Of Wolves and Men…….

black wolf nexus wallpaper

October 7, 2014

This was one of my first posts. It traces the origins of wolf hatred and persecution. Wolves have suffered greatly at the hands of man.


September 29, 2009

Nature Magazine examines reasons behind wolf hatred and the systematic campaign to remove them from the lower forty-eight. It merits repeating that for thousands of years Native Americans were able to live with wolves and bears, while settlers saw them as a threat. Even the famed naturalist James Audubon partook in torturing wolves, which was particularly shocking to learn.

As noted in Michael Robinson’s “Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West”, the federal government became the wolf killing arm for the livestock industry.

By understanding the roots of wolf prejudice it’s clear to see why wolves have been demonized in American culture. The wolf has paid dearly for these attitudes. Even though the same outdated beliefs exist today, we are moving forward to a clearer understanding of the important role predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Man cannot continue to play god, deciding which animals are good or bad. Predators do not have ulterior motives, they hunt because that is what they are born to do and by so doing contribute to the health and stamina of their prey.

The nexus of wolf wars is the continuing presence of livestock on the Western range. This has been and will continue to be the reason wolves remain caught in the crossfire.


From Nature Online:

The Wolf That Changed America
Wolf Wars: America’s Campaign to Eradicate the Wolf

 Wolves have been feared, hated, and persecuted for hundreds of years in North America. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans incorporated wolves into their legends and rituals, portraying them as ferocious warriors in some traditions and thieving spirits in others. European Americans, however, simply despised wolves. Many, including celebrated painter and naturalist John James Audubon, believed wolves ought to be eradicated for the threat they posed to valuable livestock. This attitude enabled a centuries-long extermination campaign that nearly wiped out the gray wolf in the continental United States by 1950.

Origins of Wolf Hatred

In the New World, two top predators – wolves and men – that otherwise would have avoided each other clashed over livestock. In Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, Jon T. Coleman writes:

Wolves had a ghostly presence in colonial landscapes. Settlers heard howls, but they rarely spotted their serenaders. The fearsome beasts avoided humans. People frightened them, and colonists knew this: “They are fearefull Curres,” reported Thomas Morton in 1637, “and will runne away from a man (that meeteth them by chance at a banke end) as fast as any fearefull dogge.”

Because humans and wolves frightened one another, they logically avoided confrontation, opening space between the species. But that space closed when European colonists brought horses, cattle, sheep and pigs with them over the perilous journey across the Atlantic. Without these animals – sources of food and transportation for the European settlers – the colonies would have failed. But because most early colonial communities were small, livestock often grazed on the periphery of the settlements with little protection. Their pastures abutted and bled into the wild, exposing the animals to hungry wolves in search of prey. Wolves quickly learned that docile cattle and sheep made easy meals. Suddenly, colonists found their livelihoods in danger, and they lashed out at wolves, both with physical violence and folklore that ensured wolf hatred would be passed down from one generation to the next.

Amateur and Professional Wolf Baiting

The campaign to eradicate wolves in North America began with private landowners and farmers baiting and trapping wolves. Often, colonists turned wolf baiting into both sport and protection for their livestock. Jon T. Coleman describes an incident that took place in the winter of 1814 deep in the Ohio River Valley, in which John James Audubon assists a farmer as he mutilates trapped wolves.

During the fall, a pack of wolves had robbed [the farmer] of “nearly the whole of his sheep and one of his colts.” For him, it made sense to devote his winter labor to digging pits, weaving platforms, hunting bait, and setting and checking his traps twice daily. The animals had injured him, and “he was now ‘paying them off in full.’” Audubon’s reaction to the slaying of the wolves is less understandable … The ingenious pit traps amazed him, as did the fearsome predators’ meek behavior and the childlike glee the farmer took in his work. The violence Audubon witnessed, however, did not shock him. Watching a pack of dogs rip apart terrified and defenseless animals was a “sport” both he and the farmer found enjoyable.

Further west, in Yellowstone National Park, wolf baiting and hunting had become a lucrative profession. Paul Schullery, in his guidebook to Yellowstone wolves (The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook), describes the profession and the devastating affect it had on the Yellowstone wolf population: “At least as early as 1877, ungulate carcasses in the park were poisoned with strychnine by free-lance ‘wolfers’ for ‘wolf or wolverine bait.’ By 1880, [Yellowstone National Park] Superintendent [Philetus] Norris stated in his annual report that ‘…the value of their [wolves and coyotes] hides and their easy slaughter with strychnine-poisoned carcasses have nearly led to their extermination.’”

