USFWS Review of Red Wolf Recovery Program Available Online

Captive female red wolf at Sandy Ridge.  Photo source: R. Nordsven/USFWS.

Captive female red wolf at Sandy Ridge. Photo source: R. Nordsven/USFWS.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s independent review, conducted by the Wildlife Management Institute, of the Red Wolf Recovery Program is now available online.

The review focused on three elements of the recovery program — the supporting science, management of the program, and the “human dimensions” of the program.  WMI interviewed many participants in the program, including FWS and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission employees, commissioned relevant literature reviews, and conducted public meetings and surveys to form its opinion of the recovery program.  The review is not a decision document of any kind.  It is intended to help the FWS analyze the success of the program, and plan for its future.

Highlights of the review include:

  • Concerns remain over the taxonomy of red wolves as a species.  WMI believes the current FWS placeholder management strategy is a “valid conceptual technique” to reduce gene transmission between coyote and red wolf populations, but is concerned that the strategy has not been completely analyzed and reviewed.
  • The science of population monitoring for red wolves is still growing.  FWS continues to modify and enhance their monitoring techniques, with hopes that the effort will provide more accurate information on red wolf population dynamics.
  • WMI does not believe that the current red wolf management area is of sufficient size to reach the program’s original population recovery goals.  It recommends establishment of two new recovery areas.  This would require management of local coyote populations to reduce gene transmission between species.
  • Management for the program has been “inadequate”, although local staff “did their best” to “make it work”.  WMI “expected greater oversight and support for a landmark recovery program involving one of the most imperiled canids in the world,” and recommends a review of the plan to incorporate new knowledge and experience from the 5 county restoration area, focusing on the problem areas listed above.
  • WMI does not feel that the program has put sufficient effort into community outreach and public education.  While FWS met with individual landowners, no effort was observed to reach the entire landowner population in the restoration area.  WMI believes the lack of public awareness of the program has led to “an atmosphere of distrust” within the community, which has intensified due to recent injunctions on coyote hunting in the recovery area.

The full review is available here.

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