The Wild World of Wolves
A Wolf Chronology
This chronology is derived from Out Among the Wolves, John A. Murray, ed. (1993) through 1992; I have tried to bring it up to date.
20,000 B.C.~Cave drawings of wolves are made in southern Europe.
5,000 B.C.~Early agricultural settlements in Southwest Asia come into conflict with wolves.
2,300 B.C.~First reference to a wolf in Western literature occurs in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
800 B.C.~Numerous references to wolves are made in Homer's epic poem The Iliad.
500 B.C.~Aristotle describes wolves in his writings.
A.D. 30~Jesus Christ uses wolf parable to illustrate moral principles.
70~Pliny the Elder provides a detailed pseudoscientific account of wolves in his book, Natural History.
70~Plutarch describes the legend of Romulus and Remus, foudners of Rome who were raised by wolves, in his Putative Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans.
600~During the European Middle Ages, legends of werewolves and beliefs that wolves are associated with devils abound.
750~Beowulf, the oldest of the major narrative poems in English, is composed; the protagonist, named for a wolf, slays a monster named Grendel.
1600~William Shakespeare employs dozens of wolf references in his plays.
1630~First wolf bounty law passed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1632~First wolf bounty law passed by the Virginia Bay Colony.
1697~New Jersey offers a wolf bounty.
1750~Wolves become extinct in the Scottish Highlands at the hands of Lochiel, a clan chieftain, because they "preyed on the red deer of the Grampians." Wolves are similarly persecuted in western Europe, but do not become extinct in France, Italy, or Spain as they do in other countries.
1758~Linnaeus recognizes the wolf as a circumpolar species and gives the species the Latin name Canis lupus linnaeus.
1790~Russian and German naturalists report wolves in Alaska.
1793~Wolf bounty is offered in Ontario.
1805~Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark encounter wolves in the Far West.
1808~Zebulon Pike reports wolves in what is today Colorado.
1819~The government expedition of Major Stephen Long encounters wolves in large numbers in Colorado.
1823~As with earlier government expeditions, trapper/explorer James Ohio Pattie documents wolves living in close association with extensive prey populations.
1832~Artists George Catlin paints Buffalo Hunt Under the Wolfskin Mask, depicting two Pawnee warriors hunting buffalo disguised as wolves, and White Wolves Attacking a Buffalo Bull, which portrays two dozen wolves killing an old bull buffalo. These paintings are later exhibited in New York, London, and Paris.
1835~America's first internationally known writer, Washington Irving, describes wolves in what is today Oklahoma in his travel narrative A Tour of the Prairies; he is the first professional writer to do so.
1840s~Tens of thousands of settlers head west on the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail. Increasing settlements come into conflict with wolves and their prey species as the entire Great Plains ecosystem begins to be destroyed.
1860s~Western railroad expansion brings buffalo market hunters to the Far West, decimating the great buffalo herds.
1870s~First cattle drives introduce livestock into previously remote mountain habitat for wolves; sheep herds will come later, leading to even more destruction of wolves and other predators.
1872~Yellowstone National Park is established in northwestern Wyoming.
1880s~Theodore Roosevelt reports wolves are becoming scarce in the Dakotas.
1884~U.S. Biological Survey is formed (a precursor to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
1894~Nature writer Ernest Thompson Seton kills the Currumpaw wolf of New Mexico and his mate, Blanca; Seton will eventually write a book, Lobo, King of the Currumpaw, about the experience.
1897~Frederic Remington paints Moonlight Wolf, depicting a solitary Great Plains wolf (Canis lupus nubilis), a subspecies that would become extinct in a few years.
1899~Wolf bounty is offered in Alberta.
1909~Aldo Leopold kills a mother wolf and pups in the Apache National Forest of Arizona. This incident will later inspire his seminal essay "Thinking Like a Mountain," written in 1944 and published posthumously in 1949.
1909~Wolf bounty is offered in British Columbia.
1914~Congress designates U.S. Biological Survey as chief predator control agency.
1915~First professional trappers and hunters hired by U.S. Biological Survey; their heyday will run through 1942 as wolfers operate in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas, Arizona, and New Mexico.
1915~Wolf bounty is offered in Alaska.
1916~National Park Service Act is signed into law, mandating protection of wildlife and maintenance of recreational opportunities.
1916~The American Far West is divided into control districts by U.S. Biological Seurvey, thus paving the way for the systematic extermination of all predators through the use of poisoned baits (strychnine; Compound 1080 after 1944) and steel leg-hold traps; eventually airplanes and helicopters will be used.
