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Three Pack Photo  Monty Sloan Wolf Facts

Facts - History 1 - History 2
Wiping out Wolves - getting serious.

The change from a hunter/gatherer way of life to one based on farming and herding started about 12,000 years ago, and since then wolves and humans have been colliding in many parts of the world. In Europe, many forests were cut down during the Middle Ages to be replaced by forms and fields, and wolves lost their natural homes, driven to seek prey in human areas of habitation.

When European settlers came to North America in the 1500S and 1600s, they found wolves inhabiting the deep forests and wide plains of the continent. Here there might have been room for both human and animal predators to live their separate lives in peace, Instead, North America became the scene of the human race's most successful killing campaign against the wolf.

Inspired by the traditional European hatred of the wolf, the early settlers attacked the wolf using pits, traps, and poison. Bounties - cash rewards given by authorities to anyone who brought in the hide or some other part of a dead wolf helped things along. The American war against the wolf did not really get under way until the 1800s, when people began to move onto the great plains in the center of the country. Here there were enormous herds of buffalo, which served as a food supply for Indian tribes and for large numbers of wolves. All three of these - Indian, buffalo and the wolf were doomed to be brought almost to the point of extinction by 'civilization'.

At first wolves were hunted for their thick winter fur and a good price in European markets. Then as cattle and sheep grazing became common, wolves were killed because they preyed on the herds of domestic animals. (Their natural prey, the buffalo were wiped out during another concentrated massacre of wild life, but that's another story..)

The most common way to eradicate wolves by the American wolfers or wolf hunters, was to use Strychnine, it was placed in the carcasses of dead buffalo, cattle, or sheep. Wolves feeding on the animals would die, painfully. And so would any other creature - coyote, dog, bird, even human - that ate the poisoned flesh. It did not discriminate.

No one knows how many animals were killed during the last half of the 19th century, when the anti-wolf campaign was most active in the western part of the United States. Perhaps 1 or 2 million wolves died, and thousands of other creatures fell victim.

By 1900, there were not many wolves left in the western United States. The few remaining animals were still being pursued by wolfers rancher, and herders eager to eradicate the species completely from existence in America, In 1919, the government joined the antiwolf campaign, passing a law that called for the extermination of wolves on federally owned lands. By 1942, when the law was abolished 25,000 more wolves had been killed by the government plan.

This was the last phase of the organized campaign to eradicate the wolf. By this time, it had been virtually exterminated in most parts of the country.

The situation remains almost unchanged today...

Today the wolf is classified as an endangered species in most parts of the United States. This classification means that the killing of wolves is strictly controlled by federal law. For most wolves, such protection has come too late. The killing has already taken place, and the millions of animals slaughtered in the past cannot be brought back to life. Ironically, most people now agree that the world is a poorer place because of their loss.

<< Wolf and Human History - Part I

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