The Native Americans held timberwolves in the highest regard for centuries. They are seen as sacred animals and have been sung about in ancient songs, dances and stories that have been handed down for generations. So strong was their respect for this beautiful and powerful animal, some tribes mimicked the wolf's behavior and the wolf pack's lifestyle. They were called the Wolf people by other tribes.
The earliest radiocarbon dating of an Irish wolf remains come from excavated cave sites in Castlepook Cave. The remains date back to 34,000 BC.
By about 14,000 BC Ireland (the landmass) became separated from Great Britain, which, at that time, was still part of mainland Europe. Wolves were one of just a few species of land animal in Ireland that survived through the Nahanagan Stadial (The Big Freeze), a cold period that occurred between 10,800 BC -9500 BC.
As the last Ice Age glaciers retreated (about 10,000 - 12,000 years ago), wolf packs followed the great herds of grazing animals moving north and west across Europe and settled in what was to become the British Isles. In modern Scotland, wolf bones have been found, together with those of reindeer, northern lynx, brown bear and arctic fox, at the Creag nan Uamh caves.
Today sadly, there are no wolves left in England, Scotland or Ireland. In old Europe, the people did not respect the wolf as the Native Americans did in North America. The English hunted wolves using horses and dogs or trapped them in pits and cages and had completely exterminated the wolf by the 1500s in their own country, and then in Scotland, the last wolf was killed sometime in the 1700s. Ireland was the last place for the wolf to stand.
When it was realized, there was still a large population of wolves in Ireland (some of the Irish even had wolves as pets), bounty hunters arrived from England, Scotland, and Europe and wolf hunting became a profitable holiday adventure. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1655) led major military campaigns to establish English control over Ireland (1649-1650) and was a significant factor in the complete extermination of the Irish wolf. He brought in rewards for the heads and skins of wolves, which is believed to be around £6 for a female, £5 for a male, £3 for a hunting juvenile and 10 shillings for a cub. The very last wolf killed was dated in 1786.
Today Transylvania has the largest wolf population in Europe. The total population here is greater than all the wild wolves of western Europe put together. This is because Transylvania Romania has a network of protected areas in the Carpathian mountains. It's a huge range with alpine meadows, rich wild flora, crystal clear mountain creeks, and waterfalls. Thankfully this area not only protects wolves, but bears, lynx, beavers, marmots and many other endangered species.
Wolves are one of the most misunderstood animals alive and have been for many hundreds of years in Europe. Extreme attitudes toward wiping out wolves can be seen in the old fables and legends that originated in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, wolves were thought to be in league with the forces of evil and the supernatural world because of religious superstition. Sadly, this unfounded fear still survives today for some people.
Wolves once thrived throughout Russia, China, the Middle East, Himalayas and Africa. Today, you can still find wolves in some of these countries, but as the human population expands and deforestation sets in worldwide, the wolf is faced with many dire challenges to survive.
Together we can make a stand for wolves and wildlife by joining environmental groups that help protect their habitats.
Cathy Curby, a wildlife biologist working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska.
In 1893, a bounty hunter named Ernest Thompson Seton journeyed to the untamed canyons of New Mexico on a mission to kill an outlaw, a super wolf. Lobo, as locals simply called him, was the legendary leader of a band of cattle-killing wolves.
Prior to the arrival of the cowboys, wolves hunted the buffalo that roamed these lands. When the cowboys arrived, they killed all the buffalo to make way for the thousands of cattle and sheep arriving daily by train.
With no buffalo left to hunt, the wolves lead by Lobo, began hunting the cattle and sheep. It became Seton's obsession to exterminate this “super-wolf.” An ensuing battle of wits between wolf and man would spark a real-life wilderness drama, the outcome of which would leave a lasting effect on a new and growing movement in America: wilderness preservation.