US District Court Judge Terence Boyle has granted a preliminary injunction that will ban coyote hunting in five eastern North Carolina counties. The Red Wolf Coalition brought suit to stop coyote hunting in the five-county red wolf restoration area. The counties involved are Dare, Tyrrell, Hyde, Washington, and Beaufort counties. The US Fish and Wildlife Service began the reintroduction of the red wolf in 1987 in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The red wolf was declared endangered in 1973. The USFWS estimates that there are now about 100 red wolves in this area of eastern North Carolina.
The red wolf is smaller than the gray or timber wolf and larger than a coyote. Its coloration isn’t the red of a red fox but rather it has a brown or buff colored coat with some reddish fur around its ears, legs, and head. And therein lies the problem. It can be mistaken for a coyote. Moreover, there has been some interbreeding between coyotes and the red wolf though the USFWS is trying to stop this by sterilizing coyotes. Pictures of both critters are below:
|Coyote – picture from NCSportsman.com
|Red wolf – picture from AWI
In his ruling, Judge Boyle granted the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s request to dismiss the suit against them as it violated the state’s sovereign immunity. However, he let it continue against the director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission as he was not protected by legislative immunity. The decision to expand coyote hunting a few years ago was considered an administrative and executive action.
From the ruling:
Hunting coyotes pursuant to 15A NCAC 10B.0219 in the five-county red wolf recovery
area is hereby preliminarily ENJOINED. Entry of this preliminary injunction on coyote hunting
will support the exclusion of coyotes in the five-county red wolf recovery area by promoting
breeding pairs of red wolves which, in conjunction with sterile placeholder coyotes, appear to
effect a better deterrent to the increase in coyote population than an increase in coyote hunting
deaths would. A further intended benefit of this preliminary injunction is both the preservation
and enhancement of the red wolf and deer populations in this area.
The Court is not inclined, however, to provide greater protection to the coyote than that
which is applicable to the red wolf. Therefore, during the pendency of the preliminary
injunction, the following exceptions apply to the prohibition on coyote hunting in the five-county
red wolf recovery area: a coyote may be shot in defense of a person’s safety or the safety of
others, or if livestock or pets are threatened. Each exception shall apply subject to reporting of
such shooting to defendants within twenty-four hours, and defendants shall maintain a record of
reports of coyote shootings for review by the Court. This injunction is not applicable to the
activities of scientists and researchers associated with USFWS and the Commission, nor does it
have any effect on the trapping of coyotes.
Further, this preliminary injunction shall not remain in effect without review for the
entirety of the duration of this lawsuit. As the evidence and data are further developed in this
matter, the Court shall revisit the efficacy and necessity of this preliminary injunction one
hundred and eighty (180) days following the date of entry of this order.
The Wildlife Resources Commission and its board members are considering their options. In the meantime, the WRC has issued the following release outlining what is and isn’t permitted in terms of coyote hunting in the state of North Carolina as well as in the impacted counties.
From the WRC release:
RALEIGH, N.C. (May 16, 2014) — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is notifying the public that a U.S. District Judge has issued a court order prohibiting hunting of coyotes in Dare, Hyde, Beaufort, Tyrrell and Washington counties, day or night, except under extremely limited circumstances. This notification is due to a lawsuit in which the Wildlife Resources Commission is alleged to have violated the federal Endangered Species Act by allowing coyote hunting in those counties where a non-essential experimental reintroduction of the red wolf is occurring.
In North Carolina’s other 95 counties, coyote hunting regulations allow coyote hunting on private land at any time, day or night, with no bag limit, and on public land at night with a permit.
The Wildlife Commission and the N. C. General Assembly through its House Select Committee on Nuisance Coyote Removal implemented tools to provide North Carolinians the ability to manage coyote predation on livestock, pets and native wildlife through hunting and trapping. These lethal removal methods provide the best means of removing offending animals while instilling fear of humans in other coyotes in the immediate vicinity. Hunting at night is often more effective than during the daytime because coyotes are often more active during nighttime hours.
Coyote distribution in North Carolina has sharply increased since the mid-1980s when coyote occurrences were documented in fewer than a dozen counties. Coyotes are now well established throughout North Carolina, occurring in all 100 counties. Estimates of coyotes harvested by hunters and trappers also indicate dramatic increases in abundance. For example, statewide estimated coyote harvest by hunting exceeded 27,000 coyotes in the 2012-13 season and estimated coyote harvest by trapping has increased 26-fold in the last decade.
The court order affecting the five counties allows that coyotes may be shot in defense of a person’s safety or the safety of others, or if livestock or pets are threatened. In accordance with the order, any coyotes shot under these circumstances must be reported to the Wildlife Commission within 24 hours. To report a coyote kill persons may call 1-800-662-7137. Landowners needing assistance with other coyote problems in the five counties affected by the court order may contact the Wildlife Commission at the same number.
In issuing the order, the U.S. District Judge stated that he would revisit his ruling in six months pending the outcome of a lawsuit that seeks to end coyote hunting permanently in the five counties.
“The Commission is deeply concerned about potential impacts to private landowners, hunters and native wildlife resulting from this order,” said Jim Cogdell, chairman of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The board of the Wildlife Resources Commission will meet next week to consider other legal and procedural steps regarding the judge’s order. Interested parties may visit www.ncwildlife.org for information and updates.
The same group of plaintiffs had filed a suit in 2012 to stop coyote hunting in the five county area. They were able to get an injunction in Wake County Superior Court to temporarily halt hunting while a temporary rule from the WRC was in effect. Once the permanent rule was adopted, the injunction was lifted.