Friday, November 30, 2012

Local Groups in North Carolina Fear for the Safety of Red Wolves

A red wolf in its enclosure at North Carolina's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

It has been recently reported that local groups in the state of North Carolina are headed to court, striving to repeal a newly-passed rule that allows hunting of coyotes during nighttime. The groups fear that the hunting is having a harmful effect on the struggling population of red wolves in the state. Part of the concern is that the wolves' appearance is very similar to coyotes. In addition, recent genetic research suggests that the red wolf may even be a hybrid between a wolf and a coyote. According to Michael Stoskopf, a clinical sciences professor, it is difficult even for an experienced wolf biologist to identify a red wolf even with a good look. The hunting, which combines the use of spotlights and animal calls, enables hunters to easily bait animals into the firing range. The light confuses the animals, providing the hunters with an easy shot. The decision to overturn the rule of nighttime hunting came when the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced two news releases regarding two red wolves that had been shot and killed in the past few months. One wolf was killed just a month after the ruling was passed in Tyrrell County, and another was killed a month later in Beaufort County. Stoskopf stated that coyote hunting in North Carolina is a "very politically-charged issue." He further added that despite the successes of efforts in recovering the red wolves in the past ten years, there is always a major concern of increased deficits of breeding age animals. Sherry Samuels, treasurer for the Red Wolf Coalition, stated that it would be "great for this night hunting to go away in the five-county area."
A red wolf on the run

I very much feel the same way as these groups regarding the plight of red wolves in North Carolina. These unique animals bear a striking resemblance to coyotes, which can easily confuse hunters. However, these wolves are an intermediate in size between the coyote and the wolf. Their name derives from the reddish-brown fur on their heads, and their coat color which is a mixture of brown, buff, cinnamon, and tawny. Coyotes also share similar coat colors, and this is what results in the case of mistaken identity. The red wolf population in North America is currently about 100, with majority of animals living in a protected area in the eastern part of North Carolina. If the hunting of coyotes in the state continues, then there will be more reported deaths of red wolves. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that coyote hunting in the area where these wolves roam be disallowed so that recovery efforts continue to bolster up the red wolf population.

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