A rare red wolf wearing a radio tracking collar was found dead, apparently from a gunshot wound, Nov. 2 in an area north of Creswell in Washington County, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
It is the third killing of the endangered species since a law that allows hunters to shoot coyotes at night went into effect Aug. 1.
The Red Wolf Coalition and the Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Welfare Institute have filed an lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the night hunting. The case is listed on the Wake County Superior Court schedule for Tuesday.
The night-hunt measure is meant to curb the state’s growing population of coyotes, which attack livestock and pets and are more active at night.
But groups like the Red Wolf Coalition want to stop the night hunting because they say red wolf’s body shape is very similar to coyotes and can be easily mistaken.
Anyone convicted of killing a red wolf – protected under the federal Endangered Species Act – faces up to a year in prison and $100,000 in fines.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, red wolf populations were decimated in the 1960s by predator control programs and loss of habitat. The species was declared extinct in the wild in 1980, but wolves bred in captivity were released in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina in 1987. Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to cover 1.7 million acres.