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We evaluated the credibility of early literature about famous North American wolves (Canis lupus). Many famous wolves were reported to be older than they actually were, and we estimated they did not live long enough to have caused purported damage to livestock and game animals. Wolf kill rates on free-ranging livestock appeared to be inflated compared to recently published kill rates on native ungulates and livestock. Surplus killing of sheep and goats may have accounted for some high kill rates, but surplus killing of free-ranging longhorn cattle probably did not occur. Some famous wolves may actually have been dogs (C. familiaris), wolf-dog hybrids, or possibly coyote (C. latrans)-dog hybrids. We documented instances where early authors appeared to embellish or fabricate information about famous wolves. Caution should be exercised when using early literature about wolves as a basis for wolf management decisions.
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Famous North American wolves and the credibility of early wildlife literature