Conservationists ask judge to curb red wolf removals in eastern N.C.

FILE - In this file photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, a male red wolf enjoys a feeding in it's habitat at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C.  A lawsuit filed Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015,  argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it gave landowners permission on two occasions to kill wolves without meeting strict legal requirements. It asks a judge to force the service to stop such incomplete kill approvals and to perform a past-due review of the wolves' endangered status. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
FILE - In this file photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, a male red wolf enjoys a feeding in it's habitat at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C. A lawsuit filed Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it gave landowners permission on two occasions to kill wolves without meeting strict legal requirements. It asks a judge to force the service to stop such incomplete kill approvals and to perform a past-due review of the wolves' endangered status. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Conservation groups urged a judge to limit the ways that endangered red wolves can be removed from private land in eastern North Carolina in an effort to protect the remaining wild population of the animals.

Judge Terrence Boyle said Wednesday he would issue a written ruling later on the request for emergency intervention.

Boyle asked questions about what trapping methods are currently used when the wolves wander onto private land. About 45 of the animals roam the wild in eastern North Carolina.

The hearing came two days after the federal government announced plans to reduce the wolves’ territory starting in 2017 to a federal wildlife refuge and adjacent land in Dare County, rather than the wolves’ current five-county territory.

Justice Department lawyers representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service countered that the conservation groups are misinterpreting rules that give them leeway on removing the wolves.

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