EXTRA! Montana News 1864-1922
Extermination of Wolves
Wolves were abundant in newly created Montana Territory in the 1860s. The same merchants who shipped bison hides to the East found a ready market for wolf pelts; the fur was widely used as trim on clothing. Between 1871 and 1875, an estimated 34,000 wolves were killed in northern Montana and southern Alberta. As the cattle industry rose in prominence, the territorial government began paying bounties for wolves, coyotes and other predators. By the end of the 1880s, the total extermination of wolves became a goal of ranchers—one that was finally achieved by government-salaried hunters in the 1920s.
1883—Territorial legislature offers a $1 bounty for a full wolfskin. At the end of 1884, the treasury reports paying bounties for 5,540 wolves, 1,774 coyotes, 568 bears, and 146 mountain lions.
1887—Bounty claims are so numerous, the territory can no longer afford to pay them, and bounty laws are repealed.
1899—Under pressure from stock growers, bounties on cattle predators are reinstated, funded by a new tax on livestock.
1905—The latest bounty pays $10 per full-grown wolf scalp. Because an immature animal cannot kill cattle as efficiently as an adult, the bounty per pup is only $3.
From the newspapers
- Wolves Multiplying, Neihart Herald, February 17, 1894, p. 1
- Range Interests. The Wolf Question Causes a Lengthy and Spirited Debate, Yellowstone Journal, April 19, 1894, p. 1
- Bounty Claims, Dupuyer Acantha, June 07, 1900, p. 4
- Thousands in Bounties, Kalispell Bee, December 01, 1900, p. 1
- Sure Death to Wolves and Coyotes, Billings Gazette, September 03, 1901, p. 2
- Will Make Wolves Sick, Havre Herald, April 06, 1905, p. 2
Dunn’s Views of Bounty Law, Fergus County Democrat, June 13, 1905, p. 6
To find more
Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: wolves, wolf hunting, bounty
Written by Catherine W. Ockey