The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting assistance with an investigation involving the suspected illegal take of a radio-collared red wolf that was recently found dead. The wolf was found with a suspected gunshot wound on January 18, 2013, north of the Town of Fairfield, in Tyrrell County, North Carolina.
Anyone with information that directly leads to an arrest, a criminal conviction, a civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property on the subject or subjects responsible for the suspected unlawful take of this red wolf may be eligible for a reward of up to $2,500.
The red wolf is protected under The Endangered Species Act. The maximum criminal penalties for the unlawful taking of a red wolf are one-year imprisonment and $100,000 fine per individual. Anyone with information on the death of this red wolf or any others, past or future, is urged to contact Special Agent Sandra Allred at (919) 856-4786, Refuge Officer Frank Simms at (252) 216-7504 or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Robert Wayne at (252) 216-8225.
The red wolf (*Canis rufus*) is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids. Once common throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the 1960’s due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat. A remnant population of red wolves was found along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. After being declared an endangered species in 1967, efforts were initiated to locate and capture as many wild red wolves as possible. Of the 17 remaining wolves captured by biologists, 14 became the founders of a successful captive breeding program. Consequently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.
The first litter of red wolves born in captivity occurred in 1977. By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina.
Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres.
About 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in five northeastern North Carolina counties. Additionally, nearly 200 red wolves comprise the Species Survival Plan captive breeding program in sites across the United States, still an essential element of red wolf recovery. Interbreeding with the coyote (*Canis latrans*), a species not native to North Carolina, has been recognized as a threat affecting restoration of red wolves in this section of their historical home range. Currently, red wolf population managers are using adaptive management strategies to reduce the threat of coyotes while building the wild red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina.
The red wolf is one of two species of wolves in North America, the other being the gray wolf, (*Canis lupus*). As their name suggests, red wolves are known for the characteristic reddish color of their fur most apparent behind the ears and along the neck and legs, but are mostly brown and buff colored with some black along their backs. Intermediate in size to gray wolves and coyotes, the average adult red wolf weighs 45-80 pounds, stands about 26 inches at the shoulder and is about four feet long from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.
Red wolves are social animals that live in packs consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring of different years, typically five to eight animals. Red wolves prey on a variety of wild mammals such as raccoon, rabbit, white-tailed deer, nutria, and other rodents. Most active at dusk and dawn, red wolves are elusive and generally avoid humans and human activity. To learn more about red wolves, please visit our website at www.fws.gov/redwolf.
Image courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service