1925~Last wolf in South Dakota ("Old Three Toes") is killed.
1926~Since 1914 about 120 wolves have been killed in Yellowstone National Park; after 1926 there are no viable reports of wolves or wolf activity in northwestern Wyoming for a number of decades.
1927~Last wolf in eastern Montana is killed.
1929~German novelist Herman Hesse publishes Steppenwolf, a novel that links the impulsive, atavistic nature of man with the same quality in the wolf of the eastern European/western Asian steppes.
1933~Wolf bounty law is repealed in Montana.
1934~Wildlife biologist Adolph Murie begins his study of the coyote in Yellowstone National Park and confirms the wolf is now extirpated. Murie also establishes that the coyote poses no threat to the major game species, most notably elk, that migrate out of the park into national forests, where they can be hunted.
1939~Adolph Murie begins a two-year study of the relationship between subarctic wolf (Canis lupus pambasileus) and the Dall sheep (Ovis ovis dalli); Murie concludes that the wolf has a "salutary effect" on the prey species, a finding that stirs much controversy in the National Park Service.
1943~Last wolf in Colorado is killed on Upper Conejos River near Platoro Reservoir.
1944~Stanley Young's The Wolves of North America (a mixture of fact and folklore) is published. Adolph Murie's The Wolves of Mount McKinley is published; it is the first scientific treatise on the species. Murie is the first professional photographer to extensively document the wolf in the wild.
1948~Special Act of Congress permits wolf trapping in Mount McKinley National Park over the objections of Adolph Murie and other biologists. Murie later is forced to play a role in this eradication measure, which results in the artificially elevated numbers of caribou seen in the park in the 1960s and 1970s (before the caribou population collapse).
1950s~Aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska and Canada begins in earnest.
1960s~Persistent unconfirmed wolf sightings in Yellowstone National Park will continue until the present time. Radio-collared Alaskan wolves have covered up to 400 miles in one year, so the possibility that the Yellowstone wolves came from Canada cannot be ruled out (nor can the covert release of wolves by unknown parties).
1962~L. David Mech completes his doctoral dissertation on the wolves of Isle Royale National Park. (This wolf population will later be decimated by canine distemper in the late 1980s.)
1963~Canadian writer Farley Mowat publishes Never Cry Wolf; a highly successful film will later (1983) dramatize Mowat's adventures in the Canadian Arctic and for the first time portray wolves positively to the public in the cinema. Leopold report recommends predator restoration.
1964~Wilderness Act is signed into law; it protects former wolf habitat for future restoration projects (though not by design).
1970~Mexican wolf killed in Peloncillo Mountains of New Mexico.
1970~L. David Mech publishes The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species.
1970s~U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captures Mexican wolves in Mexico for captive breeding.
1970s~U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captures red wolves in Texas and Louisiana for captive breeding.
1970s~U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service extensively studies the Minnesota wolf population.
1971~Quebec ends wolf bounty.
1972~Ontario ends wolf bounty.
1973~Endangered Species Act is passed into law. The 1982 amendment will put enforcement strength into the act and provide further clarification on restoration issues.
1974~Yellowstone wolf search involves 1,800 hours of airplane overflights and reveals only one "wolf-like canid."
1976~Encouraged by National Park Service officials, Colorado State University graduate student Herb Conley writes a thesis on the restoration of wolves to Rocky Mountan National Park, where the burgeoning elk populations are destroying habitat, as in Yellowstone.
1976~Two red wolves are released on Bulls Island off the South Carolina coast; the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) is placed on the Endangered Species list.
1978~Barry Lopez publishes Of Wolves and Men.
1979~Mexican Wolf Recovery Team is appointed; recovery plans for the red wolf and the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf are also institutionalized at this time. Durward Allen publishes The Wolfs of Minong: Their Vital Role in a Wild Community.
1980s~Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) is signed into law. It doubles the National Park system and triples national wilderness acreage in Alaska.
1982~Montana biologist Diane Boyd completes her thesis on a migrant wolf on the North Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park; during the late 1980s several wolf packs will establish themselves in this region of the United States.
1982~Arizona wildlife manager David E. Brown publishes The Wolf in the Southwest, which documents the eradication by the federal government of the southern Rocky Mountain gray wolf and Mexican wolf in Arizona and New Mexico.
1983~Film version of Never Cry Wolf is released.
