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Red Wolf Coalition v. United States Fish & Wildlife

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20157
Nos. 2:15-CV-42-BO, (E.D.N.C., 09/28/2016) (Boyle, J.)

A district court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining FWS from conducting or authorizing the take of wild red wolves on private land without first demonstrating that the wolf at issue is a threat to humans, pets, or livestock. Animal rights groups argued that prior to 2014, FWS interpreted its red wolf rules and regulations to allow for the authorized take of problem wolves only—that is, wolves that had been demonstrated to be a threat to pets or livestock or that were exhibiting inappropriate behavior indicating they may become a more serious problem. But after 2014, the groups alleged, FWS reinterpreted the red wolf rules to allow for an increase in the authorized take of red wolves, in large part due to pressure from the North Carolina Wildlife Commission and vocal landowners opposed to the red wolf recovery program. The groups presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that FWS' shift in interpretation is detrimental to the recovery of the species and in violation of the ESA. And because FWS failed to conduct any assessment of its policy changes, the groups are likely to succeed on their NEPA claim as well. In addition, the groups' members have clearly demonstrated that a decrease in their ability to enjoy red wolves in the wild, the possibility of an increase in red wolf mortality, and the decline or extinction of the species would cause them to suffer irreparable harm. And the balance of equities and public interest plainly weigh in favor of issuing the preliminary injunction requested by the groups.