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Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pledged to prepare an updated recovery plan in 2018 for the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves. In responding to a December petition for a revised recovery plan filed by seven animal protection and conservation organizations, the service representatives explained that a revised recovery plan will incorporate new information about red wolves, including a “species status assessment” to be prepared by October.
“The science shows that red wolves can be saved but, with fewer than 50 left in the wild, the clock is ticking,” Collette Adkins, a biologist and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said last week. “I’m hopeful that a new recovery plan will ensure that science, not politics, drives their management.”
The recovery plan for red wolves has not been updated since 1990. In the interim, red wolves have expanded their range in the wild, faced additional threats from increased poaching and hybridization with coyotes and seen changes in their management. With all of the changes, an updated, science-based recovery plan is needed now more than ever, she contended.
The December petition includes information about threats to the red wolf and provides strategies to address those threats. For example, the petition discusses scientific studies proving the effectiveness of the “placeholder program,” which reduces hybridization by releasing sterilized coyotes to hold territories until red wolves can replace them. The Fish and Wildlife Service promised to consider this information as well as information gathered during a public comment process in developing a revised recovery plan, Adkins said.
“There is absolutely a path forward for red wolf recovery in the Southeast. The science is there but it requires commitment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Ben Prater, Southeast program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said. “Instead of pulling red wolves from the wild, the agency needs to step up and increase their efforts to recover this incredibly rare species. That means releasing captive red wolves into the wild again, working with landowners to implement coexistence strategies, and investigating additional sites for reintroduction.”
The Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Species Coalition, South Florida Wildlands Association, WildEarth Guardians and the Wolf Conservation Center filed a petition for a revised red wolf recovery plan in December of 2016.