July 13, 2017

EXTRA! Montana Newspapers Stories 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.

Key dates

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1887—Bounty claims are so numerous, the territory can no longer afford to pay them, and bounty laws are repealed.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

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Search for the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: wolves, wolf hunting, bounty