1985~Retired professor Alston Chase alleges in his controversial book Playing God with Yellowstone that the National Park Service secretly tried to restore wolves to Yellowstone.
1987~Eight red wolves arrive at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in coastal North Carolina; after acclimatization they will later be released, with mixed results in terms of adaptation and survivability.
1986~L. David Mech begins study of arctic wolves in Canadian high Arctic.
1988~Wolves killed in northwestern Montana by federal agents after livestock depredations.
1988~U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report concludes White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico is a suitable location for Mexican wolf restoration. Army raises objections but drops them in 1991, while livestock interests continue to oppose this. Other sites discussed include Big Bend National Park in Texas, the Gila Wilderness Area in New Mexico, and several wilderness locations in Arizona.
1990s~Wolves are confirmed in Washington, Idaho and North Dakota.
1991~Two red wolves arrive at Cades Cove, Tennessee, to be prepared for release in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Red wolves have also been released by this time in Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama in various study projects. (A total of thirty-five red wolves are alive in captivity by 1991, including those in North Carolina.)
1992~U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director John Turner endorses a blue-ribbon report recommending restoration of the gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park; the environmental assessment process further studies the potential effects of reintroduction on other species, including the threatened grizzly bear (to be completed in May 1993).
1992~The film Dances with Wolves portrays wolves in a positive light and wins several Academy Awards.
1992~Rick Bass publishes The Ninemile Wolves, which examines the impact of a newly formed wolf pack near his home in northwestern Montana.
1992~Polls indicate two out of three Montanans favor natural recovery of wolves in the state.
1992~First red wolves released in Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina.
1993~A wolf is killed in northern Maine.
1995~Thirty-one gray wolves from Canada are released into Yellowstone National Park this year and next. Additional wolves are released in Idaho's Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Rocky Mountain wolf recovery plan.
1995~The captive population of the Mexican gray wolf has increased to 91 located in nineteen facilities in the U.S., and 13 in five Mexican facilities.
1995~Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) proposes legislation to end federal funding for red wolf recovery. It is narrowly defeated. North Carolina's legislature passes a law allowing private landowners to kill red wolves in two of the five counties in the reintroduction area.
1997~U.S. District Court Judge Downes rules that the Yellowstone and Idaho wolf reintroductions are illegal because the "nonessential experimental" status of the wolves jeopardizes the full protection afforded any naturally occurring wolves by the Endangered Species Act.
1998~U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service begins the process of considering whether to reclassify the wolf as threatened in some areas and in others removing it from the Endangered Species List entirely.
1998~Eleven Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) are released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona; five of these wolves will be illegally shot; there are 176 Mexican grays held in 32 facilities cooperating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan.
1998~The red wolf reintroduction in the Cade's Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National park is terminated due to an unacceptably high mortality rate among the wolves.
1999~Despite a lawsuit brought by the New Mexico Cattlegrowers Association to stop wolf reintroduction, there are 22 Mexican gray wolves roaming free in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest; Federal Judge Edwin Mechem rules in favor of the wolves when the New Mexico Farm Bureau tries to halt the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction program.
2000~The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the 1997 Downes ruling, thus preventing the removal or destruction of the 250 wolves currently residing in Yellowstone and Idaho.
2000~It is estimated that Minnesota now has 2,500 wild wolves, with an estimated 350 breeding pairs. Minnesota's state legislature passes a wolf management plan featuring (1) a 5-year moratorium on public taking of wolves, (2) continued federal and state wolf depredation control and compensation for livestock loss, (3) the division of the state into a "wolf zone" and an "agricultural zone", and (4) a requirement that the state's Department of Natural Resources produce a detailed plan ensuring wolf survival.
2000~As of the 1999/2000 winter the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports 216 wolves in Michigan (plus 29 on Isle Royale), 2,445 in Minnesota, about 250 in Wisconsin, 63 in Montana, 141 in central Idaho, 118 in Yellowstone, 22 in Arizona/New Mexico, 75 red wolves in North Carolina (plus 12 more on coastal islands).
2000~U.S. Fish and Wildlife begins an adaptive management plan to reduce red wolf/coyote hybridization in recovery area; hybrids are either killed or sterilized. The plan seems to work; in 2002, only one hybrid litter is found.
2001~Since 1998, sixty-nine Mexican wolves have been released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area (BRWA) of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in eastern Arizona; some have been illegally shot, hot by vehicles, died of natural causes or have been captured and removed; as of July, approximately 35 wolves inhabit the BRWA.