Red Wolf Scandal

​red wolf , restoration scandal

Red Wolf Endangered
Red Wolf Hybrid
Red Wolf Recovery

red wolf, red wolf restoration scandal, red wolf endangered species
Investigating the USFWS "Hybrid"  Red Wolf  Recovery Program

faux - fō/ - adjective

made in imitation; artificial.
"a string of faux pearls"

not genuine; fake or false.                                                          
"their faux concern for the well-being of the invented red wolf didn't fool congress"


- Citizens Science 

   September 20, 2016

   Part 3 of 3 

"FWS Must Restore 'Lost Credibility,' New Director Says"...

    published in GreenWire 

"The Fish and Wildlife Service must work to restore its credibility with the public and establish a framework to ensure that science, not politics, drives endangered species listings, according to the agency's new director." (Dan Ashe)

"Now, Ashe said he keeps Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (2011) informed of his actions so there are no surprises."  "But final decisions on species listings fall squarely on the FWS Director and are not subject to approval by the secretary's office."

Clark (Jamie Rappaport), who is now the executive Vice President of the nonprofit group (and 2016 plaintiff vs FWS) Defenders of Wildlife, said she would be surprised if the Interior Secretary had no involvement with listing decisions, because many are controversial (Land Letter, Jan. 27)."  "It's hard for me to imagine, but if so, that pretty amazing," Clark said.

"While defending the right of advocacy groups to file lawsuits over ESA decisions, Ashe said litigation has become a "Business Model" (NC Coyote Court Case) for some groups and is threatening to undermine FWS's ability to do what is best for imperiled species."

- What is a Red Wolf?

   September 15, 2016

   Part 2 of 3 

David Mech,  USGS, Wolf Expert and Senior Research Scientist for U.S. Department of Interior (since 1970), Notable Quotes - 

"Into this heated conflict stepped David Mech, one of the worlds leading wolf experts."  "In 1989, at a meeting of experts on wolf biology, Mech challenged his fellow researchers to tell him how they could justify spending so much money rescuing the red wolf when it might not even be a species." Pg 397 Asking about Life (Book)

USFWS, Zoologist Ronald Nowalk (retired) and Red Wolf Scientist, Notable Quotes - 

"A recovery program, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act, has involved location and breeding of animals as close as possible to the original red wolf." Nowalk et al 1995; Morse 1996

"The wolves of North America are under a severe new threat from an influential group; not the lumber companies, fur trappers, or stockmen, but the soloist, or at least some among them who are keen to public claims that the wolf populations have hybridized with other species." "These scientist are unwittingly playing into the hands of certain commercial interest, which will seize upon any suggestion that a species is no longer taxonomically valid in order to argue that conservation efforts are not warranted and that the species and its habitat may be exploited." Hybridization: the Double-edged Threat by Ron Nowak

"Based on an analyst of mitochondrial DNA, Wayne and Jenks (1991) went well beyond the long-reconized view that the red wolf and coyote had interbred." "They suggested that C. rufus actually originated as a hybrid and had never been a valid species or subspecies." (Emphis added) Hybridization: the Double-edged Threat by Ron Nowak

"Their study was simultaneously utilized by Gittlemnan and Pimm (1991) to criticize efforts being made to reintroduce the red wolf in the wild." Hybridization: the Double-edged Threat by Ron Nowak

"Nowak discussed the issue of reticulate patters as being natural." "It may be difficult to save something, the red wolf that might not be considered natural." 1999 PHVA Minutes

"He described the movement of coyotes across the country and argued that we no longer had true red wolves or true coyotes --- they are part coyote/wolves and red wolf/coyote." 1999 PHVA Minutes

"Regardless, he thought we should save the current population in a wildlife area as a national monument." 1999 PHVA Minutes 

UCLA Geneticist Dr. Robert Wayne, Notable Quotes - 

"We disagree strongly with the statement by Nowak and Federoff that 'If the red wolf did not exist, we would have to invent it'." Wayne response paper to Nowak / Federoff "Origin of the Red Wolf"

