September 21, 2020

Montana’s Famous White Wolf

Below is a brief biography of the legendary white wolf of Montana that was killed in 1930. This story I’ve republished was written by Elva Wineman in May of that year.

Some have optioned to use this as an example to show that the wolves that naturally inhabited this region of Montana was a different subspecies of wolf than what was (re)introduced in the Greater Yellowstone area beginning in the mid-1990s. Some are basing their claim due to size, as this Famous White Wolf, considered to be as big as wolves get in that state, weighed 85 pounds. It should be cautioned however that the size of a wolf, as I understand it, is more determined by available prey than mere species. (I don’t pretend to be a taxonomic specialist, nor have I played one on TV.)

In reading through multiple accounts by Teddy Roosevelt, a man who loved to hound hunt wolves in Montana, Roosevelt referred to the really big wolves that were found beyond certain geographical boundaries. There are also accounts collected and explained in information available through the Smithsonian.

FAMOUS WHITE KILLER WOLF LIVED AN ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE CAREER

Canny Monarch of Montana Wilds Evaded Scores of West’s Finest Hunters of Years, Carried Price of $400 on His Head.

By Elva Wineman Special to the Democrat News. Stanford, May 11 – Never again will be herd from the hill-rim the soul thrilling voice of the white monarch of the wilds. No more will the flying gray wraith strike terror and death into the heart of the frightened herd and feed like an epicure on the choicest animal of the lot. All that he ever wanted from life, he took, won by his own master strategy. But his agile sprint is quelled, his reprehensible career brought to a close, stubborn muscles refuse to respond. Deaf to the call of the wilderness over which he reigned supreme for many years, the shadowy trails will know him no more, for the lone white wolf is dead.

As he lived, bold, courageous, arrogant, flaunting his contempt for man and beast alike, – so he died, head up, facing the rifle unflinching and fearless. Ten, 15, perhaps 18 years, quite a span of life for a wolf under ordinary conditions it is said, and considering the manner in which he has been sought, the fact that every man’s hand has been turned against him and he has been hunted from ridge to plain and back to mountain top, with poisons, guns, traps, dogs and aero planes – that he has lived as long as he has is nothing short of remarkable.

He was killed by A. E. Close who was accompanied by Earl Neill and their two dogs, following a chase of several hours, which began near the Close cabin. The dogs had caught up with the killer and attacked him, the outlaw turning ferociously upon the dogs and driving them back to the hunters whom he failed to see until within forty yards of them. Close fired from his position behind a tree, the shot taking effect in the front left cheek below the eye, “and that’s all there was to it”, he said modestly.

The men brought the carcass to Stanford in the afternoon accompanied by Gerald Hughes, secretary of the stockmen’s association, and while they were on the streets several hours the car was able to travel only by inches, because of the crowds which gathered rapidly as soon as the news of the killing went out.

SKEPTICAL ARE CONVINCED.

Everyone was trembling including the hunters, but whether with cold or because of the excitement, it is difficult to say. Cameras clicked madly. Everyone wanted to see the man who did the shooting and personally ask him how it was done. Old stories of close calls and lucky escapes were brought out and refurbished, and the few persons, who had been skeptical of the existence of such an animals, were either silent or unusually garrulous in and effort to cover up their confusion and discomfiture.

By nature a cunning strategist, cruel and brutish following the death of his mate in a trap a few years ago; the big wolf became still more devilish murderous, a killer and an outlaw, until his reputation has gone out far beyond the confines of the Jefferson forest where he ranged. Letters and wires have come in to Stanford, to stockmen, bankers, the postmaster, the sheriff and others, for hunters in all parts of the United States; men who had been reading accounts of the activities of the wolf and who were unable to resist the glamorous call of the wild, the subtle fascination of the mysterious gray-white essence of Satin, each man eager to join in the hunt.

LETTERS FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.

Men as far east as New Jersey are interested. Minnesota, Colorado, California and Wyoming sent queries, while fond grandmothers in Wisconsin and Iowa sent word to “keep those children near the house until somebody kills that terrible wolf”. Many sportsmen came to join the chase and after one first hand view of the lone wolf’s hunting ground, one good look at the million acres of lofty ridges and deep canyons, gave up the attempt.

