TYRRELL COUNTY, NC-Red wolves are protected by federal law, but 10 have apparently been shot to death - nine last year and one just last week.
The wolf, with a radio collar, was found dead on January 7 in Tyrrell County.
The incident is under investigation by theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
The red wolf is protected under the Endangered Species Act as an experimental, non-essential population. Officials say it's okay for landowners to kill a red wolf if it attacks their livestock or pets and it's not a crime if a red wolf is killed by accident during legal activity (e.g., hunting coyotes following state regulations) on private lands in the red wolf recovery area. However, any death must be reported.
About 100 red wolves roam their native habitats in five northeastern North Carolina counties.
The red wolf was declared endangered in 1967 and authorities searched and found just 17. The government declared the red wolf extinct in the wild in 1980 due to hunting, trapping and development.
14 of the 17 wolves were selected for a breeding program in hopes of saving the animal..
The first litter of red wolves born in captivity occurred in 1977. By 1987, enough red wolves were bred in captivity to begin a restoration program on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Dare County. Since then, the experimental population area has expanded to include three national wildlife refuges, a Department of Defense bombing range, state-owned lands, and private property, spanning a total of 1.7 million acres.