Government wildlife officials have released two more critically endangered red wolves into the wild in North Carolina and could place several more captive-bred wolves into the habitat this year, according to a new plan submitted to a federal judge. The US Fish and Wildlife Service said in the filing Monday that it brought two male wolves from a Florida wildlife refuge, paired them with wild female wolves from North Carolina, and let them loose in February, the AP reports. One of the male wolves was later killed by a car. The service said it also plans to release another captive-bred pair into the wild this summer and will aim to introduce captive-bred pups into any wild litters born in the breeding season that runs through May. Releases of captive-bred wolves had largely been halted by the government in recent years. Conservation groups suing the federal government say it needs to move faster.
The plan was submitted to US District Judge Terrence Boyle, who ordered the agency in January to introduce more wolves into eastern North Carolina, the only place in the world where they roam free. At the time, Boyle noted that as few as seven red wolves remained in the wild. Around 250 more live in zoos and refuges as part of the captive-breeding program. Boyle has given conservation groups two weeks to raise any objections to the new plan. The officials who prepared the plan wrote that the federal agency "remains committed to reintroducing the red wolf into portions of its historical range and recovering the species in the wild.” Red wolves once occupied much of the eastern US but were driven to near extinction by trapping, hunting, and habitat loss before they were reintroduced to North Carolina in 1987.
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