.

The red wolf is one of the world’s most endangered species and can now only be found in the wild in North Carolina. The newly released documents explain that red wolves once roamed a larger portion of the United States than previously thought: from the southeastern United States westward to the Edwards Plateau in Texas, north to the lower Midwest (i.e., southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois) and east into southern Pennsylvania and extreme southeastern New York.

The best available science demonstrates that red wolves are still recoverable. A 2014 report written by the Wildlife Management Institute concluded that recovery would require reintroduction of two additional wild populations and an investment of additional resources to build local support for red-wolf recovery. Yet the Service has proposed confining red-wolf recovery to federal public lands, shrinking the animals’ recovery area from five counties in North Carolina to just one bombing range and one wildlife refuge in a single county.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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