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Lobo was a legend among wolves

January 17, 2009
By KENNETH COBB, For The Inter-Mountain

The original story of Lobo the Wolf is vividly described in Ernest Thompson Seton's short story, "Lobo: The King of Currumpaw." Lobo was an American wolf who lived in the 1890s near the Currumpaw Cattle Range located in northern New Mexico. Currumpaw is a land of rich pastures and running water that unite with the Currumpaw River.

Lobo was a giant among wolves. He was the leader of a small, but remarkable, pack of gray wolves that terrorized the Currumpaw Valley for several years. All of the ranchers and sheepherders knew him and his band well. Old Lobo was also cunning and strong in proportion to his size. At night, his howl was easily distinguished from any of his followers. When his voice came booming down the hollows, the ranchers and sheepherders would learn the following morning that serious losses were made in their livestock herds.

It is documented that Lobo had only five followers during the latter part of his reign. Each of these was also a wolf of supernatural instincts like its leader and was above average in size. What appeared to be second in command was a large wolf, but not nearly the size of Lobo. In addition to the two leaders, two other wolves in the pack were especially remarkable. One was a white wolf the locals called Blanca. It was a female and possibly Lobo's mate. The other was a yellow wolf that was very swift. According to stories, this wolf would run down and kill antelope for the pack.

For a period of at least five years, the Currumpaw ranchers estimated that Lobo's band killed more than 2,000 of the best cattle in the area. Their choice was a freshly killed heifer. Veal or horseflesh was not their favorite diet, nor did they care for mutton, but often amused themselves by killing sheep. One night in November of 1893, it is noted that the pack killed approximately 250 sheep apparently for the fun or if, because they did not eat one bit of their flesh.

These are merely two examples of the many stories of this destructive band of wolves. A bounty was placed on Lobo's head that attracted professional hunters for several hundred miles. Yet all of those who came to the Currumpaw range to take Lobo failed miserably. The bounty increased until it reached $1,000. This was big money in the 1890s. Many a good man in this part of the nation had been hunter down for less.

Lobo feared a few things. One was man, and the other was firearms. For this reason, Lobo or any member of his band was known to attack or face down a human being. The apparent set policy of the pack was to take cover in flight whenever the presence of man was scented, no matter the distance.

Lobo's habit of permitting the pack to eat only the food they had killed was possibly the reason for their salvation and immunity from the poisons set out for him and his followers.

Ernest Thompson Seton, a naturalist, big game hunter and trapper, was tempted by the challenge and $1,000 bounty to get Lobo. Seton started out by carefully preparing five baits that would be laced with strychnine and cyanide contained in a capsule. The baits were covered with the warm blood of a heifer. Seton also wore gloves that were coated with the warm blood during the preparation. When all was ready, he set forth a drag using beef liver and kidney at the end of a rope. The baits were dropped at each quarter mile taking care not to touch them with his bare hands.

The next morning Seton went out to see the result. He came upon the trail of the pack with Lobo in the lead. Lobo's track was easy to distinguish. An ordinary wolf's forefoot is 4 inches to 4 1/2 inches long; that of a large wolf is about 4 3/4inches; Lobo's was 5 1/2 inches from claw to heel. He stood 3 feet high at the shoulder and weighed 150 pounds. His trail was never difficult to follow.

The pack had come to the first bait and had picked it up. Seton was delighted. The second and third baits were also gone. Seton expected to see dead wolves at any time. When the trail of the wolf pack lead to the fourth bait, Seton learned that none of them bad been devoured. The first three had been carried in the mouth, and then piled upon the fourth. The pack then covered the baits with urine and feces to express their contempt for man and his efforts to bring them down.

Seton quickly realized that poisons were useless in any attempt to take this outlaw. To get Lobo, he was going to have to be as clever and cunning as the wolf.




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