This story has been updated to include the Center for Biological Diversity’s addition to the reward amount.
TYRELL COUNTY — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to a successful prosecution in the case of the poisoning death of an endangered red wolf earlier this year in Tyrell County.
In addition, the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity on Friday added $10,000 to the reward for information leading to a conviction or fine in the illegal killing, bringing the total reward offered to $12,500.
The wolf was found dead Jan. 27. The animals are protected under federal law.
“It’s a terrible injustice that someone would poison this extremely rare and precious red wolf,” said Jamie Pang, a policy specialist with the center. “The science shows that red wolves can be saved but, with fewer than 50 left in the wild, this deplorable killing cannot be tolerated.”
Although once abundant along the entire coastal plain of the Southeast, red wolves were pushed to the brink of extinction. After the species was declared endangered in 1973, 17 wild red wolves were captured for captive breeding. Wolf releases began in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in the mid-1980s, but recovery efforts have repeatedly been thwarted by what the center described as illegal killings. Populations peaked at 130 in 2001, but currently there are less than 45 of the animals left in the wild.
“We’re adding to this reward because red wolves are a critical part of America’s heritage, and we shouldn’t let a few killers deny future generations their opportunity to see these creatures in the wild,” said Pang. “With this killing and so many others, we could lose this species forever unless the federal government steps up and increases its efforts to recover these extremely endangered wolves.”
The center submitted an emergency petition in May 2016 to strengthen rules protecting red wolves from illegal shootings and identify additional reintroduction sites where red wolves can thrive. In December 2016 the center and allies filed a second petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service asking for an updated recovery plan. The agency has since pledged to develop a new recovery plan by January 2018 for the rapidly dwindling population of wild red wolves.
Anyone with information on the death of the Tyrell County wolf is asked to contact Resident Agent in Charge John Elofson at 404-763-7959 ext. 222; Special Agent Jason Keith at 919-856-4520 ext. 34; North Carolina Zone Wildlife Officer Frank Simms at 252-796-3004 ext. 223; or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Robert Wayne at 252-269-6734.