In the Southwest, as settlers depleted bison, elk, deer, and moose populations – the wolves’ natural prey – the predators turned more and more to picking off livestock. In states like New Mexico where cattle ranching was big business, ranchers responded by turning to professional wolfers and bounty hunters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports, “To protect livestock, ranchers and government agencies began an eradication campaign. Bounty programs initiated in the 19th century continued as late as 1965, offering $20 to $50 per wolf. Wolves were trapped, shot, dug from their dens, and hunted with dogs. Poisoned animal carcasses were left out for wolves, a practice that also killed eagles, ravens, foxes, bears, and other animals that fed on the tainted carrion.”

Government-Sanctioned Wolf Extermination Programs   


Government Trapper

Towards the end of the 19th Century, wealthy livestock owners increased both their demand for wider grazing ranges and their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C. In 1885, the federal government established the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, initially chartered to research insects and birds. However, the livestock lobby quickly diverted the Bureau’s attention to wolves. Stockowners complained that their land was infested with wolves, calling them “breeding grounds.” They demanded the federal government secure their land for safe pasturage.

In 1906, the U.S. Forest Service acquiesced to the stockowners and enlisted the help of the Bureau of Biological Survey (now USFWS) to clear cattle ranges of gray wolves. In other words, the Bureau became a wolf-extermination unit. Bruce Hampton writes in The Great American Wolf:

That same year [1906], bureau biologist Vernon Bailey traveled to Wyoming and New Mexico to investigate the extent of wolf and coyote depredations. Upon Bailey’s return to Washington, D.C., President Roosevelt invited him to the White House to see what he had learned. Although there is no record of their conversation, immediately following Bailey’s meeting the President, the Biological Survey recommended that the government begin “devising methods for the destruction of the animals [wolves].”

By the middle of the 20th Century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan. Yet the Bureau of Biological Survey was still disseminating anti-wolf propaganda as late as 1940. One poster from the time read:

According to estimates of stockmen [the Custer Wolf, pictured in the poster] killed $25,000 worth of cattle during the seven years he was known in the vicinity of Custer, South Dakota … A local bounty of $500 failed to secure his capture. A Department hunter ended his career of destruction by a skillfully set trap. Many notorious wolves are known to have killed cattle valued at $3000 to $5000 in a year. More than 3,849 wolves have been destroyed by the predatory animal work of the Department and its cooperators since the work was organized in 1915.

It was not until the late sixties, when a greater understanding of natural ecosystems began changing attitudes in the scientific community and the National Park Service, that the plight of wolves in North America began to improve.

In 1973, Congress gave gray wolves protection under the Endangered Species Act. According to Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson, in Yellowstone National Park, where the last gray wolf was killed in 1926, “the entire [gray wolf] restoration program was guided by directives contained in the Endangered Species Act – a law created to ground a decades-old cornerstone of science that says the healthiest, most stable natural systems tend to be those with high levels of biodiversity.”

Since then, wolf populations throughout the country have increased. In 1995 and 1996, researchers in Yellowstone National Park released 31 Canadian gray wolves back into the wild. The event was hailed as a testament to the conservation movement’s efforts to revive wild wolf populations in America. Yet anti-wolf attitudes persist. Shortly after the release of the Yellowstone wolves a hunter shot and killed Wolf Number 10. Smith and Ferguson write about the incident: “As disturbing as the shooting itself was, more unsavory still was the reaction of a handful of locals who cheered the killing, calling it an act of heroism.”

Photos © Arizona Historical Society


Coleman, Jon T. Vicious: Wolves and Men in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004.

Hampton, Bruce. The Great American Wolf. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997.

Robinson, Michael J. Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West. University Press of Colorado, 2005.

Schullery, Paul. The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook. Worland, Wyoming: High Plains Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

Smith, Douglas W. and Gary Ferguson. Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2005.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Gray Wolf Fact Sheet. [updated January 2007; cited November 2008]



The Wolf That Changed America


Photo:  Courtesy Nexus wolf wallpaper

Video: Courtesy YouTube thejungletv95

Posted in: Wolf  Wars

Tags:  gray wolf, wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance, The Wolf That Changed America, Nature

Published in: on October 7, 2014 at 2:59 am  Comments (17)  
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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. And nothing’s changed! That’s the horror of it all. We’re back to exactly where we were during the government extermination program! For the life of me, I cannot understand why one animal is persecuted above all others. You can’t tell me that it could be worse, or that delisting is protecting them. We are a sick species. The troglodytes that wildlife is cursed with in the West and Great Lakes are gone completely over the top with ignorant attitudes and killing lust, and yeah, you’d still have a few who would continue if wolves were protected, but not this onslaught. Education, understanding, working together, what a bunch of horseshit. I think human beings have this in their DNA, to irrationally kill a ‘perceived’ (as in made-up imaginings and projection of our own violence) onto another innocent being.


