Now you might ask why the Canadian Species Initiative (CSI) would be working on a project for a species found only in the United States? Well, CSI, a collaborative project between Wildlife Preservation Canada and African Lion Safari, became the newest Regional Resource Centre for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Conservation Planning Specialists Group (CPSG) in 2020. In our role as “CPSG Canada” we can be called upon to assist with conservation planning for species throughout North America or even other parts of the world. There are 12 regional resource centres around the world making CSI part of a network of experienced conservation planning facilitators that we can learn from, collaborate with, and share stories of conservation successes and failures.

In collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, CPSG is facilitating a revision of the recovery plan for red wolf (Canis rufus).  The Canadian Species Initiative’s recent experiences with facilitating virtual meetings for Canadian snakes and loggerhead shrike, made us the perfect fit to assist with this planning process and I am happy to be contributing to this project as Conservation Planning Assistant with CSI and on behalf of WPC. The red wolf is an iconic species, endemic to the United States, that historically ranged throughout the southeastern US, from Texas to Illinois to New York, but is now one of the most endangered species in the world.  Discussions about conservation methods for this large carnivore are complex and often sensitive in nature.

Due to intense persecution and loss of habitat, red wolves were threatened with extinction by the 1960s, prompting the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list them under the Endangered Species Act and implement a recovery program almost 50 years ago. As part of recovery efforts, a captive breeding population was established with the last remaining wild red wolves starting in 1973. The only current wild population of red wolves was established in North Carolina through reintroduction of red wolves from this ex situ population. The success of these conservation efforts paved the way for other reintroductions of endangered species in North America including black-footed ferrets, California condors, and grey wolves. However, continuing threats such as vehicle collisions, shooting, and hybridization with coyotes, have resulted in a severe decline in the wild population and the red wolf remains critically endangered (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species). Change is needed to save the red wolf.

Red wolf historic range. Map by Jose Barrios, USFWS

As with all CPSG workshops, the resulting updated recovery plan will incorporate the best available science and be inclusive of different perspectives. Throughout the workshop process, participants developed a conservation vision, reviewed the biological threats to the species in its current and historic range, and defined recovery goals and actions. Next will come a series of meetings to develop a Population Viability Analysis that will inform on-the-ground activities for effective recovery.

As we know, animals don’t recognize international borders. Many endangered species in Canada are also found in the US, with Canadian populations representing the northern edge of their range.  Assisting with red wolf recovery planning has been a great opportunity for CSI to work with different partners and learn more about the recovery planning and implementation process for endangered species in the US, while helping build our capacity to better serve our endangered species here at home. While recovery planning for the red wolf is ongoing, we are thankful for the opportunity to be involved in establishing the foundation for renewed success.

Stephanie Winton

Canada’s New Noah and Species Conservation Planning Assistant – Canadian Species Initiative

Stephanie is the 31st Canada’s New Noah and is currently assisting the Canadian Species Initiative to build capacity for species conservation planning in Canada. Stephanie holds a master’s degree in conservation biology from Thompson Rivers University where she studied the impacts of road mortality on a threatened rattlesnake species. She has extensive experience working in conservation and research for species at risk reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds in Western Canada.

 

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