Conservation, Community & Tourism Groups Launch Red Wolf Awareness Campaign in Northeastern North Carolina

MANTEO, N.C., May 12 /PRNewswire/ — To help launch the start of the summer tourist season, Defenders of Wildlife joined forces today with the Red Wolf Coalition, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau to expand the red wolf education campaign, a program aimed at heightening public awareness and increasing tourism in support of this beautiful, but critically endangered species. Starting today, tourists and residents should begin noticing signs and posters announcing the new red wolf information kiosks being placed at selected sites across the region. People will also have the chance to view an exhibit featuring a red wolf, a gray wolf and a coyote at the Outer Banks Welcome Center on Roanoke Island.

“It’s without a doubt that a self-sustaining red wolf population benefits the entire region, particularly since this is the only place in the United States where the species can be found,” stated Nina Fascione, Vice President of Species Conservation at Defenders of Wildlife. “We’re excited that the public now has the opportunity to learn about the contributions these wolves provide, not only to the environment, but to the overall economic health of the area as well through nature tourism.”

Currently there are approximately 100 wild red wolves, 64 of which are radio-collared. In 2004, 18 breeding pairs produced 55 pups. The goal of the Red Wolf Recovery Program is to maintain a wild population of roughly 200 animals and a captive population of roughly 330 animals.

“We believe strongly in the slogan, ‘Endangered Means There’s Still Time,’” says Bud Fazio, Team Leader of the Red Wolf Recovery Program in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Endangered status means there is still enough time to stabilize a species and pull it back away from the brink of extinction. The crew of field biologists managing red wolves deserve credit for a great deal of the successes seen in restoring and stabilizing the world’s only wild red wolf population located right here in northeast North Carolina.”

A recent report by Defenders of Wildlife found that a vibrant, healthy red wolf population, and in turn, the construction and completion of a Red Wolf Education Center highlighting the species’ recovery efforts could pump millions of dollars into the local economy through ecotourism.

“Red wolves are an intricate part of this region’s history, ecosystem and economic future,” stated Neil Hutt, President of the Red Wolf Coalition. “As more and more people learn of the need to protect, conserve and respect these majestic animals, more will visit and see the value this species brings to North Carolina.”

The red wolf kiosks are currently located at the North Carolina Department of Transportation rest stop on highway 64 in Plymouth, the Walter B. Jones Center for the Sounds in Tyrrell County, in Goose Creek State Park along Highway 264 and the Outer Banks Welcome Center on Roanoke Island.

“The exhibit of the red wolf, the gray wolf and the coyote will help the public understand the differences and similarities among these three species,” stated Michael Morse, Wildlife Biologist for the Red Wolf Field Team. “Combined with the red wolf information kiosk, the display at the Welcome Center will reach thousands of people and add richness to their experience in this beautiful region.”

“It is an honor and a privilege for the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau to provide a premier viewing area for all the public to learn more about the Red Wolf and programs offered throughout Northeast North Carolina pertaining to the restoring and stabilization of this endangered species,” added Carolyn E. McCormick, Managing Director, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

Support for these projects was provided by the Alex C. Walker Educational and Charitable Foundation.

Copies of the report by Defenders of Wildlife can be found on line at http://www.biodiversitypartners.org/econ/reports.shtml

Defenders of Wildlife is one of the nation’s most progressive advocates for wildlife and habitat, and was named “Best Wildlife Charity” by Readers Digest in 2005. With nearly 1 million members, supporters and electronic advocates, Defenders is an effective voice for wildlife and habitat. Please visit http://www.defenders.org/

The Red Wolf Coalition advocates for the long-term survival of red wolf populations by teaching about the red wolf and by fostering public involvement in red wolf conservation. It was officially founded in 1997 with the goal of serving as the hub of private support for the red wolf, thus providing the public with the first real opportunity to become involved in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Red Wolf Recovery Program. Visit http://www.redwolves.com/

The Outer Banks Welcome Center on Roanoke Island is operated by The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. This conveniently located center is a service for travelers who may need any kind of information, assistance or just a relaxing place to take a break from the road. State-of-the-art touch screen kiosks dispense customized information on the area’s accommodations, restaurants, events and activities. For more information visit http://www.outerbanks.org/

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Service, Red Wolf Recovery Program; Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

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