November 28, 2023

Wolves in Maine – 1891

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redridinghood*Editor’s Note* – The following is a copy of what appeared in the Roanoke Times on Saturday, August 29, 1891. Readers may recall that I published a series of stories taken from research about wolves in Maine a couple years back. You can find “Wolves in Maine Beginning in the 1600s” here.

I think it worthy to point out that the information I provided about timelines in “Wolves in Maine Beginning in the 1600s”, does not necessarily agree with the content of this Roanoke Times article of 1891. From my own research of information I stated that, “…wolves were quite prevalent in Maine until around the year 1860.” In the Roanoke Times it states that, “…wolves had returned to the state [Maine] after an absence of fully half a century, probably more.” That would take the time frame back to the early 1840s and earlier. This would leave an overlap of approximately 20 or more years of differing accounts of the prevalence of wolves in Maine.

However, more importantly what I took away from the Roanoke Times article are the accounts of the hardships endured by the people of Maine created by wolves and the concern that they will have to live with the threats all over again. At the conclusion of the Roanoke Times article, I will share additional thoughts.

*Hat tip to Save Western Wildlife for forwarding this article.


Wolves in Maine – Roanoke Times, Saturday, August 29, 1891

After a Long Absence They Again Appear in the State

About a year ago considerable excitement was occasioned in Maine by the discovery that wolves had returned to the state after an absence of fully half a century, probably more. They were first seen around the lumber camps in extreme northern Maine, says a Bangor correspondent of the Boston Globe. They have recently commenced appearing very numerously in Washington County, the southeastern portion of the state, near the coast, and not many miles from the city. They are the old fashioned gray wolves, gaunt and large, and the farmers view their encroachment with the greatest alarm, knowing that their live stock must pay the usual penalty to the newcomers.

Big lake seems to be the headquarters for several packs of wolves. Lumbermen there have often seen the animals and plenty of their tracks, while the Passamaquoddy Indians, who hunt them through that section, corroborate the stories of the loggers. Joe Mell and Lewis Francis saw two recently, Peter Newell saw four, while Temen Joseph and Wallace Leary sighted three at the Narrows, just above Princeton.

There is no section of the state so rich in deer as this identical one where the wolves have taken possession, and should the latter animals range freely through it deer will be driven out. Already it is said that a number of carcasses of deer have been found where the wolves have killed and left them.

The Indians realize more than anybody else the amount of devastation which the wolves are able in this manner to cause, and they are about to start with a large party to cover the entire county and scatter the newcomers if possible.

In the early days in Maine the wolves were a perfect terror to the settlers, women and children did not dare to venture outside the log house without a strong escort, while the pioneers were obliged to watch their cattle and horses to save them from the sneaking gray pests. In later years none have been seen within the borders of the state and it was the general impression that the genuine gray wolf could not be found south of Labrador. That this impression is erroneous is shown by recent developments.


There are several things readers should take note of contained in this one small article. The first is the surprise that wolves “returned” to the state. If you should read my work in “Wolves in Maine Beginning in the 1600s“, you can note that when wolves seemingly, and in very short order, disappeared from the state, there was numerous explanations as to why; anything from hunting and trapping caused extirpation to, the wolves left when the caribou left. Aside from the reasons for leaving, the wolves returned and once again there seems to be some puzzlement as to why. Could it be, as described in the article, that the section of Washington County where there is no place “so rich with deer”, brought the wolves back, either through migration or increased reproduction from an already existing pack, or both?

The Passamaquoddy Indians saw the value of the deer herd to their survival. The article states that the Indians hunted the wolf, but perhaps more out of the need to control numbers to protect the deer herd than any real value of the wolf. Notice what is said about what the Passamaquoddys intend to do: “…start with a large party to cover the entire county and scatter the newcomers if possible.” It might be sensible to note here that perhaps the Passamaquoddy tribe knew they couldn’t kill off all the wolves, or didn’t want to, but knew that if they could “scatter the newcomers” maybe they wouldn’t destroy all the deer: the intent being to save the deer, a more valuable resource.

Here’s another interesting and important detail to take note of. “…a number of carcasses of deer have been found where the wolves have killed and left them.” The key here is “left them.” Are we reading here about undisputed sport or surplus killing? The article doesn’t state that wolves had killed and eaten several deer and what remained was found. No, what they report is that deer were killed and “left.”

I would like to point out as well that this article makes note that historically in Maine that, “…wolves were a perfect terror to the settlers”, explaining how women and children were locked up in their cabins because of the presence of wolves.

We often hear, see and read from the environmentalists and animal rights perverts that stories of how wolves terrorized people for centuries were only myths and made for good stories to be told. I think that news articles and historic accounts that substantiate human terror, lost of life, loss of freedoms, loss of property and livestock, certainly explains the real truth behind people wanting to rid the landscape of this “gray pest.” There was nothing further from the truth than that these people could not pursue life, liberty and happiness, so long as the wolf shared the same landscape.