Wolves on westward prowl - Endangered red wolves' chief threat to survival: Hybridization with indigenous coyotes
(Note: This is speciesism carried to the extreme. "Biologists came up with a strategy" all right: to justify their employment by wiping out one species in favor of another that conveniently -- as they've seen to -- carries a "endangered" label. So, it is not the wolves that are "evicting coyotes", but rather the BIOLOGISTS, i.e., U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service federal employees. Where is the outcry from PETA and other "animal rights" groups over the decimation and extermination of the coyote and the new species produced by the crossbreeding? As John Stossel would say, this is "tinkering with nature" in its most extreme form, simply killing -- or to use the "politically correct" term used in this article: "euthanizing" -- the species that's not able to protect the jobs of the government employees. How long would such activities be tolerated in the private sector? Another part of the article: "Biologists removed 400 wolf-like animals from the wilds of coastal Louisiana and Texas, and found 14 pure red wolves. They moved the 14 survivors to captivity..." leads one to question what happened to the 386 "non-pure" "wolf-like animals"? Were they, too, "euthanized"? Perhaps the red wolves, feeling the aging of their own time as a flourishing species, crossbred in order to CREATE a new, hybrid species, better able to withstand and adapt to changing environmental conditions. Another quote: "... [homeowners] want wolves because they kill raccoons and other predators of nests of quail and wild turkey" -- excuse me, but don't coyotes also kill raccoons and other predators? Or, is the reader not supposed to be cognizant of that, but continue lapping up what the reporter pours forth? The following quote should be memorized: “It is probably a healthy exercise, when considering the extinction of species in this age, to remember that many thousands of life forms have ceased to exist from wholly natural causes -- dinosaurs spring invariably to mind. And further that some organisms -- especially primitive forms, which, as it were, are ‘past their prime’ -- will pass into oblivion, both without human assistance and in spite of it.” - from The Birdwatcher’s Companion, page 229, authored by Christopher Leahy of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, 1982.)
July 6, 2003
By Jack Horan, Special Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
The Charlotte Observer
Charlotte, North Carolina
To submit a Letter to the Editor: email@example.com
Manteo, North Carolina - A wall of wolves is moving westward across five northeastern North Carolina counties.
The wolves are red wolves, an endangered species.
They're not sprinting along on attack, but are evicting coyotes.
Coyotes, not man, pose the most serious threat to the survival of the wolves in their only wild population.
The threat is genetic.
When wolves can't find another wolf for a mate, they'll breed with their fellow canine, the coyote.
The mating yields wolf-coyote hybrids.
Hybrids could doom the red wolf as a pure species in the wild, leaving it only as a zoo animal.
Today, about 100 wolves roam 1.5 million acres of public and private lands in the peninsula between the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.
Shy and secretive, they live mostly under the radar of local people, preying on rabbits, raccoons, nutria and deer.
They are the only wild wolves east of the Great Lakes and south of Canada.
Four years ago, when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists began to deal with the hybridization problem, wolves and coyotes populated much of the five-county wolf recovery area.
Both prowled prey-rich wetlands, forests and farm fields.
Biologists came up with a strategy to replace pockets of coyotes with mated pairs of wolves.
They started by eliminating coyotes at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, the wolves' easternmost home.
"We're building a wall of wolves west to the western boundary," said Bud Fazio, who oversees the red wolf recovery from his office in Manteo.
"The boundary lies at the Beaufort and Washington county lines at the beginning of the peninsula.
"To date, we can proudly say in terms of breeding pairs of wolves, (Dare, Hyde and Tyrrell Counties) are pretty much full of red wolves."
That's good news for the native wolf of the Southeast, a species that lives on the edge.
In the early 1970s, the wolf almost vanished.
Biologists removed 400 wolf-like animals from the wilds of coastal Louisiana and Texas, and found 14 pure red wolves.
They moved the 14 survivors to captivity, where they became the founding fathers and mothers of the 263 wolves alive today.
The figure includes 163 in captivity.
Extinct in the wild, the red wolf returned to North Carolina in 1987, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced captive-bred animals into the newly-acquired Alligator River refuge.
Biologists also released wolves in nearby Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge after it was acquired in 1990.
Wolves spread onto adjacent private lands and -- despite hostility from many residents and poaching incidents -- prospered and produced pups.
The population achieved true wildness in late 2001 when the last captive-bred wolf, a 13-year-old male and the patriarch of the Milltail pack in the Alligator River refuge, died.
In 2002, two pups born at the North Carolina Zoo near Asheboro were given to wild foster parents to increase genetic diversity.
At the same time, coyotes began infiltrating from the west, partly because of a natural migration across the state and partly because of illegal imports from the West.
Fazio said red wolves, averaging 45-80 pounds, [would] mate with their own kind when surrounded by other wolves. If no wolves are available, lone wolves will mate with coyotes, averaging 30-55 pounds.
To eliminate coyotes and hybrids, Fazio and his staff identify, trap and sterilize them.
They're released to hold a place in the wild until a wolf family can replace them.
So far, about 25 non-wolves have been removed and euthanized.
Fazio seeks landowner permission when coyotes are on private land.
He said some landowners want neither coyotes nor wolves; others want wolves because they kill raccoons and other predators of nests of quail and wild turkey.
"Now, four years later, we can say 'Yes, hybridization and the threat of coyotes can be effectively managed,' " Fazio said.
He said wolf packs [would] drive out newcomer coyotes and even kill them.
Fazio said he couldn't predict how long it will take to make Beaufort and Washington counties coyote-free.
"We want the population to increase to the extent that the five-county area can be filled with red wolf breeding pairs," he said.
Red Wolf Facts
About two-thirds of the 100 wild red wolves wear radio-signal collars so biologists can keep track of them and, if necessary, capture them.
The average pack consists of a breeding [age] male and female, their yearling offspring and pups.
Last year, 21 wolves formed a pack in Hyde County and then split into two packs.
No attacks on people have been reported.
The red wolf program lists 134 complaints since 1987, a figure that includes 58 sightings.
Since 1987, 158 wolves have died: 43 from natural causes; 36 hit by vehicles; 31 suspicious or illegal take; 32 from unknown causes.
For more information, see http://www.redwolves.com
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the national wildlife refuge system. This is one in a series of profiles of Carolinas refuges. See http://southeast.fws.gov.
ALLIGATOR RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SIZE: 152,195 acres
LOCATION: Dare County between the Alligator River, Albemarle, Croatan and Pamlico sounds
DISTANCE FROM CHARLOTTE: About 350 miles
YEAR CREATED: 1984
LANDSCAPE: Shrubby wetlands, hardwood swamps, marshes
DISTINCTIVE WILDLIFE: Red wolves, alligators, black bears
POCOSIN LAKES NATIONAL WILDLIFE
REFUGE SIZE: 113,674 acres
LOCATION: Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties
DISTANCE FROM CHARLOTTE: About 320 miles
YEAR CREATED: 1990
LANDSCAPE: Shrubby wetlands, grassy fields, riverine swamp
DISTINCTIVE WILDLIFE: Red wolves, black bears, wintering waterfowl
“It is probably a healthy exercise, when considering the extinction of species in this age, to remember that many thousands of life forms have ceased to exist from wholly natural causes -- dinosaurs spring invariably to mind. And further that some organisms -- especially primitive forms, which, as it were, are ‘past their prime’ -- will pass into oblivion, both without human assistance and in spite of it.” - from The Birdwatcher’s Companion, page 229, authored by Christopher Leahy of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, 1982.
"Bud" or "Buddy" Fazio: firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-273-1131 x240