• 41°

Judge orders plan for releasing more red wolves into wild

By Jonathan Drew, Associated Press

A judge has ordered the federal government to come up with a plan to release more endangered red wolves from breeding programs to bolster the dwindling wild population.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle signed an order Thursday directing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to draft a plan by March 1 for releasing captive-bred wolves into the wolves’ designated habitat in North Carolina. The preliminary ruling comes in a lawsuit filed late last year by red wolf conservation groups in a federal court in North Carolina, the only place in the world where the wolf roams wild outside of zoos or wildlife refuges.

Noting that as few as seven wild red wolves remain, Boyle said in his ruling that “plaintiffs have demonstrated that extinction is a very real possibility in this case.”

The lawsuit had argued that the federal wildlife officials had violated the Endangered Species Act through actions that included a decision in 2015 to stop releasing captive-bred wolves to bolster the wild population. Since then, the federal agency has released one wolf from a wildlife refuge into the North Carolina habitat about a year ago.

Lawyers for the Fish and Wildlife Service have argued in the case that the Endangered Species Act gives it “broad discretion in determining how to factor endangered species conservation into their decision making.” A spokesman for the agency didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment late Friday afternoon.

The wolf conservation groups that took the federal agency to court praised Boyle’s decision.

“We are grateful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will finally abide by its responsibility to protect this critically endangered wolf,” Ben Prater, Southeast program director at Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement. “Releasing wolves into the wild is a common sense, science-backed approach to boost this population and stave off the red wolf’s extinction. While the species has a long way to go, this is a major step in the right direction.”

Red wolves once occupied much of the eastern United States but were driven to near extinction by trapping, hunting and habitat loss before they were reintroduced to North Carolina in 1987. Their range is limited to five North Carolina counties – Dare, Tyrrell, Hyde, Washington and Beaufort. Scientists at zoos and other sites have maintained a captive population of about 200 wolves in recent years.

READ ABOUT MORE NEWS AND EVENTS HERE.

RECENT HEADLINES:

Dare Planning Board looks at three developments and camping cabins

Coronavirus outbreaks reported at Dare County congregate living facilities

Lifestyles

Polar Plunge benefits Special Olympics

News

NC Senate approves bill allowing concealed handguns at more churches

Crime

Cooper announces reward for information on Wilson County murders

News

More federal coronavirus relief funds debated by NC House

News

Public meeting addresses Avon beach nourishment

Lifestyles

Outer Banks Community Foundation honors 2020 champions, elects 2021 board

Lifestyles

Manteo Rotary Club presents fellowship to horticulturist

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison for robbing bank

Crime

Federal jury convicts North Carolina man of narcotics and firearms offenses

Crime

Governor announces reward for information on murder on Halifax County

News

Bobcat on the refuge

News

Future of Soundside Event Site discussed

News

NPS issues interim rules for filming in park areas

News

Manteo commissioners approve permit for new athletic field house at Manteo High School

News

Weekly North Carolina gas price update

Crime

North Carolina man receives 13 years in federal prison for drug distribution

Crime

Cooper announces reward for information about Wilson County murder

News

North Carolina State Highway Patrol commander announces retirement

Crime

Cooper announces reward for information on Hoke County murder

Hyde

New video conference capabilities for students at the Hyde County Davis Center

Lifestyles

Dare County employee receives 25-year service pin

Crime

North Carolina sentenced to federal prison for dealing heroin

Business

Food Bank of the Albemarle announces Employees of the Year

Business

Kill Devil Hills pizzeria shows appreciation for essential workers