A fourth radio-collared red wolf was recently found shot dead in North Carolina.

red wolf, North Carolina. (Photo: Steve Hillebrand)

Once common throughout the south-eastern United States, by the 1960’s red wolf populations were decimated due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat.

The species was declared endangered in 1967 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared red wolves extinct in the wild in 1980.

A remnant population of the animals was found along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, and biologists captured 14 and used them to start a captive breeding program in 1977. Since that time, enough wolves have been bred to impliment a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in north-eastern North Carolina.

Today, about 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in five north-eastern North Carolina Counties.

Red wolves are known for the characteristic reddish colour of their fur most apparent behind the ears and along the neck and legs, but are mostly brown and buff coloured with some black along their backs. They are smaller than gray wolves, the other species of wolf in North America, but larger than coyotes. The average adult red wolf stands about 26 inches at the shoulder and is about 4 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. They 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.

Human predation is a constant problem as hunters seem to consider wolves enemy Number One as evidenced by wide open hunting of grey wolves that has commenced in the last year in Alaska, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Washington State, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

As there are just 100 Red wolves in North Carolina, there are suspicions that the death of a fourth radio collared wolf in the last two months, all killed in approximately the same area, may be no coincidence, and that they are possibly being tracked by someone other than the Wildlife Service.

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 that directly leads to an arrest or a criminal conviction for the suspected unlawful take of a red wolf may be eligible for a reward of up to $2,500. 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.

Source: wildlifeextra.com