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Large N.C. landowner Jett Ferebee slugs it out with Red Wolf policy makers

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Read the complete report (209 pages)

Editor’s note:  In a departure from normal bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, a 200-page report released this week, titled ‘Red Wolf Recovery Team Recommendations,’ contains a fascinating section. Appendix G features candid, verbatim give-and-take among opponents of the Red Wolf Program – led by Jett Ferebee who owns a large tract in Northeastern North Carolina – and proponents of the program, which include federal officials, scientists, and academic-types.

Alert readers will encounter the acronym NENC NEP, which stands for: North East North Carolina Non-essential Experimental Population – government-speak for a genetically questionable species of Red Wolf, introduced during 1986 into five counties in the state’s northeast corner.

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Jett Ferebee: The private landowners have already been lied to repeatedly by USFWS about having a small population of wolves located on the Dare County ARNWR. It was our original trust that   USFWS would restrict wolves to this land as promised in 1986 that has now led us to this cross road. DO NOT ASK US TO BELIEVE THIS LIE AGAIN, 30 YEARS LATER!!!!! You promised to keep them

on the refuge last time and laughed at us for thinking they would stay there. You promised to keep the wolves on Federal land, but at the very same time you were releasing them on private land. You had Federal rules requiring private land removal, while you wrote an internal policy saying not to honor removal request.

You just re-released a trapped wolf XXXXXX that left the Alligator River refuge immediately and returned to the private land, where it was trapped, in a matter of days. Now the landowner is asking for this wolfís removal again and is being told the request must be written in a certain manner. At this very same time you have your DOJ attorneys telling Judge Boyle that USFWS has no intention of removing any wolves from private land and they have no pending requests to do so. You also took a trapped coyote and put it on ARNWR. It too returned e to the private land where it was trapped in a matter of days. What a grossly mismanaged and fraudulent taxpayer scam. Are you really foolish enough to ask us to believe you will keep your animals on ARNWR? Even more absurd is that you would ask the American taxpayer to fund this revolving door scam.

You selectively bred a robust coywolf in a zoo in Tacoma Washington, called it an endangered species, and then falsified historic range maps to meet your needs of Federal lands with no coyotes, all so you could establish a wolf population on the east coast under the false guise of the ESA. Oh no USFWS, fool us, once shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. This will not happen again.

This is the price you must pay for your wayward ways of the past. Take this opportunity to do the right thing and potentially regain the trust of your needed private land partner. There is a right way and a wrong way to treat others. The right way begins with integrity.

Wild Population Viability:

Jett Ferebee: A group of red wolves managed under this option would be artificially constrained to  the federal land base. Yea right. You just re released a trapped wolf from Xxxxxxxx that left the Alligator River refuge and returned to private land in a matter of days. Now the landowner is asking for this wolfís removal and is being told the request must be written in a certain manner. You also took a trapped coyote and put it on ARNWR. It too returned to the private land where it was trapped in a matter of days. Are you really foolish enough to ask us to believe you will keep your animals on ARNWR? Even more absurd is that you would ask the American tax payer to fund this revolving door scam.

Human Dimensions

There would be some benefits to maintaining a small group of wolves on the Federal lands. These include preserving the wolfís intrinsic value, as well as  conducting.

Jett Ferebee: This is so bogus. Kim Wheeler, the Red Wolf Coalition Executive Director for over 10 years? and lives in the heart of the red wolf recovery area proclaimed in a court affidavit that she had only seen a red wolf in the wild twice in her life! So no it is highly doubtful the public will enjoy anything more than the howling of penned up wolves as they have for years, often being mislead into thinking they were hearing wild wolves. The whole mess is a fraud especially the part about the public experiencing wild wolves. Even Kim could probably not confirm if she had actually seen a wolf, hybrid, or coyote on her 2 lifetime sightings of a ìwolfî

Federal Rule 50 CFR 17.81

(d) The Fish and Wildlife Service shall consult with appropriate State fish and wildlife agencies, local governmental entities, affected Federal agencies, and affected private landowners in developing and implementing experimental population rules. When appropriate, a public meeting will be conducted with interested members of the public. Any regulation promulgated pursuant to this section shall, to the maximum extent practicable, represent an agreement between the Fish and Wildlife Service, the affected State and Federal agencies and  persons holding any interest in  land which may be affected by the establishment of an experimental population.

