Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 1, 2018


Perrin de Jong, Center for Biological Diversity, (828) 595-1862,
Ron Sutherland, Wildlands Network, (919) 641-0060,
Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center, (914) 763-2373,
Ben Prater, Defenders of Wildlife, (828) 412-0981,
Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute, (202) 446-2128,

Analysis: Public Overwhelmingly Opposes Plan to Curtail Red Wolf Recovery in North Carolina

99.9 Percent of Commenters Support Red Wolf Conservation

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to drastically reduce protection for the nation’s only wild population of endangered red wolves has met nearly unanimous opposition from more than 100,000 members of the public.

Out of 108,124 comments submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service on the proposal, 107,988 comments — or 99.9 percent — spoke out in favor of the red wolves and their need for strong federal protections.

In June, the Service solicited public comments on its management plan for the red wolf, which survives only in eastern North Carolina with as few as 30 individuals.

The Service proposed reducing the recovery area where the wolves can safely roam by more than 90 percent. The revised recovery area would only be expected to provide sufficient space for 10 to 15 red wolves.

The proposal would eliminate protections for any red wolves that wander off Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Dare County Bombing Range. The plan would allow anyone to kill red wolves on private lands for any reason.

“People overwhelmingly oppose the Trump administration’s dangerous plan to slash the red wolf recovery area,” said Perrin de Jong, a Center for Biological Diversity staff attorney based in North Carolina. “This reckless proposal would put these unique animals in immediate jeopardy of being lost from the wild forever. Citizens from the recovery area, across the state and around the country clearly want the feds to do more, not less, to protect the world’s most endangered wolf.”

"Many of us have long wondered why Americans of previous generations didn't rise up to save the ivory-billed woodpecker, the passenger pigeon or the Carolina parakeet,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, conservation scientist for the Wildlands Network. “Well, here we are in 2018, and the American people have spoken with a strong and virtually unanimous voice that the red wolf must be saved from extinction and kept in the wild where the species belongs. Will Congress and the Service listen?"

"Once again, the American public has expressed overwhelming support for the red wolf. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must heed this call, recommit to proven management strategies and work to prevent the extinction of the world's most endangered canine," said Ben Prater, Southeast program director, Defenders of Wildlife.

“Every voice raised in support of wildlife can make a difference, and Americans overwhelmingly support the Red Wolf Recovery Program,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center. “We’re counting on the Service to take notice and follow the best available science to ensure that the world’s most endangered wolves remain a living, breathing part of the landscape in eastern North Carolina.”

People living in the areas most directly affected by red wolves also expressed strong support for their conservation. Out of 2,923 comments submitted by North Carolinians, 2,898 comments, or 99.1 percent, spoke out in favor of red wolves. From the current five-county recovery area in eastern North Carolina where the wolves live, 75 out of 95 comments submitted were also pro-wolf. 

North Carolina’s governor also spoke out against the Service’s proposal and expressed support for red wolf recovery. “There is a viable path forward for North Carolina’s red wolves living in the wild, and I have directed relevant departments in my administration to work with USFWS to continue the recovery program and build upon its success to date,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a comment submitted to the Service on July 30.

Only 19 comments specifically supported the agency’s plan to eliminate red wolf protections and shrink the recovery area. Of 30 additional comments opposing red wolf recovery, 13 came from a single real estate developer.  

Volunteers from the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlands Network and the Wolf Conservation Center reviewed each of the thousands of comments submitted to produce this analysis.

In the past, the Service released inaccurate tallies of wolf public comments it had received. In 2017, during the initial scoping period for the current proposal, the agency reported only 12,000 out of 55,000 red wolf comments, ignoring extensive compilations of comments submitted by conservation organizations.

“Wildlife, including red wolves, are managed by the USFWS in trust for the American people,” noted D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist at the Animal Welfare Institute. “The people have now spoken loud and clear of their support for the protection and recovery of the red wolf in the wild and it is time the government starts to listen and comply with the public’s clear message. Less than 20 years ago, there were more than 130 red wolves in the wild. These numbers can be achieved again if the USFWS complies with federal law.” 

Additional Media Resources
Excel spreadsheets documenting all of the comments included in the tallies reported above can be found in this Dropbox Folder, which also contains a select group of individual comments from various scientific, legal and political authorities.

Wildlands Network has placed photos of wild and captive wolves in this Dropbox Folder.
Wildlands Network's videos of wild red wolves are available here.

The Wolf Conservation Center also has an extensive library of photos and videos of captive red wolves - contact Maggie Howell, (914) 763-2373,

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Since 1991, Wildlands Network has been reconnecting, restoring, and rewilding North America so that life in all of its diversity can thrive.  

The Wolf Conservation Center is an environmental education organization committed to conserving wolf populations in North America through science-based education programming and participation in the federal Species Survival Plans for the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf and red wolf. Through wolves the WCC teaches the broader message of conservation, ecological balance, and personal responsibility for improved human stewardship of our World. 

Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is a major national conservation organization focused solely on wildlife and habitat conservation and the safeguarding of biodiversity. They represent 1.8 million members and supporters.

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

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