The red wolf (Canis Rufus) joined the ranks of the world’s most endangered dog species in 1967 after their numbers drastically reduced due to their widespread hunting. A government initiative to control predators and the loss of their habitat due to human activities and encroachment was then established. As more people settled in these areas, the demand for land fueled the encroachment of previously wild lands that were the breeding and hunting grounds for the red wolf and caused significant drops in the number and availability of prey. This led to the red wolves attacking people’s livestock in the night and some rare cases there were reports of human-wolf conflicts that led to the legislation of intensive predator control programs. Immediately after the red wolf was declared an endangered species, the Fish and Wildlife Services embarked on a series of practical and specific programs to ensure the continuity of the species. The few remaining red wolves were captured and bred in captivity and were later released back in the wild 20 years later. Although the red wolf species is showing some progress, though very slow and gradual, of recovery, these efforts are significantly affected by newer threats that include interbreeding with coyotes that result in hybrids, inbreeding that weakens the red wolf lineage and human activities such as hunting.
More than 60 red wolves inhabit their former North Carolina habitats and the red wolf conservation program still keeps a significant number in their conservation facilities throughout the US. The resulting generations from the conservation program have been successfully reintroduced to their natural habitats in different animal game reserves to allow them to breed naturally, with a considerable number of these wolves found in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge located in North Carolina. The program ensures that their relocation strategies minimize chances of inbreeding and hybridization through the keeping of impeccable breeding history information for all the wolves in the program and ensuring that the new habitats are relatively free from coyote populations. Although most of the red wolf populations are concentrated in the North Carolina region, some have been taken to Tennessee and other states throughout the country where the program is initiating new colonies in captivity. The program has also championed the preservation of natural wildlife habitats for the benefit of the red wolves. Moreover, it does this to ensure the security and continuity of the fragile ecosystem that depends on each other for food and as a natural limiter to over population of either one species. Despite the significantly increasing red wolf populations, the species is still classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act that was signed into law in 1972 to ensure the protection of both animal and plant life that the government realized were part of the country’s important and nonrenewable resources.
In 1980, as the Fish and Wildlife Services was undertaking a species census to establish the breeding sample for their restoration program, they found that the red wolf species from the cannibals they had captured was 1 in 10. They managed to capture slightly over 400 animals though most turned out to be coyotes and coyote-red wolf hybrids and led to the decision to declare the species extinct. This precedence made the red wolf the only species ever to be eliminated from its natural habitat to ensure its survival. By the time these conservation efforts began, the red wolf population had already suffered significant decline due to human development activities and hunting. Farmers hunted the red wolf on the misguided notion that the cannibal, whose food consists mainly of small mammals, rodents, the occasional deer and insects and berries, was responsible for their livestock losses (Beeland 20). Habitat destruction caused the otherwise highly adaptive red wolf to move to increasingly unfamiliar territories where they could not thrive, which was the major cause of their interbreeding with coyotes. Red wolf populations still face significant threats from humans through the accidental hunting as most people are unable to differentiate between them and their closely resembling cousins the coyote, and a lot of them are involved in car accidents. Natural disasters and global warming have also not been kind to the red wolf as the changes in climate and weather patterns have resulted in the disruption of their hunting grounds by causing prey migrations. Natural disasters such as tsunamis have also led to the destruction of habitats, and the death of red wolfs even those in captivity since their habitats are located in relatively flat low altitude areas.
The red wolf rehabilitation has received considerable backing from the national government especially with the passing of the Endangered Species Act under President Nixon that led to the preservation of all species (Kalen, Feldman, and Sullins). The red wolf protection program under the Fish and Wildlife Services have also advocated for the preservation of animal habitats with the most significant battle being against the navy. The Navy wanted to set up a training facility next to the North Carolina wildlife conservancy that would not only have interfered with the red wolfs’ habitat but also interfered with scores of other species including an assortment of birds and other animals. The Navy finally caved to the pressure brought about by these advocacy groups and animal protection agencies and took their plans elsewhere. There have however been significant critics to the red wolf recovery program. The most notable one is the petition filed by the American Sheep Industry Association to have the red wolf delisted from the Endangered Species Act in 1991 because they shared too many characteristics with coyotes. The botched Senate amendments that would have left the red wolf recovery program without operation funds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service have been the lead stakeholder and research organ of the red wolf conservation initiative that has seen the protection of the species for the past half century. They also spearhead new research into the red wolf to enhance their preservation and protection programs for the red wolf and other wildlife. Several initiatives have also boosted the red wolf preservation program by running funds drives to provide financing for the program through various awareness and promotion activities like the ‘Adopt a Red Wolf’ initiative. The government has also been instrumental in these efforts by implementing legislations and supporting research into the current and future needs of preservation programs that have resulted in quality information that has helped in the formation of sound and practical intervention and management strategies. The red wolf in its natural habitat is at the top of the food chain and plays the important role of maintaining balance in its ecosystem thereby ensuring its sustainability and continuity (Letnic, Ritchie, and Dickman 390)
Beeland, T D. L. The Secret World of Red Wolves: The Fight to Save North America’s Other Wolf., 2013. Print.
Kalen, Sam, Murray D. Feldman, and Tony A. Sullins. Endangered Species Act. Chicago: American Bar Association, Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, 2012. Print
Letnic, Mike, Euan G. Ritchie, and Christopher R. Dickman. “Top Predators As Biodiversity Regulators: the Dingo canis Lupus Dingo as a Case Study.” Biological Reviews. 87.2 (2012). Print.
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