Jett Ferebee: I believe this is the option that USFWS has been tasked with accomplishing for the last 30 years and now has fewer or the same number of breeding pairs (4) that they originally started with in 1987. After 30 years, USFWS has failed to accomplish their original goals for either the wild population or the captive population. The goal was 220 wild animals and they now have maybe 40 and have released at least 132 animals to get this 40Ö

To me, this is feasibility study enough, but then my paycheck is not tied to the continuation of this farce and its associated studies.

We have seen in the NENC NEP that coyote hunting, trapping and control leads to levels of mortality in red wolves that are not sustainable.

Jett Ferebee: USFWS personnel not keeping wolves on Federal land as promised leads to levels of mortality that are not sustainable. USFWS flooding red wolf habitat for carbon credits and not managing their land for their own invented endangered species leads to levels of mortality that are not sustainable.

Even with this effort there has been no systematic effort to analyze its effects on wolves, coyotes or human attitudes.  Additional measures could include an outright prohibition on coyote hunting or other modifications to coyote hunting seasons and bag limits

.

Jett Ferebee: Donít even think about it.

These include the coexistence council for the Mexican grey wolf (Mexican Wolf/Livestock Coexistence Council, 2014) which includes a pay-for-presence program, and recovery efforts for jaguars in northern Mexico (Northern Jaguar Project).

Jett Ferebee: Yep sure, I believe the Mexican wolf program is in just as much of a mess as this red wolf program. The red wolf is a NONESSENTIAL EXPERIMENTAL POPULATION and has its own set of regulations that are specifically set up to protect private landowner rights NOT other interest groups maybe you guys need to review the 10j rules

Utilize wild wolves for planning new restoration sites.

Mike Phillips: It seems highly unlikely this will be possible.

Lessons Learned

First we must take a moment to recognize the successes. We successfully established a captive breeding program to ensure the survival of the species. We achieved the first successful re- introduction of a large carnivore that had been declared extinct in the wild.

Mike Phillips: The truthfulness of this statement depends on how one defines ìsuccessfulî.

To ranchers in the area around Yellowstone the wolf is a threat to livestock and an economic liability.

Mike Phillips: More of a perceived threat and perceived liability. Most wolves donít make a whit of difference to most ranchers.

The fact that we did not immediately and publicly acknowledge and correct our error created problems that persist to this day.

Mike Phillips: This is not true. As evinced by signed agreements and our celebration of those agreements we certainly acknowledged the importance of private land.

Hindsight is of course 20-20 and it is not fair to criticize the work of program staff, who were undoubtedly doing great work to deal with a very complicated, challenging and unprecedented reintroduction effort. We know now that as soon as wolves began leaving the Refuge we should have made a public statement of our changed understanding of red wolf habitat and space needs, and should have engaged the community in a dialogue of the meaning of this new information to the recovery effort and its relationship to the community

Mike Phillips: This is not true. As evinced by signed agreements and our celebration of those agreements we certainly acknowledged the importance of private land.

Second, being wrong about these fundamental early assertions regarding red wolf ecology undermined our scientific credibility early in the recovery effort in the minds of many in the community.  If we could be this wrong about such fundamental aspects of red wolf ecology, how could the community be expected to put faith in our findings regarding more complicated aspects of red wolf conservation including taxonomy, management of hybridization, and predator-prey relationships? This could have been addressed had we been more forth coming about what we  were learning about red wolf ecology and engaged the community is a dialogue regarding the consequences of this new information.

Mike Phillips: I think this paragraph conflates current circumstances that are intertwined with concerns about coyotes with very different circumstances that existed from 1986 through the mid- 1990s.

