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World’s Most Endangered Canid

 

Wolves have been vilified by humans for centuries from children’s fairy tales – “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down.” – Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf in a sheep’s clothing to the haunting howl of a wolf played in the background of scary shows to werewolf movies.

This stereotyping of wolves has not boded well for the red wolf. They have been the target of predator control measures, shot and killed just because they are wolves. Once common in eastern U.S. forests, the red wolf was declared extinct in the wild in the early 1970’s. The remaining wolves were now confined to zoos and wildlife centers.

A breeding program with the captive wolves saved the species and in the 1980’s red wolves were released in the wild in a North Carolina wildlife refuge. As of 2015 there were over 50 wolves in the refuge.

This species is still in a perilous state. Despite recovery efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service these wolves have not fared well. Many people remain ignorant of the benefits and importance of wolves in the environment and have balked and thwarted the agency’s attempts to re-establish the red wolf population.

Wolves play an important role in the environment in keeping elk, deer and moose in check. This results in a greater biodiversity of plant and animals. In Yellowstone where gray wolves were re-introduced, aspen groves rebounded resulting in increasing habitat for a variety of birds, stabilizing stream banks and providing resources for beavers to build dams. Overall the park now has a healthier natural environment.

Until people overcome their unfounded fears of an animal they know little about, the red wolf will have a difficult road to come back from the brink of extinction.

3 comments on “World’s Most Endangered Canid

  1. I’m enjoying your blog. Thank you for caring about nature. Years ago, I attended a presentation at the red wolf refuge in NC. I was disturbed to find out that coyotes, including pups, were killed to prevent the red wolves from being absorbed into the coyote population by interbreeding. I hope that this is no longer the case. It would seem there would be non-lethal ways to control the coyote population, maybe something like trap-neuter-release.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks glad you are enjoying it. I have heard about that project and although I do not know all the details, rest assured that programs like these are well vetted and carefully planned. Decisions in these cases are based on science from research programs. The last thing a biologist wants to do is to kill a species and it is only a last resort. Trap neuter and release may have been considered, but there may have been concerns about the competition for the same prey they both eat. Those decisions are never easy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the additional information. While I still disagree with the killing of the coyotes (which they might not do anymore) I had not thought about competition.

        Liked by 1 person

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