With the disappearance of the buffalo the wolves seemed so to diminish in numbers that they also seemed to disappear. During the last ten years their numbers have steadily increased, and now they seem to be as numerous as they ever were in the region in question, and they are infinitely more wary and more difficult to kill.
Along the Little Missouri their ravages have been so serious during the past four years as to cause heavy damage to the stock, and in mid-winter even full-grown horses and steers, are continually slain; and in some seasons their losses have been so serious as to more than eat up all the profits of the ranchman. The county authorities have put a bounty on wolf scalps of three dollars each, and in my own neighborhood the ranchmen have of their own accord put further bounty of five dollars. This makes eight dollars for every wolf, and as the skin is also worth something, the business of killing wolves is quite profitable.
Wolves are very shy, and show extraordinary cunning both in hiding themselves and in slinking out of the way of the hunter. They are rarely killed with the rifle. I have never shot but one myself. They are occasionally trapped but after a very few have been procured in this way the survivors become so wary that it is almost impossible even for a master of the art to do much with them, while an ordinary man can never get one into a trap except by accident.
More can be done with poison, but even in this case the animal speedily learns caution by experience. When poison is first used in a district wolves are very easily killed, and perhaps almost all of them will be slain, but nowadays it is difficult to catch any but young ones in this way. Occasionally an old one will succumb, but there are always some who cannot be persuaded to touch a bait. The old she-wolves teach their cubs, as soon as they are able to walk, to avoid man’s trace in every way, and to look out for traps and poison.
In consequence, though most cow- punchers carry poison with them, and are continually laying out baits, and though some men devote most of their time to poisoning for the sake of the bounty and the fur, the results are not very remunerative. The most successful wolf-hunter on the Little Missouri for the past year was a man who did not rely on poison at all, but on dogs. He is a hunter named Massingale, and he always has a pack of at least twenty hounds. The number varies, for a wolf at bay is a terrible fighter, and with jaws like those of a steel trap and teeth that cut like knives, so the dogs are continually disabled and sometimes killed, and the hunter has always to be on the watch to add animals to his pack. It is not a pack that would appeal, as far as looks go, to an old huntsman, but it is thoroughly fitted for its own work.