|"Lobo in the Four Traps" photo by ETS|
I am sending this out for the 120th anniversary of your death, January 31, 1894 – January 31, 2014. Your subspecies, Canis lupus nubilus became extinct during my lifetime or perhaps somewhat earlier. The date of your birth cannot be known, but Seton suggested you were at least five years old, so perhaps this year also marks your 125th birthday.
You first came to Seton’s attention through large tracks left in snow and mud, and then through mournful howling after the death of another member of your pack, perhaps your mate, based on your search for her after her death. You were entered into Seton’s journal as specimen number 677, photographed, and then gained immortality as the famous Lobo in the short story “The King of Currumpaw,” published about ten months after your death. As the lead character in Wild Animals I Have Known, you gained international stardom five years after your death. Your story has remained in print through the intervening decades with book sales perhaps reaching a million copies – a lot for one wolf.
Yours is a classic American story – a hero of the West matching strength and wits against all foes while demonstrating loyalty to your pack and love for your partner. You roamed the last days of the Old West, the canine version of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, the last of a dying breed making a final heroic stand against impossible odds. And of course you lost the battle although you gained immortality.
Your cousins, Canis lupus baileyi, the Mexican wolf, have faced and still face persecution by a variety of human enemies. They are named in honor of early 20th century biologist Vernon Bailey who advocated their extinction on the mistaken notion that game hunting would improve in the absence of wolves. Many of these wolves have also died heroically protecting their families and their way of life. The personal stories of these individuals have not been written, but they loved (and love) life as much as you, Lobo, loved yours.
Seton hoped that he would have crossed the great divide before the coyote might be exterminated from the West. They of course long survived Seton. But great predators throughout the world are endangered. I wonder if I will cross the great divide before the wild African lions or Indian tigers are gone from the wild? They too have wonderful individual stories that we cannot know. The future will be a bleak place without lions and tigers and wolves. If more people knew your story, maybe this would change.
Lobo, you represent all that is good and valiant about the wild. May memory of you live on forever.
(There is more about Lobo in my earlier blog postings)