UPDATE 10:26 pm 3//2/16 FromWildlands Network “An update that the red wolf was removed from the trap and is currently residing in FWS’s Sandy Ridge Captive Red Wolf Facility”
BREAKING: A critically endangered American Red Wolf has been cruelly held in a leg-hold trap by a NC landowner, who, according to a press release from Wildlands Network on March 1, is demanding a permit to kill it.
“This incident marks just the latest tragic development in the recent history of what has otherwise been a leading effort at restoring a native species to the wild,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, a biologist with the Wildlands Network in North Carolina. The red wolf is one of the most critically endangered species in the world – more endangered than the Siberian tiger, Wildlands Network explains – with only 45 known individuals remaining in the wild. The US has worked hard to save it from the brink of extinction since 1987, when they were first reintroduced in North Carolina and garnered international admiration, demonstrating the power of the Endangered Species Act to do as it’s meant to do: to save species from vanishing forever. So, with great care and the oversight of the USFWS management team, the red wolf population climbed to 120-130 animals in 2005-2006. Still fragile, not yet sustainable, but a widely lauded achievement. But now, after a catastrophic series of attacks on the recovery program (and the wolves, themselves) by just one opposing, strident party (who hates both the USFWS and red wolves), the program is in shambles – and the precious, imperiled red wolf population has plummeted:
Now, only 45 wild red wolves are left in the entire world, all living in one remote NC location. The 30 year recovery program is now in danger of failing – being actively sabotaged by just one landowner who has been fighting this important ESA project since the beginning.
How does one disgruntled landowner (who was previously denied a kill permit) get away with trapping and tormenting a federally protected species? How does he get away with using a brutal leg-hold device to trap one, leaving it to languish, one paw clamped between hard metal jaws, suffering while the landowner tries to coerce the government into issuing a lethal-take permit so he can kill it? There is no mention of the condition of the wolf, when finally allowed to be picked up by authorities. But one thing is clear – this vanishing species can’t afford to lose any more individuals. Genetic diversity is crucial to their long term survival. To kill this genetically important animal would be unconscionable, but it wouldn’t be the first this landowner has slaughtered, even if largely indirectly. In fact, this landowner has deliberately stoked increasing antagonism between other land owners and the wolves – Resulting in a flurry of shootings, including a genetically irreplaceable mother nursing a litter of pups; a mother representing one of less than a dozen in the wild.
“Even as the wolf population plummets, the Agency has issued take permits to landowners to kill the animals . . . The US Fish and Wildlife Service declared their efforts to catch the (mother) wolf ‘abandoned’, even though the landowner had never granted the Agency permission to attempt to live trap the wolf on his property.”
Most concerning, (if that’s possible) is the abject failure of the USFWS to nip this disaster in the bud. Their failure to demand immediate release of this wolf and provide any medical care he or she might need after languishing in that trap, (in pain, without food, water or shelter from the elements), and at least slap a fine or jail time on the offending landowner, is a national embarrassment. Why hasn’t this been done? Is our USFWS Director Dan Ashe so easily cowed by these people that he is willing to let an entire, irreplaceable species be spitefully driven to extinction? Why not ‘grow some’, and stop this criminal behavior immediately? That would also send out a strong message that all endangered species are protected by law, and that harassing, harming or killing a red wolf (or any other protected species) is a crime with real consequences.
Our ‘National wolf’ is definitely worth cherishing. Reds are small, shy and secretive little wolves who avoid people whenever possible. They do not travel in packs like gray wolves, tending instead to live in bonded pairs. They actually eat what many would consider pest species – Nutria (an introduced, invasive nuisance), rabbits, other small animals and the occasional deer. These charming, unique little canids are beautiful, blending in with the leafy, bountifully biodiverse places where they live, and are highly beneficial for their ecosystems. Best of all, they sound totally cool as they croon, howl, yip and chortle their lively songs. It’s no wonder that there is considerable local and national support for red wolves. In fact, recently, 100 residents who live in the red wolf recovery area sent a petition to US Fish and Wildlife Services expressing support for red wolves! You can learn more about red wolves here.
“Science tells us that this wolf is recoverable and a benefit to the ecosystem,” said Sutherland.“US Fish and Wildlife Services Director Ashe must stop allowing shooting and lethal trapping of red wolves and he needs to immediately restart active recovery efforts for the red wolf. The Agency has a duty to protect this critically endangered wolf for future generations. If it does not act now, America’s beautiful red wolf will soon be extinct in the wild,” said Sutherland.
Don’t let the failures of Dan Ashe and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service doom yet another species – We need to do whatever it takes to save this charming, uniquely American species. And if this poor trapped wolf, having likely been starved and dehydrated while trapped, should die from the ordeal (provided it was retrieved alive), the landowner* should be treated like the animal abuser and felon that he is.
To read the entire press release, click here.
*The Wildlife Conservation Examiner has made the choice to not state the landowner’s name so as to not give him any more publicity.
updated 9 pm 3/2/16