AWENDAW — Two sister red wolves have been moved from the Sewee visitors center to North Carolina for breeding, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.
The move leaves only four wolves at the complex in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge north of Charleston. It comes as federal managers review the effort to reintroduce wolves to the wild, a decision that advocates concerned the program may be shut down.
The sisters were residing in the open enclosure viewable by the public. Access to it has been opened for the four remaining wolves — an older male, female and their two pups — from a back enclosure where they are able to hide in the growth. They are skittish, but do come out for feeding, said Sarah Dawsey, refuge manager.
The sisters have been moved to the Asheboro Zoo, where breeding will be attempted with individual males from the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, the only remaining place where the wolves roam free. Whether they will return to Cape Romain hasn’t been announced. Placement decisions are made on a yearly basis, Dawsey said.
Federal wildlife managers in October put off deciding whether to continue a controversial 30-year program reintroducing the critically endangered red wolf, with a captive population of about 200 and the numbers dropping in the wild, where landowners are shooting them. An estimated 50 to 75 remain.
Some conservation advocates said the delay, while the service waits on its new review to finish, could functionally mean the service has abandoned the effort.
The wolf, a native Lowcountry species, was extinct in the wild when it was first reintroduced in 1987 largely as a wild breeding program on Bull’s Island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge north of Charleston.
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