    • I think you put it very succinctly ida: “We are a sick species” I’ll add to that arrogant and destructive.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


    • (First: Please note that I think slavery sucks)

      Y’know I wonder if the same ‘compromise’ could be reached with the slave trade? After all that business was very profitable and sustainable, a lot of the early wealth in the US actually came from it and from slave labour. If you have the stomach to look into it, humans were bred in much the same way livestock were for the purpose of servitude. A person saying they support wolves but also supports killing them is equal to an equal rights movement supporter who also still doesn’t mind keeping the slave trade around.


  2. This is titled, “Wolves.”

    “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

    ― Henry Beston, The Outermost House


  3. What an unmitigated disaster, Europeans coming to this continent. Look at the cheap, tacky, disgusting mess we have made of it. Everything for sale. Sometimes I just rue the day, especially when I read about the history of our treatment of native people and wildlife of this continent, and based on absolutely nothing.


  4. Of Wolves and Men… my first book on wolves. I just finished Gordon Haber’s Among Wolves. Other good books:

    Among Wolves by Gordon Haber and Marybeth Holleman

    In The Temple of Wolves by Rick Lamplugh

    The Wolf Almanac by Robert Busch

    The Hidden Life of Wolves by Jamie and Jim Dutcher

    Exposing the Big Game by Jim Robertson

    Romeo: The Story of an Alaskan Wolf by John Hyde

    The Lives of Red Wolves by T. Delene Beeland

    The Carnivore Way by Cristina Eisenberg

    Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez

    Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

    A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

    The Animal Manifesto by Marc Bekoff

    “To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul.” Aldo Leopold

    “Whenever and wherever men have engaged in the mindless slaughter of animals (including other men), they have often attempted to justify their acts by attributing the most vicious or revolting qualities to those they would destroy; and the less reason there is for the slaughter, the greater the campaign for vilification.”

    ― Farley Mowat, naturalist, conservationist and author of Never Cry Wolf


    • Adding to the list Roger:

      Predatory Bureaucracy:The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West by Michael Robinson

      Vicious: Men and Wolves in America by Jon T. Coleman

      A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans

      The Killing of Wolf Number 10 by Thomas McNamee

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,


      • I spent some time in Bella Bella, Canada this summer for Tribal Canoe Journey. While there I picked up a book called, “Following the Last Wild Wolves”, by Ian Mcallister. It is amazing! I highly recommend it. It is about the wolves that live on Campbell Island (Bella Bella). The author has been living there and studying them. He shows the differences in them compared to mainland North American wolves. They are island dwellers, so they haven’t mixed their bloodlines. They have their own distinct coloration, and behaviors. They live in a rainforest, along with the famous Campbell Island Spirit Bears. While there, I spent a lot of time exploring and listening for them. One evening I was blessed with seeing the hind end of one of these beauties jumping into the bush. Again, this book is a must!