"The issue of whether the red wolf was ancestral to either coyote or gray wolf is a red herring; it is simply not relevant." Wayne response paper to Nowak / Federoff "Origin of the Red Wolf"

"Some discussion took place concerning the likelihood or reaching a resolution concerning the evolutionary origins of red wolves." "Bob (Robert) Wayne argued for avoiding discussion of the question of red wolf origins out of deference for restoring red wolves, because elucidation of origins is intractable." (Great Emphasis added) 1999 PHVA Minutes, Explanation that makes something clear; clarification.
In.trac.table, Hard to control or deal with. 

"Wayne's genetic (hybrid) data proved to be an embarrassment to the USFWS, which had poured millions of dollars into the reintroduction program in the belief that the red wolf was a unique and endangered species."  Pg 399 Asking about Life (Book)

"To protect the red wolf, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began pressuring Wayne to avoid the word "Hybrid" in his research papers and to substitute the term "Intergrade Species" and other similar phrases."  Pg 399 Asking about Life (Book)

"By 1994, it was clear however, that the red wolf was NOT a species engaging in "limited genetic exchange" with other species." Pg 399 Asking about Life (Book) 

UGA Professor Dr. Michael Chamberlin, Notable Quotes - 

Wayne and Jenks (1991) evaluated the genetic integrity of the source population from which the founders of the red wolf captive-breeding program were selected." S. M. Chambers et. al
"These animals were characterized morphologically as coyotes (58%), C. rufus-coyote hybrids (31%), and C rufus (11%)." S. M. Chambers et. al
"Genetic characterization of these same animals with whole mtDNA genome restriction analysis found that they exhibited either coyote (84%) or gray wolf (16%) mtDNA and that the morphological and genetic classifications often did not correspond." S. M. Chambers et. Al

   Part 1 of 3 

Enacted in 1973, the Endangered Species Act (“ESA” or “the Act”) was a well intended congressional declaration of war against the growing problem of species extinction. Passed nearly unanimously, the ESA is a powerful and comprehensive statute that places the highest priority on the protection of endangered species. Under the Act, government agencies are prohibited from authorizing, funding or carrying out any activities that might harm an endangered species or the habitat on which it relies. Private individuals are forbidden from “taking” endangered species. “Taking” is so broadly defined that it prohibits virtually any activities on public or private lands that could result in harm to a protected species. 

It is not surprising, then, that the ESA did not remain uncontroversial for long.

It soon became apparent that the strictures of the Act often clashed with many

industrial and private economic interests. Over the years, opposition to the

ESA has grown, with critics pushing hard for legislative and administrative

reform. With a much needed congressional oversight hearing, the clamor

for reform will be clearly conveyed, beginning with the Equal Access to

Justice Act . 

As the administration of the ESA developed, the Department of the Interior (DOI) adopted a policy of
excluding hybrid species from the Act's coverage. For nearly twenty-four years, this policy went largely unnoticed. Then, in 1991 the red wolf propelled DOI's hybrid policy into the center of the controversy surrounding the ESA. The red wolf was one of the jewels of the nation's endangered species recovery program.  Today, this jewel has crowned at over $35,000,000.00 and growing.  Once endemic to portions of the American Southwest, the red wolf's population slowly dwindled over the course of the twentieth century until in 1970 red wolves could be found only in a small area along the Texas-Louisiana border. Due to the wolf's rapidly shrinking population, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began a captive breeding program in 1974.  A year later the red wolf was completely extinct in the wild. For the next twenty years, FWS bred seventeen pairs of captured red wolves, with 14 whom successfully bred to replenish the lost population, at a cost (1975) of six hundred thousand dollars a year. 

