Monday, February 11, 2008

The Wild Wolf Hunt

Last Wolf in Sandusky County

The air was crisp and clear as dawn broke - a perfect day for a hunt. Right on schedule, men began arriving with guns and ammo packed. Within minutes, the caravan pulled out of Fremont, Ohio. The "wild wolf hunt" was on!

During the first weeks of 1917, the hen houses and barnyards of Jackson Township farmers had been the target of nighttime raids by what some thought was a wolf. Most were certain the culprit was a dog, as it had been years since anyone had seen a wolf roaming the countryside. Mass hunts, poison, traps, and the destruction of the forests had ended their reign.

Once common throughout the Black Swamp, wolves hunted in packs, working together to feed and care for their young. Their haunting howls echoed through the forests at night, sending shivers down the spines of little ones. Wolves found the livestock of early pioneers easy pickings. Skilled hunters, they became an ever-increasing threat to the very livelihood of farmers. To reduce their numbers, the state of Ohio established bounties of up to $15 for each wolf scalp. One record book from the 1830s shows Sandusky Countians claimed payment for no fewer than 85 wolves.

Arriving in Jackson Township, the hunters - more than 200 of them – organized into squads. It wasn’t long before they had flushed the animal from Jacob Gabel’s woods near the Greensburg Pike. Desperate to escape, the animal fled south across snow-covered fields toward Havens Station. In hot pursuit, the troops chased their prey for more than a mile as the squads to the south and east pushed forward. Excitement reached fever pitch as the cornered animal came into sight. Within minutes, the mighty hunters took aim and began blasting away.

Weapon used by William Long on the Wolf Hunt
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Collection

All 200 rushed to inspect the kill. Indeed it was a timber wolf! Ross Koleman finished him off with a few rounds from his revolver. Shots rang out in celebration, but minutes later an argument erupted. Charlie Pero, a crack shot, claimed to have brought him down with his Winchester. William Long was sure his 10-gauge shotgun had done the job. C. E. Hite, Clyde Mitchell, and Gene Swint also claimed the prize.

As the argument grew more heated, someone threw the riddled carcass into the trunk of a car and made ready for a quick getaway. A dozen angry men moved into action. They grabbed the back of the car, lifted it from the ground, and stopped it dead in its tracks.

Back in Fremont, the debate over who killed the timber wolf raged for days. Finally, with no resolution in sight, the men reluctantly agreed to have the wolf mounted and placed on public display in the Birchard Public Library. But before the prize was turned over, the hunters arranged for a series of photographs of themselves at the kill site. The photographs would document for all time when, where, and WHO had brought down the last wolf of Sandusky County, Ohio.

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