The Red Wolf Needs More To Join Pack
By. Hannah Taylor
Christian Hunt from The Defenders of Wildlife
A critically endangered animal native to the East Coast is in search of more to join its pack. The red wolf population nears the top of the endangered species list. It is estimated that about 40 red wolves remain in the wild, and the number is decreasing.
The East Carolina Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences’ Biology department knew the urgency of this. On March 3, they held an event to inform their local community on the dire issue. The event consisted of an information session, documentary viewing, and discussion.
Christian Hunt led the program. Hunt works for The Defenders of Wildlife and is based at their Charlotte office. He has spent most of his career promoting red wolf awareness, specifically their risk of extinction.
The red wolf issue has not gained momentum in media as easily as other animals on the brink of extinction. According to Hunt, the media has their own “media darlings.” “Polar bears are on media constantly, when red wolves face a higher risk of extinction,” Hunt said.
Hunt believes the red wolf issue’s lack of representation in the media is due to the historical distrust between humans and the wolf kind. “Fear based stories like Red Riding Hood have carried weight in setting a certain stigma on wolves,” Hunt said. “When in fact, red wolves are so afraid of humans that they usually pee themselves.”
The linkage of fear and red wolves has been only one of the challenges faced by red wolves. Other threats include severe weather, deaths by motor vehicles, habitat loss due to human development, and illegal killings. As the red wolf population dwindles another threat is interbreeding between coyotes and red wolves.
According to Hunt, another main threat is the way in which the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service is managing the issue. In recent years they have changed management of the Red Wolf Recovery program, stopped the release of red wolves into the wild, and plan to remove all remaining red wolves from the population into zoos to prevent extinction.
“The removal of the top predator means the ecosystem will bottom out. It’s been seen when other top predators become extinct,” Hunt said. With the lack of the top predator, smaller animals like raccoons, possums and squirrels will overtake the area. “We will be making monsters of Disney like creatures,” Hunt said. Not only are red wolves important for the food chain, they are also key for the health of the environment. Without a top predator, the environment will not flourish.
The Defenders of Wildlife and Hunt plea for locals to get involved in the fight to protect red wolves. You can visit their website The Defenders of Wildlife, or visit their Facebook page. They advise you to write to your government officials and become a voice for the red wolves.