Things I Can Live With

Jett Ferebee: The NENC population needs to be terminated after 30 years of unsuccessfully meeting the program objectives and violating several key Federal Rules designed to protect private landowner rights. Winding down this process should be expeditious and used as an opportunity to learn and increase credibility between FWS and private landowners.

In light of the new Princeton/UCLA genome wide DNA study that determined the red wolf to be a hybrid of 75% coyote and 25% grey wolf, I cannot support spending any more taxpayer money on either the wild population or even the captive population of red wolves. Hybrid animals are not protected by the ESA.

Recognition that absolutely no physical evidence has ever been produced by USFWS to prove the red wolves selectively bred in a zoo in Tacoma, Washington were ever native to the State of NC.

Things I Oppose

Jett Ferebee: Further spending of taxpayer resources on an animal of such questionable origins and the continued trampling of private landowner rights by USFWS and NGOs.

Forcing this on people who donít want it. USFWS not managing their Federal land for the red wolf and then expecting private landowners to host their wolf program (biologists and all).

USFWS not honoring the original commitments made to the citizens of North Carolina in Federal Rules and public meetings. The 1986 and 1995 Federal Rules governing this non-essential experimental species program were specifically established to protect private landowner rights including the ability to have unwanted wolves removed from their land.

Thinking that adaptive management has controlled hybridization of wolves with coyotes in eastern NC.

USFWS blaming hunters and landowners for the NC program failing rather accepting that the same conditions of coyote infiltration and hybrid swarm that lead to red wolves being removed from the wild in Texas by USFWS have now occurred in eastern NC.

“Recent genetic data have cast doubt upon the hybrid origin hypothesis and the balance of evidence has tilted towards a North American canid assemblage composed of the eastern wolf, the red wolf, and the coyote as distinct taxa that are descended from a common ancestral canid of North American origin.”

Mike Phillips: See my previous comments on this issue. It would seem appropriate to integrate van Holdt et al. 2016 into this report.

3. Can a wild population of red wolves be self-sustaining without active management for hybridization?

The honest answer is we do not know. The goals laid out in the Red Wolf Recovery Plan (establishing three wild populations with approximately 220 animals) are based on the premise that a red wolf population that is large enough and stable enough would be able to sustain itself against introgression with coyotes. This appears to be the case with the eastern wolf (C. lycaon) of eastern Canada. It too is intermediate in size between grey wolves and coyotes and hybridizes with both species. Yet, within Algonquin Provincial Park it is able to sustain a core population that appears stable.

It is an open question whether the red wolf can do the same. It can certainly be said that such a situation has not been observed to date. The Service believes that in the period around 2005 the NENC NEP population was approaching a size and configuration (approximately 130 animals in about 20 packs) that may have been sustainable; though this was never demonstrated. Since that time the population has been in decline due primarily to increased loss of breeding animals to anthropogenic sources (primarily gunshot). The increased loss of breeders causes instability in the social structure of wolf packs that facilitates hybridization.

So the question remains whether there is any set of conditions that would enable a large stable red wolf population to sustain itself against hybridization with coyotes or whether the red wolf is a conservation-reliant species that will perpetually require intensive management in the wild.

Mike Phillips: Good

9. Why are wolves are not being maintained on Federal lands as promised in the Federal rules?

514 landowners have now demanded to not have wolves on their land, many of these had signed “partner agreements” and received compensation from the Service. Large tracts have pulled all support for this recovery program based upon unkept promises and commitments.

During the summer of 2014 we received a surge in requests to remove wolves from private lands. Our records indicate that we received 405 such requests. We followed up on each and every one. Our records indicate that 24 of the requests represented duplicate requests from the same address (e.g., husband and wife submitting identical requests on or about the same date). Forty-three requests contained no contact information and we were unable to identify the senders. We received no response to repeated attempts to contact 282 requestors.  Fourteen requestors contacted indicated that they thought they were signing a petition to protest the NCWRC coyote hunting rules, but had no wolf issues on their lands. An additional 25 requestors reported no problems with  wolves on their lands at the time but would contact us if the situation changed.  Our staff conducted surveys of 21 properties at the landownerís requests and found no evidence of wolf presence.

