North Carolina wildlife advocates are offering a reward of $15,000 to find the killer of an endangered red wolf.
The wolf was shot dead along a fence line south of Newland Road in Washington County, eastern North Carolina, on May 18. A necropsy revealed it had been shot in the torso.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), gunshots are the leading cause of death for endangered red wolves. It added $10,000 to the already announced $5,000 reward money for information leading to a successful prosecution.
Will Harlan, southeast director at the CBD, said in an August 14 statement: “We grieve the senseless killing of one of the most endangered mammals on the planet, and we want the perpetrator brought to justice.
“This is a cowardly act against one of the only red wolves in the wild. We hope someone steps forward with information.”
According to the CBD, only 13 red wolves remain in the wild, and five counties in eastern North Carolina surrounding the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge are home to the world’s only wild red wolf population.
Red wolves are protected by the Endangered Species Act and violations can carry a maximum penalty of $50,000 as well as a year in prison. Civil penalties can range up to $25,000 per violation.
The wolves were once common throughout the eastern U.S. but they were hunted to extinction in the wild over the past century. Red wolves were one of the first species listed under the act.
A red wolf reintroduction program was started in the 1980s and involved captive-bred ones being released into eastern North Carolina.
According to the CBD: “The red wolf reintroduction program was one of the most innovative and successful programs ever for a critically endangered carnivore, and by 2010 more than 150 red wolves had returned to the wild.
“Unfortunately, their populations crashed to fewer than eight in the past decade, primarily due to gunshot mortality, vehicle collisions, and agency inaction. Instead of strengthening protections for critically endangered red wolves, in 2018 the Service announced it was halting its effort to help them recover in the wild.”
Red wolves are named for their characteristic red fur and they are slightly smaller than their cousins, the gray wolf, although they are larger than coyotes, weighing between 45 and 80 pounds.
They are classified as being critically endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
Anyone with any information about the killing has been asked to contact North Carolina Division of Refuge Enforcement Captain Frank Simms at (252) 216-7504 or special agent Matthew Brink at (919) 856-4786 ext 37.
Newsweek has contacted the CBD for comment via email.