A group of conservators howl near the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, seeking a return call from red wolves.
Mary Casanova - Books for Young Readers - Wolf Shadows
Mike Bryant, the former project leader of the red wolf recovery effort, is photographed at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. He drove an SUV slowly on lumpy dirt roads for nearly four hours, scanning spindly trees, murky canals, green thickets and muck. Two other sharp-eyed conservationists helping to search from the back seat also saw nothing. A second fruitless search the next morning left little doubt: The red wolf, which went extinct in the wild before the federal government managed to revive the species, is disappearing again, maybe forever.
A few weeks after the 30th anniversary of reintroduction, there is serious doubt that the only distinctively American wolf, which once ranged throughout the southeast United States, can survive outside zoos.
If wild red wolves are lost, it would mark one of the biggest and most dramatic failures for a federal endangered species recovery plan. The story of the rise and fall of the experimental red wolf population at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a testament to the power of the Endangered Species Act to protect wildlife — and its limitations. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists who manage the restoration program have introduced more than captive-bred wolves into the refuge and watched as the population peaked at more than wolves a decade ago and plummeted to fewer than 45 now.
Wolves have been shot by hunters and private landowners in a state where officials want to end the program. The project is mired in politics, distrust, open bickering, scientific disputes and a legal challenge. It reflects the discord on Capitol Hill as lawmakers debate Endangered Species Act revisions that could dramatically weaken one of the most powerful environmental laws in the world.
A House committee recently passed five bills that force Endangered Species Act enforcement decisions to consider the economic impact of protecting plants and animals, strip away much of the ability of interest groups to sue when protections fall short and remove some protections of gray wolves, which live mostly in the West.
Marlon James:I’m not going to tell the reader who to believe.
On top of all that, the red wolf program is facing a basic question that could undermine its very reason for being established: Are the penny-colored canids now roaming North Carolina really the descendants of wolves, or is the species so interbred with coyotes that it is ineligible for federal protection? In July , the Fish and Wildlife Service announced an effort to pull wolves from the refuge and put them back in zoos because the genetic purity of captive animals was at risk.
After giving up his search to see a red wolf, Sutherland, a scientist for the Wildlands Network in Durham, said Fish and Wildlife essentially gave up on red wolves two years ago when they stopped releasing new wolves from captivity. The red wolf program might seem messy now, but its work to resurrect an animal that went extinct in the wild was a minor miracle. For nearly a century, red wolves were gunned down by order of state predator control programs and scattered as humans seized their habitat.
By the late s, the population was so depleted that coyotes — which the bigger wolves naturally chased away or killed — began to settle in the same range. Even worse, they started to interbreed. About a dozen genetically pure red wolves were separated from others that were part coyote and placed in zoos that agreed to participate in a captive breeding program. Meanwhile, authorities searched for a suitable habitat to one day release wolves into the wild. They selected the , acre Alligator River refuge for its size and selection of small prey red wolves prefer.
Under the restoration program in , Fish and Wildlife at first released three pairs of adult red wolves into a world of birds, raccoons, alligators, deer and one of the largest black bear concentrations in the nation. Louis, which helps manage the captive red wolf population, said in November. But state wildlife officials and many large landowners were uneasy about the presence of red wolves, and hunters worried that wolves would eat too many of the animals they liked to target.
Fish and Wildlife officials did very little to make state leaders and residents more comfortable with a canid that carries mythological big bad wolf baggage, Mossotti said. They also cut deals with a few private landowners to release red wolves on property outside the refuge.
Private landowners such as Kelly Martin, who lives on a farm with her husband, Blythe, in Swan Quarter, support the wolves.
You can see it and see it and see it and never get used to it. It is special because they are so wild. Spencer said he likes to hunt nearly everything wolves eat, fueling his opposition. Kim Wheeler, executive director of the Red Wolf Coalition, rolled her eyes at the contention that the wolves impact deer.
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Without further ado, here are my tweets:. Until the s, they were common in the longleaf pine savannas and deciduous forests of the southeastern United States. But red wolves were nearly annihilated by habitat degradation, persecution, and interbreeding with the coyote. Today, reintroduced red wolves are found only on peninsular northeastern North Carolina within less than one percent of their former historic range. DeLene Beeland shadows the U. Her engaging portrait of this top-level predator traces the intense effort of conservation personnel to restore a species that has slipped to the verge of extinction.