Those landowners requested no further action. We received no further response from 5 landowners following our original contact with them.  Two landowners would not allow access to their property so we could follow-up on their requests.  We ended up working with 13 landowners to address concerns regarding wolves using their property.

We are working diligently to uphold our commitments to landowners and work within our 1995 regulations.

Mike Phillips: Good.

Jett Ferebee: Pete, I have told you repeatedly that USFWS is misrepresenting these requests.   These requests were for the removal of any wolves that were present or may become present on their land. Since USFWS would not even provide wolf locations to our NCWRC, no one knows if   and when a wolf is occupying their land. These requests made it clear that if USFWS, who was mandated by Federal Rule to monitor their wolves, knew their wolf was on any one of these peopleís land; then they were to be notified and the wolf removed. Some even requested that USFWS not go on their private land as people were complaining of USFWS trespassing on their property. So all this bogus data you present here is meant to do nothing but discredit the integrity of private landowners in the red wolf recovery area. I have spent over 15 years trying to get USFWS to remove wolves as promised. Only now have I achieved any results. As a result of my success, USFWS and DOW will likely fabricate a sue and settlement arrangement in their current law suit and do away with our ability to have wolves removed. In fact just last month, DOJ attorneys have already told Judge Boyle and SELC that they had NO INTENTIONS of removing any wolves.

Lessons Learned

First we must take a moment to recognize the successes. We successfully established a captive breeding program to ensure the survival of the species. We achieved the first successful re- introduction of a large carnivore that had been declared extinct in the wild.

Mike Phillips: The truthfulness of this statement depends on how one defines successful.

Jett Ferebee: I disagree when it comes to experimental populations: see Federal Rule 50 CFR 17.81.

This is important because the nature of the red wolf recovery program in eastern NC has changed repeatedly over the years as our scientific understanding of red wolves has evolved. This led to several important decision points and forks in the road where the Service acted unilaterally.

Jett Ferebee: USFWS must admit the violations of Federal Rules ñ illegal private land releases, nonremoval of wolves, selectively breeding an animal to fit their needs, manipulating data to somehow make NC become historic range of the red wolf, falsifying take request information to a Federal Judge, conspiring with NGOís to sue and settle with our NCWRCÖ the list could go on and on. You canít continue to just say the community was not engaged or that USFWS should have educated them more.

Henry and Lucash (2000) summarized lessons learned through the first 12 years of the red wolf reintroduction efforts in eastern NC and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These lessons included recognizing the importance of private lands, taking steps to minimize conflicts with other land uses and practices, the need for public outreach and state agency involvement, and the need for transparency and consistency in our actions. While these lessons have been acknowledged it is clear that the Service has not taken these lessons sufficiently to heart to produce a lasting change in the relationship between the agency, the community and other key partners.

Jett Ferebee: This is epitomized by the last letter that your DOJ attorneys made you send me saying that my take permit request had not been active since ìwhelping seasonî. This was a lie to cover up the lie that your DOJ attorneys told a Federal Judge. I cannot express how that galvanized my belief that USFWS has no intent to be truthful to anyone, including a Federal Judge. The ends never justify the means in any situation. I am not done with this ìlittle issueî either.

A. Communication of Government Intent

When the northeastern North Carolina red wolf non-essential experimental population (NENC NEP) was first established in 1986 the Service said that the wolves would be managed on federal lands (Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Dare County Bombing Range) and would pose no threat to, and place no encumbrances upon, private lands. This commitment was based on our understanding at the time of red wolf ecology, which was based on limited observations of the habitat use, movements, and diets of the few wolves that existed in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Our assumptions quickly proved unfounded as wolves soon left the Refuge  and we discovered that their habitat preferences and space needs were much different than we originally believed.

