Red wolves can’t be arbitrarily killed, federal judge rules

  A federal district court judge has forbidden the US Fish and Wildlife Service from allowing private landowners to kill nonthreatening red wolves, ruling that the agency has violated several sections of the Endangered Species Act.

Chief US District Court Judge Terence Boyle ruled that the USFWS can no longer grant “take permits” except under extremely narrow circumstances. With fewer than 35 remaining, red wolves are nearly extinct in the wild.

Boyle also determined that USFWS had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to conduct an environmental assessment or impact statement about the effects of the agency’s new and controversial rules to manage the red wolf population.

Those rules include the transfer of most red wolves to zoos and nature centers. The agency would corral the remaining wolves onto a federal bombing range and a nature preserve in Dare County, North Carolina, sharply reducing their habitat. Until the court decision, USFWS had proposed that if the wolves strayed from that property, they could be legally shot. Conservation biologists have publicly stated that under current and proposed management practices, the species would go extinct within six years.

In 1987, USFWS introduced a breeding pair of the rare wolves into eastern North Carolina and designated five coastal counties as their habitat. Afterward, the population peaked at more than 100 wolves in 2000 — an achievement the agency heralded as a successful reintroduction of the species into the wild.

Since then, the population has plummeted. Many of the wolves were shot legally and illegally. Meanwhile, a few disgruntled landowners swayed state and federal wildlife officials to stop managing the wolves.



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