Judge in red wolf lawsuit seeks more information before ruling

jshaffer@newsobserver.comFebruary 24, 2014 

Betty, a female red wolf, roams in a fenced area at the Red Wolf Coalition on Feb.10 in Creswell. U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle declined to issue a preliminary injunction on coyote hunting before receiving additional information. Boyle is hearing a lawsuit aimed at protecting endangered red wolves.

JILL KNIGHT — jhknight@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— A federal judge wants more information before ruling on a lawsuit that seeks to end all coyote hunting in a five-county region of Eastern North Carolina.

The lawsuit, filed by three conservation groups last fall, aims to protect the endangered red wolf population living near the Alligator and Scuppernong rivers – about 100 animals reintroduced to the area as part of a federal program.

The groups argued that the state Wildlife Resources Commission causes red wolves to be mistakenly shot by allowing coyote hunting in the recovery area. Wolves and coyotes are almost impossible for hunters to tell apart, their suit said.

Fourteen red wolves died in 2013 that the coalition knows about, including nine dead by suspected or confirmed gunshot wounds. Another wolf was found killed, apparently shot, Jan. 7.

The wolf program is controversial in the five counties, however, as many landowners feel the wolves are damaging native wildlife populations and mixing with coyotes beyond the government’s ability to control them.

In his order, issued Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle declined to issue a preliminary injunction on coyote hunting before receiving additional information.

He asked for parties in the lawsuit to nominate a “special master” to consider these questions:

• How many coyotes are in the five-county recovery area?

• What accounts for doubled coyote deaths in the region between 2007-08 and 2010-11?

• How many red wolves does it take to hold an area from coyotes?

• Is the coyote population rising, falling or stable?

• How can the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identify the number of pure red wolves at any given time?

• Are wolves more sustainable if the coyote population drops, even though a few are unintentionally killed, or if the coyote population rises?

The Red Wolf Coalition and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission did not have immediate comment. Boyle’s order gave them seven days to submit names for a special master.

Shaffer: 919-829-4818

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service