Wolves: The Persecution Continues

Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another group.  Sound familiar? Wolf persecution is the systematic mistreatment of wolves by humans.
“Wolves have suffered more inhumane treatment and loss of range and populations than any other predator. The history of their survival and disappearance in various parts of the world is a reflection of the overwhelming importance of people’s attitudes toward animals. When emotions, especially fear and negative superstition, rule people’s minds, wolves can be destroyed on the basis of ignorance about their real threats to people and livestock. On the other hand, when people are aware of biological facts about the wolf and its ecological role, behavior, value to ecosystems, and the truth about its history of not attacking people, prejudices tend to dissipate. Native Americans had a natural affinity and respect for wolves, calling them “brother.” The wolf’s very survival as a species depends on its being treated with tolerance and respect. Gradually, this is happening in many parts of the world. Education and a change in government attitudes in many countries are needed to conserve this species, along with better ways of raising livestock.”

American wolves have been persecuted for hundreds of years. In the 19th century cowboys would rope wolves and drag them on horseback over rough terrain until they were dead or use them for target practice. They were trapped for their pelts, poisoned with strychnine, which causes extremely painful convulsions before death.

Ranching has always been at the center of wolf hatred and intolerance in the West.
“Wolves natural prey of mule deer and elk had been hunted out so they turned to livestock as the only large prey available and, in doing so, became the target of ranchers’ wrath. Western ranchers, like many livestock owners in Europe, believed that they should be able to release cattle to roam free without herding them into shelter at night. This situation had existed in Western Europe after large predators were eliminated from all but the most remote areas. In their new ranches, allocated to them by the government, ranchers sought to recreate the European model. This required the destruction of large predators.”

Ranchers convinced the feds to launch an all out wolf extermination program and by the 1930’s, 95 percent of gray wolves were gone from their range in the lower forty eight. The landscape was sanitized of predators. No stone was left unturned. Hunters would comb an area and set out poisons even in areas where there were no livestock. They earned points for each wolf  killed. Sound familiar?  Eerily similar to predator derbies. Men that earned fewer points could be fired, they were expected to eliminate all wolves in the territory they were assigned.

“The Forest Service and the Bureau of Biological Survey used poisons and traps to kill adult animals and many cruel methods to kill the pups in dens in their efforts to try to exterminate the wolf. In 1907 alone, the Forest Service killed more than 1,800 Gray Wolves and 23,000 Coyotes, among other animals (Laycock 1990). After the US Congress authorized the first substantial appropriation for hiring government hunters in 1915, federal wolf-control programs achieved an unprecedented level.”

Even though wolves were gone from the West the persecution continued in Alaska. They were shot, hunted from airplanes, chased for miles before being gunned down. If they couldn’t shoot the wolf from the air the plane would chase it to exhaustion, then land. The hunter would walk right up to the weakened wolf and shoot it point blank.  Just like shooting fish in a barrel.  Laws were passed to stop the practice of aerial gunning but became unenforceable. Wolves continued to die.

in Alaska in 1995. An entire wolf pack was chased by snowmobiles and shot dead.

“Brenda Peterson, an eyewitness to one of these hunts, described it, and photos taken of the event documented the wolves being chased into a tight group and killed. Six black wolves, an entire family, died “splayfooted against one another,” having run for their lives at a gallop of 35 miles per hour as the snowmobilers herded them into a terrified, dense mass, and then shot them at point-blank range.”

To this day, even with a ban on aerial gunning, the feds have found a loophole in the law. Wolves are gunned from the air in Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Wildlife Services is still killing wolves for the livestock industry, just as their predecessors  did over a hundred years ago.


The sad legacy of this intense persecution still drives wolf management. Entire wolf packs are targeted if a few cows or sheep are killed yet wolves are not the main predator that kill cattle and sheep, it’s the coyote. And even coyotes kill very few livestock compared to cattle mortality from other causes. Over ninety percent of cattle losses are due to weather, calving and disease. Wolves actually help to keep coyote numbers down, since they are natural enemies. Better that coyotes are controlled by wolves then killed in cruel predator derbies that mimic the wolf extermination practices of the early 19th century.

The conundrum is wolves should be admired for their devotion to family and pack. Wolves will lay down their lives for each other. They will howl mournfully when federal agents wipe out members of their pack. Wolves mate for life, are dedicated to their young, puppies are revered by all pack members. The characteristics that people admire in dogs: loyalty, playfulness, devotion are even more prominent in the wolf. Wolves are smarter then dogs, their brains are larger. They solve problems, trust each other, work together to survive and provide for their families. All attributes we cherish. Yet no other animal has been hounded, tortured and despised like the wolf.

“Throughout the centuries we have projected on to the wolf the qualities we most despise and fear in ourselves.” -Barry Lopez

And so it goes….click here


Reference & Quotes:  The Endangered Species Handbook

Posted In: Wolf Intolerence, Wolf Wars, aerial gunning of wolves

Tags: wolf persecution, Wildlife Services, wolves or livestock

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