Last night, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a delay of the proposed rule for red wolves because of the federal court ruling issued earlier this month in the Eastern District of North Carolina that found that the Fish and Wildlife Service had violated the Endangered Species Act in its management of the wolf.

The proposed rule would have dramatically reduced red wolf habitat by 80% and all but ended the hopes for red wolves in the wild. The federal court ruling found that the rule violated the Endangered Species Act.

“The federal court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service has been mismanaging the red wolf program for the past four years and has violated the Endangered Species Act,” explained Ben Prater, Defenders of Wildlife’s Southeast Program Director. ” The status quo clearly will not advance recovery of the red wolf, and neither will the preferred alternatives in the proposed new rule. The delay of the proposed rule for red wolves shows that the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to refuse to acknowledge that the only prudent, legal and scientifically justifiable path forward is Alternative 2, which initiates adaptive management, reintroductions and stakeholder engagement.”

The wolves’ numbers have plunged in recent years from a peak of around 130 in 2006 to an estimated 30 animals this summer.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service should throw out its contested plan for red wolves and instead fulfill its duties by conserving the species, taking concrete steps to protect this species and charting a path towards recovery. Red wolves need help now.”