A deadline is coming for red wolves, an endangered species. The deadline is the fall, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will announce whether it will continue a red wolf recovery program. Continuing would mean protecting the species through regulation and hoping to increase the population over time. Ending the program? That would in effect be abandoning the wolves and allowing the species to go extinct.
The latter choice is unacceptable. North Carolina has a particular interest, as it has the distinction of being home to all of the red wolves now in the wild – there are 45 of them. Nearly 30 years ago, red wolves were reintroduced into Eastern North Carolina, and the population went to 130. But coyote hunts – during which red wolves were mistakenly shot – cut that population dramatically.
The interest in preserving the species isn’t limited, by the way, to wildlife advocates. Nearly half a million Americans signed a petition last month calling for Fish and Wildlife to work to recover the population. That support comes from around the United States.
When a rare species dies, a part of American history goes with it. In this case, North Carolina is part of that history. And, as one conservation scientist noted, it’s shameful to think the Fish and Wildlife Service would allow the red wolf to go extinct in the wild, when there are ways to save it.