* Posted by LOTUS on September 15, 2009 at 11:39am in Wolf Sanctuary
If one examines the record, ranging from historical accounts to children's fairy tales, it soon becomes evident that Western man has always lived in fear and awe of the wolf. By the end of eighteenth century the wolf had been almost completely eradicated in thirteen original states. In the 35 years following the end of the Civil War the wolf was driven to near extinction in lands lying west of the Mississippi. No one knows, no one can even reasonably estimate the numbers of wolves slaughtered on the prairies, high plains, and in the mountains of North America during this period. One source sets the number of wolves killed in the region between 1860 and 1900 at one million, another at two million.
Despite the successes (excesses?) of wolfers, trappers, hunters, ranchers, and "sportsmen" in bringing the wolf to the brink of extinction, by the dawn of the twentieth century, a few wolves yet survived in the western United States. As one might suspect, these few surviving wolves--the product of a century or more of extreme Darwinian selection, the descendants of generations of wolves who had escaped traps, poison, and bullets--would not easily fall prey to their human foes.
In Montana two of these magnificent predators proved so adept at avoiding hunters and so skilled at feeding upon man's domestic stock as to become enshrined in the state's myth and folklore. So infamous had these two wolves became, that they were nearly accorded the attention given to such human predators and anti-heroes as the James Gang, the Youngers or the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang. The press referred to these wolves as "outlaws," while the government and stockgrowers' organizations offered rewards to the bounty hunter who could bring them in. Indeed, if one were to give in to the temptation to attribute human emotions to animals, it would seem that these two wolves had declared war on the stockmen who had been the driving force behind their species' near extinction. These two wolves who simply failed to surrender to man's superior technology, who refused to recognize that there was no longer a place for their kind in Montana, achieved such notoriety as to be given names. The first of these outlaws was known as the Ghost Wolf, the second was called Snowdrift.
According to local lore, the Ghost Wolf was first sighted in the Judith Basin Country in 1915. The Ghost Wolf's home range stretched from Highwood Mountains to the Little Belt Range, an area of some million acres. It was in 1920 the Ghost Wolf turned outlaw and began raiding the ranches of the Judith Basin, pulling down cattle, sheep, and horses at will. By the mid-1920s, so feared and famed had this prairie pirate became that the Associated Press began to run stories on the Ghost Wolf of the Judith Basin, while local ranchers offered a $400 reward for his capture--Wanted Dead or Alive. And so ensued and wolf-hunt that would rival that of any man-hunt in annals of the Old West. Traps were set, poison bait were scattered across the length and breadth of Central Montana. Posses were formed to bring the outlaw wolf to "justice." Men hunted the Ghost Wolf on horse back, foot, and snowshoes; from automobiles and airplanes, all to no avail. For ten years the Ghost Wolf evaded the best that man had to throw against him. Some sources estimate that all told the Ghost Wolf killed nearly two thousand head of livestock the during the "Roaring Twenties." In May 1930 the Ghost Wolf finally met his end. Al Close, a rancher in the Little Belts, with the aid of Mike, a red Irish terrier, and Nick, a black and white sheep dog, tracked down and shot the Ghost Wolf.
A near contemporary, both in chronological and geographical terms, of the Ghost Wolf was Montana's second great outlaw wolf, Snowdrift. Although the Snowdrift Wolf's home range also included the Little Belt Mountains and Judith Basin, at times, this great predator roamed across the Missouri and into the Bear Paw Mountains. Having lost one toe on his left paw in a trap, Snowdrift, a large light-colored male, left a distinctive calling card in the form of his four-toed track, at some 1,500 kill-sites during his career as a stock killer. Snowdrift first began to exact his toll from Montana's stockgrowers in 1900, it is estimated that by the time of his death in 1923 his predation had cost local ranchers over $30,000 in stock losses. After eluding the usual posses for well over a decade, the Snowdrift Wolf was finally ran to ground in the Highwood Mountains in May 1923 by Don Stevens, a government hunter, and Stacy Eckert, a US Forest Ranger. Stevens and Eckert succeeded in snaring Snowdrift in a leg-trap. Catching the old outlaw in a trap did not, however, mean that this terror of plains would meekly surrender and await his fate. Snowdrift wrenched his trap free from its anchor and for days, with his front paw still clenched in the steel jaws of the trap, managed to elude his pursuers. Finally, after four long days the Snowdrift Wolf was cornered and shot.
In 1884 the Montana territorial legislature for the first time provided for the payment of a bounty on wolves, one dollar for one (dead) wolf. In 1911 the state offered a $15 bounty on wolves, but so few wolves were left that no hunter or trapper succeeded in collecting a single bounty check. In 1933 the bounty provision for wolves were removed from the law books, there was simply no longer any need for it. Just exactly how many wolves were "harvested" in Montana . . . well its impossible to say. In 1884 bounties were paid on 5,450 wolves, in 1885 the number was 2,224, in 1886 2,587--in all, between 1884 and 1933 Montana paid well over $340,000 in bounty money on some 80,000 wolves.
Jim Bridger was fond of telling a tale of an encounter with wolves in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. It was in 1829 as Bridger was setting his beaver traps that he was jumped by a pack of wolves. Bridger ran for his life and managed to climb to safety in nearby tree. After milling about for a while, all the wolves but one, who stayed behind as a guard, departed. In an hour or so the pack returned with a beaver which they forced to fell Bridger's tree. When queried as to what happened next, the Old Mountain Man replied, "Why they et me of course."
Once a man found two wolf pups on the beach, he took them to his home and raised them. When the pups had grown, they would swim out in to the ocean, kill a whale, and bring it to shore for the man to eat. Each day they did this, soon there was too much meat to eat and it began to spoil. When the Great Above Person saw this waste he made a fog and the wolves could not find whales to kill nor find they way back to shore. They had to remain at sea, those wolves became seawolves (Orca).
--A Story told by the Haida of British Columbia.
Discouraged after an unsuccessful day of hunting, a hungry Wolf came upon a well-fed Mastiff, the Wolf asked what the Dog had to do to earn his food. "Very little," replied the Dog, "Just protect my master's house and family and be obedient to his demands." The Wolf pondered this quite carefully--for he had to risk his own life almost daily to earn his food, and then with little assurance of success. The Wolf, who was tempted to adopt the Dog's mode of living, then happened to notice that the hair was rubbed bare from about the Dog's neck. The Wolf asked what caused this affliction, the Dog replied that it was of no significance, "It's just the place where my collar and chain rub." The Wolf abruptly stopped and exclaimed, "Your Chain! You mean you are not free to come and go as you please?" "No," responded the Dog, "but what does that matter?" "A great deal," replied the Wolf as he trotted away into the forest, "A great deal."