End red wolf program, N.C. wildlife commission says

North Carolina’s wildlife commission wants the federal government to end its 27-year-old experiment to return endangered red wolves to the wild.

The Wildlife Resources Commission, in resolutions adopted Thursday, also asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to capture and remove wolves that were released on private property.

The resolutions came as the Fish and Wildlife Service reevaluates the program, under which 90 to 110 wolves roam five coastal counties of northeastern North Carolina. The service has said it could modify or end the program.

An agency consultant reported in November that federal authorities oversold their ability to keep endangered wolves off private land. The report recommended a “course correction” for the program.

The state wildlife commission said problems include cross-breeding of wolves with coyotes, wolves wandering onto private land and the federal program’s failure to meet its goals.

It cited 64 unauthorized releases of wolves onto private land, although the Fish and Wildlife Service has said those releases would be on federal land if property owners complained.

Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild in 1980. The North Carolina effort to reintroduce them into what was once their native habitat has been hailed as a national model for bringing species back from the brink of extinction.

But private property owners in their five-county area on the Albemarle Peninsula increasingly complained about wolves, including hunters’ claims that they were killing too many deer.

Wolf advocates successfully sued the state wildlife commission in 2013 to temporarily stop hunting of coyotes, which look like wolves, in wolf territory. So many wolves were being shot that it hurt the animals’ breeding.

A federal judge agreed to a compromise last year that allows daytime coyote hunting. The state commission approved temporary rules allowing that on Thursday.