Jett Ferebee: This is where you should state that you only had Section 7 authority to release 12 wolves from the captive population but released 132, which likely bankrupted your captive breeding program. This is where you should state you only had Federal Authority to release wolves on Federal land where the wolf was fully protected, but you released 64 out of 132 wolves onto private land. They did not simply ìwander ontoî private land or even ìsoon left the refugeî.  Your personnel put them in a crate and took them to private land, while they were having public meetings for the  1995 Rules revision that stated you were only going to be releasing a few wolves on the  Federal lands of PLNWR. Now would be a good place to show a little humility and integrity.

This created two problems. First, as we altered our management practices in response to our  rapidly changing knowledge of red wolf ecology we fundamentally altered the premise upon which the relationship between the red wolf and the community was founded.  Wolves that were supposed to be confined to the Refuge were now routinely, even predominantly, occupying private lands. The fact that we did not immediately and publicly acknowledge and correct our error created problems that persist to this day.

Mike Phillips: This is not true. As evinced by signed agreements and our celebration of those agreements we certainly acknowledged the importance of private land.

Jett Ferebee: It took a FOIA request from me almost three decades later for USFWS to finally admit to doing this with no legal authority. It took a called meeting with the NCWRC to expose that USFWS had an internal policy that stated they would not remove wolves from private land. This policy was in direct conflict with the 1995 Federal Rules, which state that ALL unwanted wolves would be removed from private lands.

Jett Ferebee: These people are sick and tired of USFWS saying they will be engaged and made aware of USFWS actions. This is being seen right now as Howard Phillips is flooding the refuge, which is now flooding wolf habitat and adjoining farmland. We do not want to be simply ìbe engagedî. To date this is a one sided public stunt. We demand to be heard, especially when USFWS activities impact our private land! To date USFWS, as many Government agencies do, simply plays the old ìrope a dopeî technique and hopes the complainer goes away.

Transparency

When people do not know what a federal agency is doing they tend to speculate, and they almost never speculate positively. The absence of clear timely information from the Service provides a breeding ground for suspicion and mis-information that if left untreated (as has been the case with the red wolf reintroduction effort) leads to distrust and loss of confidence. Today, certain segments of the community believe we are determined to expand the range of the red wolf throughout North Carolina and beyond while other stakeholders believe we are managing the wild population to extinction. Neither is accurate, but how is anyone to know given the lack of accurate and timely information from the Service?

Jett Ferebee: What is accurate? The Federal Rules stated that you were going to establish a  Nonessential Experimental Population (term you conveniently omitted from this report) on Federal lands. That is around 275,000 acres, yet now somehow USFWS has taken the recovery area size up to 1.7 million acres including all Federal, State and private land in five counties! What are we supposed to believe? Will the 1.7 million acres now grow to include all of NC next or even the entire Southeast? This is certainly what is being communicated by the NGOs and wolf scientists. Bait and switch is the private sector term for this

What evidence supports historic red wolf presence in NENC?

Jett Ferebee: The bottom line here is the fact that absolutely no physical evidence has ever been produced by anyone in 30 years of trying, that proves a red wolf was ever native to our State of NC. Absolutely the red wolf, that Michael Phillips described as being a human construct which was selectively bred in a zoo in Tacoma Washington, was NEVER native to NC. To Mr. Phillips credit, I have found him to be very open in his assessment of the red wolf program from beginning to end.  To build on Mr. Phillipsís above description (see peer review WMI report), he now even states in this report he supports:

ìAn effort to modify the red wolf captive breeding program to promote greater expression of the gray wolf component of the red wolf genome as manifest by a substantial increase in the average body size of red wolves.î

This is the honest information that USFWS must communicate!

If the ìscientific communityî thinks the Southeast needs a wolf, be honest about it. Be honest like Mike Phillips and just say you are going to breed something that may serve your purpose, but donít falsely hide behind the guise of the ESA.


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