Publicly the captive breeding program was sold by the FWS and its NGO partners as a complete success, all the while the USFWS secretly wrangled with hybrids being born in captivity inclusive of the first two litters that were born in 1977. In the late 1980s, the breeding population had grown to over seventy animals while producing an additional eighty hybrids during the first ten years of breeding.  Still FWS, kept quiet and began to plan their reintroduction into the wild. FWS chose three sites with the first being met head on by the Farm Bureau Federation whom opposed and ultimately kept any wolves from the Land of Lakes NWR.  FWS in 1987 however, released red wolf packs on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge portions of North Carolina. More releases were slated for 1991 in the Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. FWS continued on claiming great achievements and touted its red wolf program as a model of species conservation; all the while those behind the curtain might suggest the Captive Breeding Program resembled more of a “Hybrid Wolf Mill” than a $35M federally funded Species Survival Program. 


In total FWS had federal authority to release 12 red wolves on federal land.  Subsequently, FWS illegally released 120 red wolves with no federal authority with 64 being illegally released on private land and confirmed by FWS 2014 solicitor letter.  Mortality data shows of the 64 gunshot wolves.  60 gunshot deaths occurred on private lands precisely where FWS stated their wolves would not be.  Given FWS red wolf program staff “knowingly knew” that most every red wolf was being killed and mistaken for the lawful take of coyotes, it proceeded to illegally release 64 red wolves on private lands where staff “knowingly knew” the 10-J protections were reduced from fully endangered while on the federal refuge lands to threatened while on private lands.  This is significant given under threatened status the any red wolf taken by gunshot which was mistaken for a coyote meant no charges would be pursued if reported within 24 hours.  Given the take provision contained within the ESA, these 60 gunshot wolves are clearly illegal takes, with the take being the illegal release on private lands. 

As word began to leak out of the 220 hybrid red wolves being produced at the Point Defiance Zoo the Sheep Council filed a delisting petition accurately stating hybrids are not covered under the ESA.  In June 1991, shortly after receiving the delist petition and being hired by USFWS to determine the taxa of the Red Wolf, geneticists Robert K. Wayne and Susan M. Jenks made a “shocking” discovery that turned the red wolf recovery program on its head. Employing advanced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis to compare the genetic makeup of coyotes, northern grey wolves and red wolves, they found that the red wolf—long thought to be a separate species or subspecies—was actually a hybrid, a genetic combination of coyotes and grey wolves, presumably produced through extensive interbreeding. 

In a shocking and highly questionable revelation, high-ranking officials within the FWS requested Wayne and Jenks remove the word hybrid from their work product (study) and replace it with “intergrade”.  Jamie Rappaport Clark, head of FWS Endangered Species Program, in 1996 published a four-page intergrade policy to the federal registry for public comment.  In an apparent move to circumvent the well documented hybrid opinions by the solicitor this was met with great resistance from those in the well respected academia community and quickly went no where.  

In the most simplistic terms, the passage of an intergrade (hybrid) policy

would have allowed for any humanly constructed, selectively bred species

to be placed on the endangered list.  This is best expressed by Robert Wayne

when he stated “We disagree strongly with the statement by Nowak (retired

FWS zoologist) and Federoff that “If the red wolf did not exist, we would have

to invent it.””  

FWS, spent $150K by hiring Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) to complete

a red wolf program evaluation in 2014.  WMI’s findings confirmed the captive

breeding zoo had in fact produced wolves that were selectively bred and a

product of human construct, thus not meeting the intent of Congress in their

passage of the ESA. 

