An endangered red wolf was shot and killed in Eastern North Carolina.
The wolf was found in Tyrrell County in a muddy farm field on April 15 by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). According to a press release by the USFWS, “The red wolf was shot in the spine, causing the wolf to collapse on the field. The red wolf’s lungs were found to be full of mud during a later necropsy.”
Officials are searching for the person(s) responsible but need help. A reward of $5,000 is being offered for information that leads to a conviction.
American red wolves are the most critically endangered wolf in the entire world, and it is illegal to shoot one. Killing a federally protected red wolf can result in a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The only exception being if a human or pet are in danger.
Overhunting by humans and habitat loss led to red wolves being declared extinct in the wild in 1980. Decades later they are still struggling to return to the wild with fewer than 20 remaining.
The iconic wolves used to roam free across much of the Southeast but now can only be found on the coast of North Carolina.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several other animal welfare organizations started captive breeding programs to preserve the species, which accounts for roughly 250 red wolves today. They are also working on reintroducing them to several counties on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in North Carolina.
Past reintroductions in the state saw the population of red wolves reach 120 in 2012, but their numbers quickly declined due to humans hunting and hitting them with vehicles. They hope this time around will be different.
Mark Cross, Endangered Wolf Center Executive Director, said, “American red wolves are the only large carnivore species solely native to the USA. Just like the bald eagle, the American red wolf is a national treasure we must save.”
There’s still hope of the species recovering in the wild. A wonderful surprise appeared this spring – the first litter of wild-born red wolf pups. The six pups are the first to be born in the wild since 2018.
The Fish and Wildlife Service asks anyone with information about the death of the red wolf to contact Capt. Frank Simms at 252-216-7504 or Special Agent Jason Keith at 919-856-4786, ext. 34.
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