RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is supporting coyote hunting in the state after conservation groups filed a lawsuit saying the practice endangers the red wolf population.

A statement issued by the commission said the agency believes current coyote hunting regulations are in the best interest of the public, the environment and the agricultural community. The statement said the commission also thinks the rules don't violate the federal Endangered Species Act.

Commission spokesman Geoff Cantrell said coyotes are a non-native species that pose a threat to pets and livestock and are potential disease carriers. He said trapping and hunting, and night hunting on private lands, are effective in managing local coyote populations.

An attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit last Thursday on behalf of three other groups.