CHARLOTTE, MECKLENBURG -

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to review the red wolf program, raising the possibility that the 27-year experiment to restore the rare predators in eastern North Carolina may come to an end.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission asked the federal agency this month to "determine the appropriateness of counting the experimental (wolf) program."

The 90 to 110 endangered wolves roaming near Albemarle Sound have been under fire for several years.

A growing number of gunshot deaths threaten the group's ability to reproduce.

Fish and Wildlife ended a seven-year effort to establish red wolves in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1998. The state commission said too many pups died and adults weren't able to stay within the 521,000 acre park.