Coyote hunting in five North Carolina Counties has come to a halt to protect endangered red wolves.
According to the Charlotte Observer, a federal judge has stopped coyote hunting in five coastal counties to protect endangered red wolves that are being mistakenly killed by hunters.
Red wolves look very similar to coyotes.
After reviewing a lawsuit by three wildlife advocacy groups, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle ordered an injunction to stop coyote hunting in Dare, Tyrrell, Hyde, Washington and Beaufort counties, which serve as the federally protected habitat for the wolves. There are only 100 red wolves left in northeastern North Carolina.
The lawsuit claimed that the state’s coyote hunting laws were violating the Endangered Species Act, which protects red wolves.
The wildlife groups argued that hunters who are mistakenly killing red wolves are putting the endangered species at a greater risk of extinction. They believe the injunction will protect red wolves in the area.
“It’s what we were seeking in terms of halting coyote hunting in red wolf territory,” said Derb Carter of the Southern Environmental Law Center, who represented the three groups in the law suit. “That will hopefully stop the loss of wolves that are threatened by these rules.”
The injunction prohibits any private landowner within the five-county area from coyote hunting during day or night.
Some local landowners like Jett Ferebee, who we interviewed back in February, see both the red wolves and coyotes as problematic.
According to Ferebee, coyotes – which are an invasive and non-local species to North Carolina – have been mating with red wolves to form a hybrid that is nearly indistinguishable from a ‘yote. These wolf-coyote hybrids are reportedly devastating local livestock and deer herd populations.
“Conditions on the ground have changed,” Ferebee said. “We are overrun with coyotes, and these red wolves readily interbreed with them.”
The coyote-wolf hybrids and the laws the protect the red wolves have added several layers of complexity to coyote hunting, which has historically been a means to control the invasive predator in the region.
Under the Endangered Species Act, hunters caught killing a red wolf – even if they honestly mistake it for a red wolf – can face up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
The state Wildlife Resources Commission said they are reviewing the injunction.
“However, upon initial review, it appears that the order provides the exact same level of protection to coyotes, an invasive, non-native species, as is afforded to red wolves, a species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act,” said the agency in a statement.”
Judge Boyle will review the injunction again in six months.
Do you think coyote hunting should be banned in the five counties? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.