RALEIGH - Federal wildlife officials are cutting sharply their estimate of the world's only wild population of endangered red wolves to their lowest level since the late 1990s.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had long estimated that about 100 wolves roamed the wilds of a federal tract in coastal North Carolina since they were re-introduced there in 1987. The red wolf was extinct in the wild by 1980.
The federal agency recently cut its population estimate to between 50 and 75 wild red wolves. Federal wildlife biologist Rebecca Harrison says it's a reflection of fewer breeding adult wolves producing fewer babies to replace those animals that die.
Environmental attorney Sierra Weaver says the past two years have seen several breeding females lost to gunshots. Red wolves are often mistaken for coyotes.