Spotlight hunting of coyotes challenged

out coyoteState wildlife officials have gone too far in their goal of putting a dent in the coyote population, particularly when it comes to allowing the practice of nighttime spotlight hunting, according to a federal lawsuit filed by several environmental groups.

The lawsuit alleges that hunters could mistake the endangered red wolf for a coyote when night hunting, and thus could jeopardize the already fragile population of red wolves in the state. Eastern North Carolina is home to the only wild population of red wolves, one of the world’s most endangered animals.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the court challenge against the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission on behalf of the Red Wolf Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Welfare Institute.

To prevent wolves interbreeding with coyotes — another threat to the wolf population — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sterilizes coyotes that have territories within red wolf habitat. Shooting sterilized coyotes will undo effective coyote population control efforts, as new coyotes that aren’t sterilized will simply move into the unoccupied territory.

In public comments on the proposed permanent rule to allow spotlight hunting, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service echoed these concerns, stating that spotlight hunting “will impact and potentially threaten the recovery of the endangered red wolf.”  

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