Editor’s Note: This is new SEOPA student member Ben Zino’s first post to appear on the SEOPA website.
The red wolf is a mid-sized canine which has roamed the Southeastern United States for hundreds of years but now may face total extinction at the hands of mankind. These mammals are a keystone species, meaning that they are crucial to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. As top predators, the wolves keep all the energy levels below them in check, restricting populations of herbivores and smaller carnivores so that they cannot balloon in numbers and use up all the nutrients in the environment. This allows for increased biodiversity and more balanced trophic levels.
Because of extensive hunting and habitat destruction, the species was declared extinct in the wild in 1980. However, conservation efforts from the Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations brought the wolf back, and a thriving population of over 100 individuals was observed around 2006. This population of wild wolves exists in a small area of land in coastal N.C., and has helped manage populations of animals such as deer, raccoons, and nutria in their range. However, there are many challenges that must be overcome when trying to reintroduce any species to an environment, and these problems are amplified with the red wolf.
It has been very difficult to keep the animals from breeding with invasive eastern coyotes, which rushed in to fill the hole left by the wolves. Additionally, as top predators, these canines scare many landowners in the area, who fear for their pets and livestock. Because of this discontent, the FWS has become more and more lenient regarding their policies about trapping and hunting in recent times, causing the population to half from its peak just a few years ago.
A recent statement from a Senate committee headed by Thom Tillis has recommended that the Fish and Wildlife Service end all recovery efforts regarding the wolves, both in the wild and in captivity. Should the FWS follow this recommendation, it could cause the extinction of red wolves as a species, as scientific evaluations have established that the captive population is currently unstable and will likely be lost within the next decade.
While a solution to this glaring issue seems impossible, that is not this case. If the FWS allocated their 2018 budget towards absorbing the remaining wild wolves into the captive breeding program and educating local landowners about the importance of the animals, a complete turnaround of all the recent negatives regarding the red wolves could be observed.
But if we truly want to see a top predator return to its place in the North Carolina ecosystems, all the responsibility cannot be placed on lawmakers. Just as much could be accomplished for the wolves by non-governmental organizations and even private citizens if we will help spread the news about red wolves’ ecological importance and support facilities which hold captive individuals.
If you would like to take action, please use the links below to voice your support of the red wolf conservation program. I encourage you to keep any criticism you may have of the below entities constructive and unbiased because in order to create positive change for this unique species we need to collaborate with one another rather than create further division.
Thom Tillis Contact Form:
Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Department Contact:
Thank you all for your support of these incredible animals, together we can make a difference for this species!
-Ben Zino, The Wild Report Youtube (www.youtube.com/c/thewildreportofficial)