Nov. 5, 2013. The recent killings of endangered red wolves in eastern North Carolina have prompted the North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) to make a major commitment to help find the perpetrator(s). The conservation organization has pledged $7,500 towards a reward pool that had $2,500, bringing the total award to $10,000. The Federation’s reward is in place through the end of the year to any person who provides information about the wolf killings that directly leads to an arrest, a criminal conviction, a civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property by the subject or subjects responsible.
“This is the largest contribution to the reward pool up to now,” said Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “We are providing these resources to underscore the seriousness we place on the killing of this iconic species.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting assistance with an investigation involving the suspected illegal take of two radio-collared red wolves that were recently found dead in Washington County, NC. The first wolf was located on October 28, 2013, south of Roper, NC, and west of Lake Phelps in central Washington County. The second wolf was located on October 30, 2013, in the same general vicinity of the first wolf killed.
The red wolf (Canis rufus) is one of the world’s most endangered wild canids. Once common throughout the eastern and south-central 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 1973, 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. Today, about 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in five northeastern North Carolina counties.
NCWF has a long history with the red wolf reintroduction project. An internship paid for by the organization supported monitoring efforts for the species in the first year the animals were reintroduced to the wild. NCWF is an outspoken advocate for wildlife and for hunting as a critical component of legal, science-based wildlife management.
“We hope the investigation yields results and that the message is crystal clear: Killing red wolves in North Carolina will not be tolerated,” says Gestwicki. “We condemn in full any illegal wildlife violations and remain resolved to assisting state and federal agencies in upholding the regulations and guiding principles of fish and wildlife management.”
Red wolves are 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 Resident Agent in Charge John Elofson at (404) 763-7959, Refuge Officer Frank Simms at (252) 216-7504, or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Robert Wayne at (252) 216-8225.
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to all NC wildlife and its habitat. www.ncwf.org.
* Release from North Carolina Wildlife Federation