Tuesday, April 19 2011 @ 10:00 AM EDT
Contributed by: asparks
Note: The situation with wolves in the United States changes rapidly. This article, first published on the Hancock Wildlife Foundation's website in June, 2010, is being republished to bring it up to date with recent developments. The recent history of the legal and population status of wolves in the northwestern and western-central United States is a complex story - those wishing to read only a brief summary of the most recent status (as of December 2011) may want to skip ahead to the Current Status section. - AES.
The war against the wolf in the Western US during the late 1800s and early 1900s was especially virulent. As more of the landscape was allotted to livestock and more of the wolf’s natural prey was eliminated (especially buffalo), wolves preyed more on the ungulates most available to them – domestic livestock like sheep and cows – and the campaign against the predator escalated . While the war was fueled by economic interests (not only to protect livestock and reap bounties, but also for pelts), unreasonable fear and hatred motivated some wolfers (people who killed wolves) to not only kill but also torture their targets. Wolves were burned alive, clubbed, hung, or left to starve with their lower jaws cut out or their Achilles tendons severed. Yet, in spite of the veracity and persistence of their pursuers, wolves proved to be resilient, and some individual wolves even became legendary for their ability to elude hunters and trappers.