By Associated Press - Friday, April 22, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Federal wildlife officials are investigating the shooting death of an endangered red wolf in Hyde County.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Tom MacKenzie said Friday a recent necropsy shows the wolf found last November had died of a gunshot.

It’s generally illegal to shoot the wolves. Federal officials are offering a reward for information about this death.

Wildlife Service statistics show that 17 wolves died last year. The wild population is estimated to be 45 to 60 wolves.

The only wild population of the wolves is in eastern North Carolina.

The federal government has been studying whether to continue, modify or end the reintroduction program for the wolves.

The program’s future has prompted intense debate, including a lawsuit accusing the federal government of failing to protect the dwindling population.

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