Don't Let Congress Condemn the Red Wolf to Extinction!

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We are writing to you today to express our extreme concerns about the legislation that has been introduced over the past few years to delist the Red Wolf (Canis rufus) and/or otherwise end the recovery of this highly threatened wolf (Congress 2017; Congress 2018).

The Red Wolf is either a species, a subspecies, or a genetically distinct hybrid that is native to the American Southeast. This wolf was subjected to extensive human persecution once Euro-Americans colonized the country, and it became extinct in the wild during the 1970's. A conservation breeding program that started around the same time saved the Red Wolf from complete extinction, and it was reintroduced to North Carolina in 1987. The reintroduced population is the only known wild population of the wolf remaining on the planet and it struggles to recover, with between 45 and 60 individuals currently existing in the wild (USFWS 2017; Waples et al. 2018).

The purpose of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is stated as “to provide a program for the conservation of… endangered species” (Congress 1973), with the ESA defining an Endangered species as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” (Congress 1973). The Red Wolf was listed as Endangered in 1967 because it is in serious danger of going extinct, and it qualifies for protection regardless of its taxonomic status (USFWS 2017; Waples et al. 2018). In addition, the Red Wolf is evaluated as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Kelly, Beyer, & Phillips 2008), meaning that it faces “an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild” (IUCN 2012). Thus, the delisting legislation would be a violation of the ESA since they would strip the Red Wolf of its ESA protections, would end conservation actions that are directed towards this wolf, and could potentially result in the extinction of this Endangered mammal.

Therefore, we ask that you please veto any anti-wolf legislation that targets the Red Wolf. Thank you.


IUCN. (2012). IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. Second Edition. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN. Iv + 32pp.

Kelly, B.T., A. Beyer, & M.K. Phillips. 2008. Canis rufus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>

US Congress. 1973. Endangered Species Act. 16 U.S.C.

US Congress. 2017. Explanatory Statement for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2018. <>

US Congress. 2018. H.R. 6119 - To remove the red wolf from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife for North Carolina, and for other purposes.

USFWS. 2017. Red Wolf Recovery. <>

Waples, R.S., R. Kays, R.J. Fredrickson, K. Pacifici, & L.S. Mills. 2018. Is the red wolf a listable unit under the US Endangered species Act? Journal of Heredity 109(5):  585–597.