By John Culclasure, Central Appalachian States Manager
On July 30, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted comments on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) “Proposed Replacement of the Regulations for the Nonessential Experimental Population of Red Wolves in Northeastern North Carolina.”
Current regulations have not effectively managed red wolves on the Albemarle Peninsula in North Carolina, and in 2017 the Service published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of intent to prepare a National Environmental Policy Act document to revise the regulations governing the nonessential experimental population of red wolves (NC NEP) under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act. Using public input received during the scoping process, on June 28 the Service proposed to focus red wolf conservation efforts on federal lands in Dare and Hyde Counties.
The red wolf reintroduction program has had limited success due to competition with coyotes and interbreeding with coyotes, among other reasons. The program has also been hindered by poor public relations in the current five-county NC NEP management area due to unauthorized releases of red wolves on private property and regulatory burdens on private landowners. For the long-term conservation of the red wolf, the proposed rules aim to improve local community relations by revising the boundary of the NC NEP management to include only the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge and the Dare County Bombing Range. Additionally, by increasing the efficiency of the program, efforts can be directed towards maintaining the genetic viability of the red wolf by increasing the captive breeding population, which is currently far below the Service’s recommended minimum number of animals and breeding pairs.
CSF commended the Service “for listening to input from sportsmen and women, private landowners, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and other members of the public that have expressed concerns about the program.” CSF also encouraged the Service to strongly consider the recommendations of the state fish and wildlife agency and focus its efforts on increasing the capacity of the red wolf captive population to advance larger red wolf conservation efforts.
Under the proposed rules, red wolves can continue to live on private lands, and take within the NC NEP management area would still be prohibited.
To support state canid management objectives and to improve relations with private landowners and the hunting conservation community, CSF specifically supported the proposed revised boundary of NC NEP management area, removal of take prohibitions outside of the NC NEP management area, and clarification of the unintentional take definition within the NC NEP.
Going forward, CSF will monitor the rulemaking process closely to ensure that state wildlife management objectives and the considerations of the hunting conservation community are considered.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?