A question of preservation

Red wolves once were common in Southeast states. By 1980, they were considered extinct in the wild. That resulted in establishment of a captive breeding program meant to establish a new population of the animals in an area of eastern North Carolina.

In 1987, the captive breeding program began to release wolves into the wild. It seemed to be working. About a decade ago, there were 120 red wolves in North Carolina. Now, only about 40 remain. Gunshot wounds and vehicle collisions have been the primary causes of death.

“The population cannot recover from their losses and overcome mortality, resulting in a steadily declining population,” a federal report concludes.

Critics say the government could do more to preserve a population of red wolves in the wild. Perhaps so. It is something into which Congress should look.

About 230 red wolves remain in zoos and other wildlife facilities. But within a few years, there may be none in the wild. Human beings will have beaten Mother Nature, yet again.

How important is it to have a wild population of red wolves? Not at all, to many people. Protecting them is a bad idea, some say.

So that brings us to the question about red wolves: Just how important is it to us, for reasons we may not be able to define, to preserve our natural world?