The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission decided on Aug. 1, 2011, to adopt temporary rules to allow 24-hour hunting of coyotes on private lands and daytime hunting on game lands, but two years passed before the rule was made permanent.
However, coyote hunting in Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Terrell and Washington counties was halted by a federal judge in 2011, ostensibly to protect red wolves released as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experiment to return these predators to part of their native range.
The law was later changed after a legal challenge demonstrated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had violated its red-wolf release rules by not removing unwanted specimens from private property.
Six mated red wolf pairs were released in 1987 on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, and 25 years later, their numbers totaled more than 100.
Landowners objected when the wolves moved off local refuges onto private lands. Many later cited devastating effects of coyote predation, particularly on deer fawns, and other small game.
In September 2016, Judge Terrence Boyle ruled red wolves must be protected unless they prove a threat to humans or damage private property. To prevent red wolves from being accidentally killed when mistaken for coyotes, night-hunting for coyotes was ended; the animals in those five counties can be hunted only during daylight hours and with a permit.