The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently moved a juvenile red wolf from Florida to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge to try and create a new breeding pair with a resident female.
The new male was moved by air from St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of Florida.
The red wolf once roamed much of the southeastern United States, but was declared extinct in 1980, edged out by predators like gray wolves and coyotes. Fourteen remaining red wolves were captured in Texas and Louisiana before the extinction declaration and were used to establish a breeding program.
In 1987, a few mated pairs were released as an experiment in reintroduction at the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge. That experiment grew to a population of more than 100 red wolves covering five eastern North Carolina counties, including Dare and Hyde.
But in recent years, a “vocal group of landowners pushed the government to abandon recovery efforts, arguing the animal is a coyote hybrid,” according to the Associated Press. Last year, there were no breeding pairs in North Carolina, and only about a dozen red wolves are believed to remain.
In 2015, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission asked the federal government to end the red wolf conservation program and began removing some protections for the endangered canines. Last year, the federal government considered a proposal to reduce the conservation area to just Dare and Hyde counties.