Beeland weaves together the voices of scientists, conservationists, and local landowners while posing larger questions about human coexistence with red wolves, our understanding of what defines this animal as a distinct species and how climate change may swamp the only place it is currently found in the wild. Working in cooperation with the U. Our main function is to raise funds which will be used to execute projects and purchase field supplies needed by the red wolf recovery program.
Red wolves are critically endagered , and some consider them to be among the most endangered canids on the planet. A network of forty-one captive breeding facilities across the U. My book on red wolves traces their modern reintroduction and management as well as what is known of their past history in the eastern United States. Some of the modern reintroduction challenges include managing them to prevent hybridization with wild coyotes, mitigating disruptions to packs due to human-caused red wolf deaths, and changes to their habitat cause by sea level rise due to climate change.
All of these issues are explored in depth in my book. Another recent threat to red wolves came about last year when the state of North Carolina allowed open-season daylight hunting of coyotes to be extended to night. An injunction was placed on the night hunting rule, although a permanent change to the hunting regulations remains a possibility.
You can visit the website for the new Friends of the Red Wolf group and find photos of red wolves and a blog post explaining a little bit more background about the formation of the Friends group. If you feel so inclined, there is also a page explaining how to make a donation. Despite dealing with the travails of traveling as a nursing mom without her baby, it was an awesome trip. But even more awesome awesomesauce was awaiting me at home. I am thrilled the press chose a photo from my book to put on the cover of their catalog! It is a wonderful gesture to their faith in the importance of this book, and it is also a welcome bit of positive news for the red wolf which is currently plagued by the fallout of a decision by the N.
For this, they are being sued. Now, is that a nice cover or what? But back to the catalog. This is the first step in marketing my book, and that makes me very excited because I actually finished writing the book in November of At the time, I had no idea that it would take more than a year for the project to transform into a saleable hardback form! In fact, the process took so long, I actually went through pregnancy and birth and now have a beautiful baby boy! It does feel good, though also a tad overwhelming as I try to regain my foothold with writing now that my life is re-centering around another human being.
Goodness knows there is so much to write about with recent developments for the worse for red wolves. Last November, when I sent my book manuscript off to my editor at the University of North Carolina Press, I heaved a sigh of relief that that was finally done. Waiting for his feedback, I felt like a kid anticipating Christmas morning! It was, of course, an immense relief to hear that his first reading was positive with only a few minor and completely right-on suggestions for sharpening both my craft and the tale at hand.
The press had asked a literary expert and two scientific experts to review my manuscript. I was then given a few months to incorporate their comments into the final draft. I chiseled away at the easy edits first, things that required only word changes, or sentence- or paragraph-level tinkering. That helped me get back into the groove of the writing and the story arc.
When there was nothing small left to twiddle with or smooth over, it was time for the heavy editing. I made a checklist of the more substantial edits and figured out a game plan for how to attack them. Like the young red wolf pup shown here, I had a lot to learn. Here, Ryan Nordsven takes a blood sample from a red wolf pup, a routine procedure to test for genetic purity.
The process of writing a book is surely as different for every writer as the fingerprints inscribed on our digits. What follows below is a list of things I learned along the way, over the two year process it took to bring my project from an idea to a finished manuscript.
The focus of this post is on the actual writing, structure, and organization issues I encountered—not how to write or sell a book proposal. Seeking guidance, I asked two non-fiction authors I know who had published multiple books each how they had managed to break down the massive amount of work involved in writing multiple chapters. I stared at my draft table of contents and thought, This will be easy!
I knew I wanted to plant seeds in the first chapter that would be cultivated and tended to in later chapters, but this was hard to do in the sense of writing an article. I realized with a sinking feeling that in biting off writing the first chapter, I first had to have a much firmer understanding of the whole book — the whole story — before I could understand where it began.
I felt adrift and anchorless in those months.
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I often awoke at 3 a. What have I been up to since then?
I finished my first non-fiction book! No, really! Writing this book is a singular accomplishment in my life.