The US Fish and Wildlife Service,a part of the Department of the Interior,has issued a Proposed Rule and notice of intent to prepare a National Environmental Policy Act document.The agency intends to gather information to develop a Proposed Rule that will revise the existing Non-essential Experimental Population (NEP) designation of Red wolves in North Carolina,and prepare a draft environmental review of the Proposed Rule.*
The Red wolf (Canis rufus) is currently listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.Its demise was directly related to human activities,such as drainage of vast wetland areas for agricultural purposes;construction of dam projects that inundated prime habitat;and predator control efforts at the private,State and Federal levels,USFWS explains.The animal's range was from Texas and Louisiana to the Ohio Valley and up the Atlantic Coast to Northern Pennsylvania or even Southern New York-and possibly farther north than that.In 1975,it was decided that all remaining Red wolves in the wild must be captured and put in a captive breeding program to save the species.This was because of:
1.a critically low wild population;
2.poor health due to disease,as well as internal and external parasites;
3.the threat of an expanding coyote population and consequent inbreeding.
Forty adult Red wolves were captured for the captive breeding program.By 1986,it had grown to 80 wolves in seven facilities and public and private zoos nationwide.*
In 1986,Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge,North Carolina,was selected for Red wolf reintroduction.From 1987-92,officials released 42 Red wolves there to establish the NEP.In 1993,the range was expanded with reintroductions in Pocosin Lake NWR,NC.Today,however,the only wild population is in Alligator River NWR.The USFWS conducted an independent review of the NEP in 2014 and the entire Red wolf recovery programme in 2015.From these reviews,it was ascertained that the current direction and management of the NEP is unacceptable to the USFWS and all stakeholders,including private landowners and the North Carolina Resources Committee.Consequently,the USFWS is considering a potential revision of the 1995 NEP final rule,citing:
1.risks of continuing hybridisation;
3.continued loss of habitat to sea level rise;
4.continued population decline leading to poor prospects for the NEP.
Therefore,the USFWS is considering whether the NEP should be merged with the captive population as one meta-population whereby individuals could be moved,not only from captivity into the wild,but also from the wild into captivity.Doing so will increase the size of the population and introduce the natural selection occurring in the NEP back into the captive population.The USFWS is proposing to change the goal of the current NEP project from solely that of establishing a self-sustaining wild population to a goal of also supporting viability of the captive wolves of the Red wolf breeding programme (proposed action).