Under any other circumstances, the Wayne and Jenks study would have been interesting but not earth shattering. However, the combination of Department of Interior (DOI) / USFWS hybrid policy and the controversial and high profile nature of the wolf reintroduction program propelled the two scientists' findings into the spotlight. DOI, through three official solicitor opinions, had previously adopted its policy of denying ESA protection to hybrid species.  The assistant solicitor general Donald J. Berry reaffirmed in his 1983 letter that hybrids would not be afforded protection under the ESA and sited recent court findings of the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, which the FWS defunded and allowed to go extinct then, went on to say that protecting hybrids would go against the intent of congress in its passage of the ESA which is to preserve the genetic heritage of the species.   Anticipating the publication of the Wayne and Jenks study, DOI reportly retracted their hybrid policy in 1990.   When in fact it wasn’t until years later 2015, that two private landowners, found that FWS never had a hybrid policy to retract, only three reaffirmed solicitor opinions dated 1977, 1981 and 1983 stating hybrids were not protected under the ESA and further supported by the past FWS decision to defund the Dusky Seaside Sparrow and allowing it to go completely extinct.  Still, private landowners and farmers in North Carolina, wary of the prospect of wolves near their livestock and land eagerly awaited FWS’s delist findings. Even though the petition was ultimately denied in 1991, after the FWS reaffirmed the 1970 “Morphology and Phenotype” (skull, ear & leg measurements) over modern day advanced mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis which could be best described as the “best most commercially available science”.  Resulting in a flagrant violation of its internal policies governing delisting.  However, FWS reportedly began to reconsider its plans to proceed with wolf reintroduction at other sites. 

As it turned out, the red wolf was not the only high profile

animal on the Department of Interior's endangered species

list, which showed signs of hybridization. Studies had also

revealed that the Florida panther had interbred with a

closely related species of South American panther, where

in cooperation with the National Parks Service, eight

South American panthers were allowed to be turned loose

from a roadside zoo and enter the previously pure

everglades panther population between years 1957 – 1967.  

A plan to capture and breed the endangered Florida panther with eight Texas Cougars was opposed by animal rights groups in the early to mid 90’s on the grounds that the species was a hybrid and therefore not covered by the ESA.  The introduction of the Texas panthers was controversial says Stuart Pimm, leading expert at Duke University, in part because researchers thought it would result in the loss of the 'pure' (protected) Florida population.  This could force FWS to delist the Florida Panther given their deliberate hybridization efforts and clear intent of the intent of Congress in the passage of the ESA by “protecting the genetic heritage”.  Similarly, other studies had revealed that the same biologist took the last remaining pure Mexican Gray Wolves and purposely bred them with well documented and photographed hybrid captive wolves in an attempt to curb inbreeding depression.  This effort was yes, hailed by the FWS as a great success.  When in fact Citizens Science discovered the last remaining (6) pure Mexican Gray Wolves that FWS had hired renowned trapper Roy McBride to trap around Durango, Mexico and return with, the United States was only given authority by Mexico, to breed their six pure Mexican Gray Wolves.  However, FWS purposely bred the previously captive hybrid population with the six pure Mexican Wolves that FWS had sent Roy McBride to trap, thus the obvious question, why go to Mexico if the United States has had pure Mexican Wolves all along?  

Citizens Science contacted Mr. McBride and he stated, no one had handled more Mexican Wolves than himself and under no uncertain terms the FWS completely botched (hybridized) the entire previously pure captive Mexican Wolf population.  Citizens Science subsequently learned, the United States is unable to produce via FOIA request, any legal authorization from Mexico that would have allowed the deliberate hybridization of the last pure Mexican Wolf Population.   Most shocking is a document from early in the program stating that it should be emphasized, that all six pure Mexican Gray Wolves and offspring remain property of the Mexican Government and only after Mexico’s reintroduction efforts have been satisfied will the United States be allowed to utilize any of the remnant captive population. 

Today, records show the FWS has released approximately100 Mexican Wolves with Mexico only receiving just over 12.  Yet, one more example of how the FWS has lost all regard for integrity.

Facing the glowing realization that given the intent of Congress in their passage of the ESA and reaffirmed hybrid conclusion by the FWS solicitors for these clear and undisputed facts deny any legal protection to a number of highly popular and politically charged species.  Leaving a few within the FWS, to answer some hard-hitting questions from members of Congress given over one half of a billion has been incurred for three hybrids that were never afforded ESA protection.  

In summary, why would the intent of Congress in the passage of the ESA be to preserve the genetic heritage of a species or subspecies that is a product of selective breeding and human construct, while noting over 1600 listed species of plants, vertebrae, etc. many with no available funding due to the continuation of a non-essential, selectively bred and humanly constructed hybrid experiment to only leave a trail of over one half a billion dollars? 

Citizens Science