Wildlife officials are looking into what is believed to be the illegal shooting death of a red wolf in eastern North Carolina.
State and federal officials announced the investigation in a news release Friday. They say the radio-collared red wolf was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound last month in Tyrrell County. It's the third red wolf to die this year from a gunshot.
The first two deaths happened in January and March. Seven other red wolves have died of other various reasons ranging from natural causes to being hit by cars.
Federal wildlife officials say no one has come forward to claim responsibility for this most recent shooting death. But, they believe the death is suspicious.
In 1987, the red wolf made history in eastern North Carolina, when four mating pairs were released into the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. It was the first species determined to be extinct in the wild to be reintroduced outside of captivity.
Sometimes red wolves are confused with coyotes. WUNC's Phoebe Judge talked with Kim Wheeler, executive director the Red Wolf Coalition about that problem. Wheeler has been monitoring the health of red wolves in this state for years.
State wildlife officials maintain the only wild red wolf population in the eastern part of the state. The latest statistics show that about 100 red wolves roam native habitats in five northeastern counties.