Red wolf reintroduction program revival

 urged by petitioners

A petition including nearly half a million signatures
 delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this
 urging the agency to fulfill its legal duty under the
 Species Act to recover the critically endangered
 red wolf.
To spur the agency to resume efforts to save a
species now
reduced to an estimated wild population of only
45, nearly
 500,000 names were submitted in a petition
drive organized
 the Animal Welfare Institute, Care2, the Center
for Biological
Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition, the
 Wildlands Network
 and a couple North Carolina high school
The petition comes a little over a year after
 the Service
 officially announced it was suspending
wolf releases into
the wild.

“It’s shameful how the Service has bowed
to political pressure
 and deliberately undermined the success
of its program to
 recover red wolves,” Jamie Pang, endangered
campaigner at the Center for Biological
Diversity, said.
“The agency’s inaction is condemning this
 species to
extinction.” The group has been active in
 the reintroduction of the gray wolf in
 Arizona and New
 Mexico, a program also under attack by critics.

Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild until
 successful reintroduction program was
 established in North
 Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
 in 1987.
 By 2006, this program had enabled the
population to expand
 to more than 130. Since then, the unique
 animals have
received ample support from conservationists,
 the public
 and even private landowners who live within
the red wolf
 recovery area.
Following a lawsuit by nonprofit groups to limit
 hunting, which once was a threat to the red
 wolf’s survival,
 the Service faced increased political pressure
 to curtail
the recovery program, according to a release
 on the
petition effort. In 2014, the Service eliminated
program’s recovery coordinator position and
 in June
2015 it stopped the introduction of new red
 into the wild. The agency also ended its
sterilization program, which was helping
to preven
t hybrid animals from harming the red wolf’s
 gene pool,
 curtailed law-enforcement investigations of
 wolf deaths
 to help bring poachers to justice, and
 allowed for both
 the lethal and nonlethal removal of wolves
 from private
 lands, arguably causing the population to
“The red wolf is now one of the world's most
 endangered mammal species. There are
 37 times
 as many giant pandas, 100 times as many
 leopards, and 400 times as many African
 lions in
 the wild as there are red wolves left in
 eastern North
Carolina," Ron Sutherland, a conservation
 scientist at
 Wildlands Network, said. "We hope Fish
 and Wildlife
 Director Dan Ashe and Interior Secretary
Sally Jewell
 will listen to the public and prevent the
red wolf from
 going extinct in the wild.”