Historical information and quotations about wolves

The information on this page disproves the deceitful slogans that wolves only kill for food and have never attacked humans in the Southwest. The historical information presented here on the wolves’ method of killing is corroborated by recent data and graphic photos presented on pages 8-13 in the Catron County Collateral Damage Report

J. Hampden Porter: Wild Beasts; A study of the character and habits of the elephant, lion, leopard, panther, jaguar, tiger, puma, wolf, and grizzly bear. 1894. New York. Charles Scribner’s Sons

In the Sierra Madre two wolves are commonly considered to be a match for a man armed as these people usually are, and unless the whole population have conspired together for the purpose of propagating falsehoods on this particular subject, it must be believed that the lobo is often guilty of manslaughter. It has not happened to the writer to be personally cognizant of the death of any victim of theirs, but riding westward one day through the forests of that mountainous country lying between Durango and the Pacific coast, in the interval between two divisions of a large train of arrieros separated from each other by a distance of several miles, a woman and two children, boy and girl, were met. Struck by the beauty of the little girl, and knowing the way to be unsafe, some conversation took place in which the mother made light of those dangers suggested, and declined, with a profusion of thanks, an offer to see the party safe to her sister’s  rancho in a neighboring valley. They had only a little distance to go along the ridge, she said, and would then soon descend to their place of destination. The wolves were like devils, it was true, but robbers were worse, and she had many times crossed there from her home without meeting with either. In short, muchissimas gracias Señor, y todos los santos, etc., etc. Adios !  All of them were devoured a very short time after.  Their clothes and bones were found scattered on the trail which they had not yet left before they were killed. The muleteers in rear who found these fragments collected and buried them, putting up the usual frail cross which is to be seen along this route, literally by scores.


A.R. Harding: Wolf and Coyote Trapping: An Up-to-Date Wolf Hunter’s Guide, Giving the Most Successful Methods of Experienced Wolfers for Hunting and Trapping These Animals, Also Gives Their Habits in Detail. 1909. A.R. Harding Publishing Company. Columbus, OH. Made available online as ebook by The Gutenberg Project

Undoubtedly the wolves and coyotes of the United States and Canada destroy more stock and game than all other predatory animals combined. In the Western part of our country where stock raising is one of the principal industries, the ranchmen suffer great losses from the depredation of these animals, and in other sections the wolves destroy large quantities of game. The reason that wolves are more destructive than others of the carnivora is that when they have the opportunity, they kill far more than they can consume for food. Often they only tear a mouthful of flesh from the body of their victim; sometimes they do not even kill the animal but leave it to suffer a slow and painful death. The animals that are only slightly bitten are sure to die from blood poisoning, according to the western ranchmen.

The wolf’s method of attack is from the rear, springing on its victim and hamstringing it and literally eating it alive. The bite of the wolf is a succession of quick, savage snaps and there is no salvation for the creature that has no means of defense from a rear attack. This peculiar method of killing prey can not be practiced successfully on horses, owing to the fact that they can defend themselves by kicking, but for all of that, a considerable number of colts and a few full grown horses are killed. For this reason cattle suffer more than horses, but while the horse is, to a certain extent, exempt from attack by wolves, they are frequently killed by mountain lions, because their method of attack, a spring at the head and throat is more successful with these animals than with cattle. As food, however, horse flesh is preferred to beef by both of these animals.

One of the western trappers writes:

“Many times in the past thirty years I have watched wolves catch cows. The wolf is by nature a coward and will not, singly, attack a grown cow, though he will by himself kill a pig, chicken, calf, goat or sheep.

“On the ranges, where the stockmen and settlements are far apart, wolves go in bunches, from three to ten or even more, and when very hungry a bunch of them will attack a grown bull. They frighten him by snapping and playing around him till they get him on the run, when the bunch give full chase and stay close at his heels. While he is running in this way, one or more of them will grab him by the ham strings just above the hock joint. The bull makes, of course, a vigorous effort to free himself from the wolf, but before he can do so, the sharp teeth of the latter have cut or partially cut the ham string. They keep him on the run till they finally cut him down in both ham strings and then he cannot go further or fight the hungry wolves off.

“The whole bunch then eat his hams out while the bull is still alive, and after they get their full they let him rest. When they want to fill up again, they return and eat him till he dies, finishing the carcass as they require food.

“I have seen horses and cattle killed by wolves in this way live for several days with their hams eaten out, and have never seen the wolf make his attack or give chase in any other way. Being cowardly, he always follows behind and keeps out of all danger from the bull’s hoofs.”


Pedro de Castañeda, 1563, Narrative of the Coronado Expedition (1540-1542) in search of the Seven Cities of Cíbola:

Throughout these plains there is a great number of wolves that travel along behind the [bison]. They have white fur.

The Diary of Phocion Way, entry for July 3, 1858 near present-day Green Valley AZ:

I have always associated everything that is horrible with the disease Hydrophobia and I would run faster from a Mad Dog than I would from a legion of Devils. The wolves are numerous here and in the two above named months they sometimes go mad and in this condition they will enter a camp or town or even a house if the door is left open and bite everything in their course. At this season the Mexicans generally (those that have no doors) sleep on top of their houses out of reach of this danger.This horrible disease is much more common here among the wolves than it is among our dogs in the States. They are a terror to the whole country. One of our men told me of six persons who were bitten in this thinly settled neighborhood last year. One of them was badly mangled by the rabid animal, and in one instance the wolf entered a house and bit two persons. But what appears very singular to me, only one of these persons died.