A federal judge is ordering a stop to coyote hunting near the world's only wild population of endangered red wolves in northeastern North Carolina because the animals are easily confused.
U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle ruled Tuesday that stopping coyote hunts in five counties will reduce red wolf deaths that violate the Endangered Species Act.
Some of the estimated 100 red wolves in the area have been mistaken for coyotes and killed. The two species sometimes interbreed, creating hybrid animals that can appear similar to both.
State wildlife commission head Gordon Myers says now private landowners in Dare, Hyde, Beaufort, Tyrrell, and Washington counties can't shoot coyotes unless they're attacking people or livestock.
Federal wildlife managers are controlling coyotes by releasing sterilized animals that guard their territory but can't multiply.