Cute Endangered Animal: Red Wolf

Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ucumari/2646063049/">ucumari</a> via Creative Commons

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While much has been published about the Department of Interior’s dealings with the grey wolf, the red wolf has gotten much less attention. The red wolf (canis rufus) has been in North America since the end of the ice age, and is one of only two wolf species on the continent. For most of the last century, the red wolf lived in the southeastern part of the US, feeding on small mammals like mice and raccoons and taking down the occasional deer. Although red wolves are fearful of humans and generally only hunt at dawn and dusk, they did eat some livestock and by the 1960s, predator eradication programs and loss of habitat had reduced the red wolf populations significantly.

Despite being listed as endangered species in 1973, by 1980 there were only 17 known remaining red wolves and the species was declared extinct in the wild. However, captive breeding programs have been successful and there are now about 200 wolves in captivity and 100 individuals in the wild.  In 2008 the red wolf had a major victory as citizens and activists defeated the Navy’s plan to construct an airstrip through its protected habitat inside a North Carolina wildlife refuge. Currently, there are about 20 packs of red wolves living in North Carolina, the only state known to have a wild population of the animals.

One of the key threats to the red wolf is interbreeding with coyotes, a problem which biologists have attacked in various ways, such as sterilizing coyote-wolf couples and their hybrid offspring. Another approach is to secure red wolf-only packs, allowing the wolves to defend their own territory (and thus their genetic diversity, the thought goes) from outside predators like coyotes. This program could be modeled after the example of grey wolves: after grey wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, they killed nearly half the park’s coyote population in just a few years and will kill any coyotes that invade their pack’s territory. If the example of the grey wolf is any indication, wolves are resilient and recovery is possible, but just cause you make it off the endangered species list, doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

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And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

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