  5. Fire the Wildlife Agencies (USFWS, state agencies, USDA Wildlife Services, BLM)
    The US government has long been in the wildlife killing business. It offered bounties on predators, poisoned and gassed prairie dogs, allowed the near extinction of bison, prairie dogs, black footed ferret, the wolf (wolf bounties), wolverine, and marginalized the grizzly, lion, and many others. The war on coyotes has been unrelenting. Hunters and ranchers, bedfellows of the wildlife agencies nearly wiped out most wildlife. With the advent of wildlife agency hunting regulations, the hunter has been somewhat contained; and now even count themselves as “conservationists” because they have essentially farmed game sport (recreational killing opportunities) animals and marginalized predators on the erroneous rationale of less predators to share game with the more game (recreational killing opportunities). Instead of an emphasis on wilderness and wildlife ecology, USDA Wildlife Services kills nearly 4 million animals a year and state agencies millions more in recreational killing opportunities and “management”. State wildlife agencies use hunters to “manage” “sporting” game and predators. Ranchers may tolerate big bird and other sport game birds, elk, bison and deer and antelope; but are very hostile to predators. Ranchers and farmers destroy wildlife habitat with the plow and grazing not only on private land but ever more and more on public land facilitated by the US government in leased grazing, leased farming and leases to extraction industries avenues. Encroachers on public land often, in turn, adding insult added to injury, asks the federal government, such as Wildlife Service, to kill animals that are convincing their encroachment. Conservation efforts and new agencies such as ESA and EPA and private conservation agencies have and are battling for balanced ecologies, the predators, and many animals of no concern to sportsmen, ranchers and farmers, and extraction industries and development interests. Agencies, like the USFWS often cave into ranchers hunters, state wildlife agencies, conservative state legislatures, a government tradition of really prioritizing those interests. The arguments that threatens remaining wilderness and wildlife is as old as civilization, making a buck by the traditional enemies of wildlife. What is not appreciated enough is what little is left: In the US roughly 2.6 % in the lower 48 and another 2.5 % in Alaska; and this is under continuing and unremitting pressure from, guess what, the traditional enemies of wilderness and wildlife, still too often facilitated by the wildlife agencies. Private conservation agencies often find themselves in conflict with wildlife agencies who should be on their side and the side of preserving wilderness, balanced wildlife ecology, and the predators who are essential to the balanced wildlife ecology. The wildlife agencies, state and federal, need firing and revamping to emphasize wildlife preservation, wildlife viewing, and a heritage of wilderness and wildlife in what is left of the available habitat. There is something terribly wrong when we see wildlife agencies aligning with ranchers, farmers, “sportsmen”, conservative state legislatures. It is time for major upheavals of them, their agendas, their heads and replacing them with priorities on preserving, recovering, protecting what is left of wilderness and wildlife, not siding with the traditional enemies of wildlife and wilderness (ranching, hunters, conservative state legislatures and populace, extraction industries, and development and such parochial ilk that echoes their sentiments)












    Landers,Rich, “Court reinstates endangered status for Wyoming wolves,” The Spokesman-Review. 23 September 2014.



  6. Nabeki– I will be in Missoula Th-Sunday–interviewing to head up the Montana World Affairs Council… Love, Catherine




  8. Long ago, the Catholic church taught that wolves were Satan’s dogs. When the first European, Christian fanatics arrived in America, they believed that wilderness was the home of Satan, and the Native Americans and wolves were Satan’s disciples. We can deduce from this, this dark ages thinking also included Native Americans!

    Then there were fairytales and things that go bump in the night that unjustly demonized the most vital species in all of America’s ecosystems, the wolf!

    The irony in all of this is, mountain lions share the same scientific status as wolves, but we have no mountain lion “spooky”, evil, Satan fairy tales concerning mountain lions. And, mountain lions have attacked and hurt vastly many more people than wolves in all of history.

    Today in America, we have 1,000 wolves and 10,000 plus mountain lions while both are apex predators.

    The problem is, the redneck, white trash, heavily brainwashed states, still believe fairy tales and things that go boo in the night; they probably still think the conquered Native Americans were also disciples of Satan.

    A century ago, one brilliant, free-thinking American, the father of Ecology, Aldo Leopold grasped the science and wrote the greatest statement ever written regarding save Earth and mankind from extinction, “Thinking Like a Mountain”. Leopold learned quickly, that wolves are the most vital, important species on that mountain. He used Mountain as a metaphor for ecosystem and planet Earth.

    “Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum. In WILDNESS is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains but seldom perceived by man.”


  9. Reblogged this on Exposing the Big Game.


  10. Reblogged this on Coalition for American Wildbirds and commented:
    This traces the persecution and near extinction of wolves in the U.S.
    Caution – content and photos are disturbing.


  11. Humans have a tendency to think of human interests first. Everything else is secondary or not considered a concern until it negatively affects human interests. This has been the driving force behind so-called ‘wildlife management’. It was not born from any concern for the ecosystem but by mankind’s selfishness, greed and shortsightedness otherwise it would cater to the interests of wildlife and not the business of farming them for a fading minority of the human race to perpetually abuse annually.


  12. The origins of wolf hatred and persecution : Wolves have suffered greatly at the hands of man. Indeed ! The origin apart from other things has largely to do with myths about wolves. The same thing has also happened many times in humans against other humans — regarding other humans in terms of myths as a ” danger ” .


  13. The cost of lethal measures is actually economically unviable, even on the individual scale. A study in South Africa in 2008 found that it was far more cost effective and efficient to use non-lethal methods to ward off predators rather than to continually kill them. During the two year study, lethal control was found to increase the numbers of livestock lost to predation and was more expensive to maintain, in addition to the negative environmental impact. The reluctance to implement nonlethal methods of protection are not so much a matter of cost effectiveness or feasibility, but based in a deep seated cultural attitude of man vs nature instead of coexisting with it. Although the crux of the issue is actually the demand for livestock production pushing for a ‘sticky tape’ solution, albeit it being ultimately ineffective and evironmentally destructive.


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