Some of them were clever hunters, too, western men, versed in the habits of the carnivora. Some have almost doubted the evidence of their own eyes, so fleeting were the glimpses to be had of the killer, but none could doubt the maimed and dead cattle left behind, hamstrung, tails bitten off, and often still living though a meal had been taken from a hind quarter.

Four years ago Earl Neill shot the outlaw in the left hind leg, the wolf making all speed for a snowdrift where his protective coloring made him practically invisible against the snow. All this time Neill has cherished the memory of that encounter, never quite sure that his story was believed. If there was any doubt about it, it was settled here this week with the killing of the big wolf, when the left hind leg was found to bear a deep scar caused by a bullet wound. B. C. Hardenbrooke tracked him all one day giving up only when night fell. Many other hunters had the same experience.

FOUGHT GREAT BATTLE.

One of the most dramatic incidents in the career of the wolf occurred in February when A. V. Cheney and his five Russian wolfhounds battled fiercely with him near the Cheney ranch for several hours. One of the dogs would do the tackling, grabbing the wolf by the tail and attempting to throw him around to the other dogs. The hound was bitten so many times as a result, that he finally refused to fight longer. Cheney who had no rifle, then attempted to rope the wolf, but he escaped up a steep mountainside after firing man, horse and dogs until they were unable to follow.

Alex Sulminen and his brother almost succeeded in running him down with a car in one instance near Merino. A train crew coming into Stanford late one afternoon this year saw him cross the tracks in front of the engine. Upon their arrival in town with the news, there was a general exodus of men and boys with rifles going to the scene but 3 they failed to get a glimpse of the clever animal. All they saw was an uneasy eagle soaring high above the entrails of a rabbit.

Another time he was seen to cross a field on the Oja ranch near Geyser. One of the Oja boys who was ploughing nearby, unhitched, mounted a house and trailed the wolf until he was lost in the foothills of the Little Belts.

Skelton brothers of Geyser packed into the hills for a week’s intensive hunting. They worked hard with saddle horses and hounds without getting a glimpse of the wolf, or seeing a track. Becoming disgusted as there was no snow for tracking they broke camp, loaded their stuff, and with the rifles lying in the wagon box they were about to start down out of the hills when they stopped, started, while a flip of animated white fur tore across the trail a head of them vanishing into the brush beyond. They stared at each other in dismay as it dawned on them that they had just seen the white wolf.

HUNTED FOR MONTHS.

Early in March M.G. Daniel, trapper in the employ of the biological survey, established in camp in the Little Belts near here this year and for two months has worked on the trail of the wolf. He put out a line of 65 traps and in one isolated section spread poisoned meat. Another trapper joined him recently bringing a pet wolf which followed the men like a dog and it was hoped might be the means of attracting the attention of the outlaw, causing him to venture close enough for them to get a shot at him. But for the last several weeks no sign had been seen of the lone hunter and it was believed that hi might have fallen a victim to the poisoned meat and crept off in some coulee to die.

Those who have seen the carcass of the killer say that his is as big as he has always been described: ‘ as big as a full grown calf’, it was said. “He is almost snow white.” The stories went, and they were true. The carcass is six feet in length including a beautiful brush nearly 20 inches long. The head is massive with a full set of teeth, the four, sharp long fangs not badly broken. Gaunt and lank of body, one would be tempted to believe that his hunting expeditions were not so successful of late. Too many interruptions perhaps with so many hunters hot on his trail. The pads of his feet are all intact, evidence that he had never been caught in a trap.

RELIEF FOR RANCHERS.

The value of cattle he has killed over a period of 10 or 12 years, to say, nothing of deer an elk upon which he fed, runs into thousands of dollars, the heaviest losers being Charles R. Taylor of Dry Wolf Canyon and Wm. Hughes, whose ranch is seven miles south of Stanford. During a six weeks period in January and February of this year, ten kills were made, all registered stock. Stockmen now are relieved to know that they can put away the lanterns which burned in their corrals at night.

Mr. Close has not decided what he will do with the pelt of the wolf, but says, that he has had several good offers for it form local and outside men, who would mount the outlaw. 4 Members of the Little Belt stockmen’s association will meet in a few days to examine the kill and consider payment of the reward. It is believed that a proviso in the minutes of a recent meeting of the association provides for the payment of the $300 reward upon sufficient proof that the wolf gill is actually the outlaw. And additional $100 is said to be offered for a group of individual stockmen.

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