An endangered red wolf was shot and killed just before Christmas in North Carolina’s Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and a coalition of conservation groups are offering a reward of $16,500 for any information leading to arrest.Only 45 red wolves remain in the wild, and they all live in a protected area in eastern North Carolina.“This loss is a huge blow to the species,” says Defender of Wildlife program director Ben Prater. “The poaching of any wild animal is intolerable, but the intentional killing of one of the world’s most endangered species is inexcusable.”Gunshot mortality is the leading cause of death for the endangered red wolf. A small group of landowners in eastern North Carolina has opposed protection for the endangered red wolf.Once a top predator throughout the Southeastern United States, the red wolf almost vanished 50 years ago. After being named an endangered species, a captive breeding program began in 1973. As the captive population grew, scientists considered where the red wolf could be reintroduced.Photo by Ryan Nordsven/ USFWSIn 1987, six pairs of wolves were released in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge located within a five-county region—Beaufort, Dare, Tyrrell, Hyde and Washington—of eastern North Carolina. Those 1.7 million refuge acres are now home to the only wild population of red wolves in the world, managed for the last 29 years by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Red Wolf Recovery Program. Until recently, it has been one of the most successful wildlife recovery programs in the country’s history.But today, both the program and the wild red wolf face possible extinction once more. In the last few years, the wild population has decreased from over 120 wolves to 45— mainly due to shotgun mortality. Red wolves can resemble coyotes—especially at night—and a handful of local landowners have balked at hunting restrictions to protect red wolves. At the request of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and pro-hunting landowners, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has effectively ended the red wolf reintroduction and adaptive management program.Litigation over the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision is ongoing. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a preliminary injunction in September 2016 that orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop killing red wolves and authorizing private landowners to capture and kill red wolves.One long-term solution, Prater says, lies in monetary incentives for landowners. A similar program was recently launched in Florida to protect the endangered panther and has seen early success. “Some type of incentive or payment plan—where landowners are compensated for every wolf pack they have or every acre of habitat they provide—it can work. It has worked elsewhere. We just need to start these conversations.”Meanwhile, authorities are seeking any information related to the December 21 red wolf shooting. Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Welfare Institute, and the Red Wolf Coalition have partnered to offer a reward of $16,500 for information leading to an arrest. Contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with any leads at 252-473-1131.
Junior forward Bennie Boatwright will be one of the focal points of USC’s game plans this season. Photo by Brian Chin | Daily TrojanThe men’s basketball team, coming off a 26-10 season in 2016, earned a spot at No. 10 in the AP preseason poll released early Wednesday morning. The Trojans’ spot at No. 10 marked the program’s highest preseason ranking since the 1974-75 season. By earning 995 points in the poll, USC sits just 52 points below 2017 national champion No. 9 North Carolina and 511 points below third-ranked Pac-12 frontrunner Arizona. Crosstown rival UCLA earned 340 points, good for No. 21 and the third-highest ranking in a conference that lost a lot of talent this past offseason with Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Lauri Markkanen, Kyle Kuzma and Ivan Rabb declaring for the NBA Draft. USC’s No. 10 ranking comes after the Trojans’ deep run in the 2017 NCAA tournament as well as a loaded roster that returns all five starters. Along with a former five-star recruit in sophomore transfer Derryck Thornton, head coach Andy Enfield also welcomes freshman newcomers Jordan Usher, Charles O’Bannon, Jr. and Victor Uyaelunmo to a squad with an already deep bench.Considering USC didn’t receive any votes in last year’s AP preseason poll, this high ranking is yet another milestone in Enfield’s career, which has not only featured USC’s first postseason appearance since 2011 but also the program’s first NCAA tournament win since 2009. Though this is the first time in decades that USC has been ranked this high in the preseason, in Week 8 of last year’s AP poll, the undefeated 13-0 Trojans earned a No. 22 rankings before slipping out of the poll for the rest of the year. A knee injury to star forward Bennie Boatwright was a large reason for the drop, keeping the then-sophomore forward out of key Pac-12 games. With Boatwright and the rest of these starters healthy for the beginning of the season, the Trojans look to stay high in the top 25 throughout the season. USC opens its season against Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 10, and the team’s first test against a ranked opponent comes Thanksgiving weekend in a home tilt with No. 25 Texas A&M (Nov. 26) — a team that the Trojans went on the road to beat by 2 points last season after being down 7 with less than four minutes remaining in the game.Two other non-conference battles with SMU (Dec. 2) and Oklahoma (Dec. 8) could have major poll implications considering both opponents earned points in the preseason poll. But before USC can think about its post-Oklahoma ranking, the squad must first overcome unranked Big West foe Cal State Fullerton at its home opener, which tips off at 7 p.m. next Friday.