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A Case of Mistaken Identity
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A Case of Mistaken Identity

The red wolf is near-extinction due to habitat obliteration and for the protection of livestock. By the mid 1970’s, only 14 red wolves remained. In 1984, these wolves were extracted from the wild to launch a breeding facility as part of a species survival plan initiated by the Point Defiance Zoo, Association of Zoo and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. The propagation program has successfully increased the number of red wolves to 200 in the program, with almost 100 red wolves living in the wild thanks to the assistance of additional zoos.

In 1987, four pairs of adult red wolves were released into the wild at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina by biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. A similar release took place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1991. However, this experiment was terminated six years later due to disease, low pup survival rates, and lack of prey to sustain the red wolf population.

Unfortunately, the red wolf population in North Carolina is deemed experimental. Although the red wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the status of the red wolf population in North Carolina reverts to unprotected if considered a threat to humans or livestock. The legal status of the red wolf population in North Carolina may lead to the demise of red wolves living in the wild.

Coyotes migrated to North Carolina from Tennessee. The jaws of a 35-50 pound coyote can exert up to 300 pounds of pressure, which can easily kill livestock. Coyotes account for the largest number of predator-related livestock death according to statistician, Thomas Chard with the United States Department of Agriculture. Ranchers report that the coyotes eat the prime pieces of meat and leave the remainder of the carcass.

Ranchers set traps, snares, and hunt the coyotes to protect livestock. Regrettably, the red wolf resembles the coyote and is often killed by mistake. The Wildlife Resources Commission authorized coyote hunting in North Carolina, which is now home to approximately 100 wild red wolves. A U.S. judge has been requested by conservation groups to stop coyote hunting in North Carolina to preserve the red wolf population due to the problem of mistaken identity.

At least five red wolves were mistaken for coyotes and killed on hunts in October of 2013. The Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Welfare Institute are seeking to halt coyote hunting to protect the red wolves. The Wildlife Resources Commission reports that coyotes are disease carriers and a danger to humans and livestock. The commission believes that allowing the trapping and hunting of coyotes is an effective method of controlling the coyote population.

*Royalty free picture courtesy of Ealasaid on Flickr’s Creative Commons.

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  1. pftsusan
    What a shame that we are losing this species because humans used them for experiments. We went into their territory and captured them for science! And most of them died afterwards. If we didn't do that, we would have more of our wild life out there, living in their environments where we could visit and learn more about them.
    1. NT3RNT RITR
      I believe that God intends for us to protect the earth including animals! Thanks for your support!
  2. CharlotteCD
    They are such a beautiful species. I hope more will be done to raise awareness. Hopefully this article will begin conversations and get the ball rolling.
    1. NT3RNT RITR
      Thanks Charlotte! The coyote population may be out of control in some areas but the red wolf is scarce. Mistaking a red wolf for a coyote will halt the repopulation efforts.
  3. BigCM
    Good article
    1. NT3RNT RITR
      BigCM, thanks for your vote and comments!
  4. TomCat
    I was number 6. Hope it helps. Very good writing and a very interesting article.
    1. NT3RNT RITR
      Thanks for the vote!
  5. katkar
    We have a predator compensation program for livestock farmers in India that I consider to be highly successful. In my country, we share our land with a number of formidable predators. India has 3 subspecies of wolf alone, and they are not even the most formidable of canid predators (that honor goes to the <3 Indian wild dog <3 ). Wolves generally avoid livestock, but farm animals can be killed by leopards, and sometimes tigers and lions. Whenever a farmer loses a cow, goat or another animal, the Forest Department is authorized (and encouraged) to compensate the farmer for his monetary loss. All the farmer has to do is to report the loss of an animal, and the State government pays the farmer an equivalent amount from the treasury. Can this scheme be misused? Of course! A farmer can make a natural death look like predation in order to make money off a lost animal. However, these incidents are generally ignored in the interest of wildlife protection. Compensating farmers promptly and liberally stops these farmers from carrying out revenge killings on the predators. If they poison a carcass, or set a snare, they risk prison for endangering wildlife. By tolerating the loss of an animal, they suffer no loss of income and essentially risk nothing. As a consequence, we have people and wild animals living in close proximity without much incident. Predators too have learned the limits of their exploits - they may attack livestock in times of need, but attacks on people are practically unheard of. The strain that this places on the state exchequer is repaid many times over by the numbers of tourists who throng our protected areas to see predators in their natural habitat. I think that a similar system can help protect wildlife in North America. However, livestock farming for meat places considerably greater demand on the land and water resources, so as the demand for meat increases, increased conflicts with wildlife may be inevitable. Unfortunately, the US approach seems to be more about wildlife "management" than wildlife "protection".
    1. NT3RNT RITR
      Anupam Katkar, you definitely have a point concerning wildlife management in comparison to wildlife protection. Perhaps the U.S. will consider a different approach! Thanks for your input!


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