Red wolves are being mistaken by some hunters for coyotes, a problem made worse as deer season picks up in North Carolina. (Land Between the Lakes/

COLUMBIA, N.C. – Deer hunting, a sporting tradition enjoyed by thousands of people in North Carolina, is underway in most parts of the state, but conservation groups are concerned that one endangered animal is getting caught in the crossfire.

Red wolves, who live in the eastern parts of the Tar Heel State, are often mistaken for coyotes, an animal commonly shot by hunters during deer season because of its invasive nature.

Heather Clarkson, southeast program outreach representative for Defenders of Wildlife, explained the problem.

“We’re concerned that some of these anti-wolf folks over in the recovery area will maliciously go out and shoot the red wolf, knowing that all they have to do is say they thought it was a coyote,” she said. “There should be more enforcement on the shooting of the red wolf.”

The future of red wolves is currently in question in North Carolina ,with the federal government’s attempt to remove the animal from private properties in the state to federal lands. That plan has been temporarily halted by a U.S. District Judge.

Source: Open Season Deer Hunting Could Threaten Endangered Species / Public News Service