10 Animals Hunted to Extinction…

Bear Hunting

10 Animals Hunted to Extinction…

Bear Hunting
Bear Hunting by Victor Adam

Diseases. Predation. Competition. Famine. Climate change. Volcanic eruption. Asteroid collision. These are some of the factors that can contribute to the extinction of an entire animal species. Most of the time, however, humans play a big role. In fact, in the past 500 years, humans have caused 322 animals species to become extinct, whether indirectly (by introducing new predators and destroying habitats), or directly (by excessive hunting for food, sport or trade).

Below are ten animals that have been hunted to extinction.

1. Atlas Bear

Mosaic of the extinct atlas bear.
Mosaic of the extinct atlas bear.

Considered to be a subspecies of the brown bear by some scientists and a distinct species by others, the Atlas bear was the only bear to have lived in Africa. It was particularly found in the area around the Atlas mountains, hence its name.

The Atlas bear is believed to have been about 9 feet (2.7 meters) long and to have weighed a thousand pounds (454 kilograms)! If so, this would make the Atlas bear one of the largest bears, rivaling the polar bear and the Kodiak bear. The Atlas bear had thick, brownish-black fur with reddish-orange underparts. It mostly ate acorns and nuts that hung from low branches or roots, since it wasn’t good at climbing trees.

It is not sure when exactly the Atlas bear became extinct, though a few were seen up to the late 1800s. As for the reason, this is less of a mystery — when the Roman Empire expanded to include Africa, thousands of Atlas bears were trapped and pitted against gladiators or criminals in the Roman arenas. They were also hunted for sport by the Romans and for fur and meat by African tribes, and eventually, also trapped by zoo collectors. Unable to reproduce in captivity, the population of the Atlas bear gradually died out.

2. Caribbean Monk Seal

Caribbean monk seal, Monachus tropicalis
Captive Caribbean monk seal, Monachus tropicalis, of unknown sex at the New York Aquarium in ca. 1910. Specimen originally captured from either Arrecife´s Tria´ngulos (Campeche) or Arrecife Alacra´n (Yucatan) in Mexico (Townsend 1909). Image Credit: New York Zoological Society.

In 2008, the US National Marine Fisheries Service declared the Caribbean monk seal to be extinct, after not a single one had been seen for over 50 years. The last confirmed sighting was in 1952.

Caribbean monk seals were large seals that could grow up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) long and weigh as much as 600 pounds (272 kilograms). They had rounded heads, broad muzzles, wide-spaced eyes and long whiskers. They were brown or gray, with green spots on their fur where algae grew. They ate mostly fish, lobster and octopus. Like today’s seals, they were excellent swimmers but had difficulty moving on land. Their curious and friendly nature, though, might have contributed to their extinction.

The first record of Caribbean monk seals being hunted was in 1494, which was also when they were discovered, during one of the voyages of Christopher Columbus. After that, they were hunted for their blubber, which was made into oil for lamps as well as for coating the bottom of boats, and for cooking. They were also hunted for food and for their skins, which were made into clothes and bags.

3. Great Auk

Great Auk
Great Auk by John James Audubon, Bird Artist of America. (1785-1851)

The great auk was a flightless bird that resembled a penguin, with its black and white feathers. It was even the first bird to be called a “penguin”. The great auk was not related to the penguin as we know them today, however; its closest living relative is the razorbill.

Great auks changed their appearance with the seasons. In summer, their throats were blackish-brown and they had a white patch over each eye. In winter, their throats were white and the eyepatch disappeared. They had long, curved bills which they used to build nests and also for defense when threatened.

Great auks were excellent swimmers, able to make deep dives and hold their breath for longer even than seals. Unfortunately, on land, they were the opposite — sluggish and awkward. They were not afraid of anything, as well, not even humans, making them an easy target.

Until the late 1700s, the great auk was killed for its feathers, meat, eggs and blubber. The last pair was recorded in 1844, fleeing from humans, their egg crushed under a fisherman’s boot.

4. Moa

Giant Haast's eagle attacking New Zealand moa
Artist’s rendition of a Haast’s eagle attacking moa. Image Credit: PLoS Biology (an open-access journal published by the nonprofit organization Public Library of Science) All journal content, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under cc-by-2.5

Once, nine moa species lived in New Zealand, all of them flightless and in addition, wingless. The largest of them, the South Island giant moa, grew up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) tall, making it the tallest bird ever to have lived. The upland moa, the smallest species, was less than 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall. They ate plants and twigs, and like most other birds, swallowed gizzard stones in order to help digestion.

Today, all nine species are extinct, the upland moa living up until 1445. Moa used to be preyed upon only by the Haast’s Eagle, which were 60 percent larger than today’s eagles, having wingspans of up to 9.8 feet (3 meters). However, when the Maori arrived in about 1300, they were hunted for food and for their feathers and eventually, they disappeared. Shortly after their extinction, the Haast’s Eagle also became extinct.

5. Passenger Pigeon

Last known Passenger Pigeon
Last known Passenger Pigeon – Cincinnati Zoo, August 2008. By Sarah Stierch cc2.0

On September 1, 2014, zoologists remembered the 100-year anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon, Martha, who passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo. Before that, passenger pigeons were hunted for their flavorful and low-cost meat, for their fat (which was used as butter) and for their feathers (which were used for bedding). They were easy to shoot, and were often shot while flying in flocks overhead.

Passenger Pigeon
Juvenile (left), male (center), female (right), by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Published in the United States pre-1923, also reproduction of art-work where artist died more than 70 years ago.

Passenger pigeons looked much like today’s mourning doves but were larger, with red eyes, pointed wings and wedge-shaped tails. They ate nuts and fruit, as well as earthworms, snails and caterpillars. They were social birds that lived in flocks so large that they could blacken the sky when they passed. In fact, some believe that their population numbered in the billions, making them the most abundant bird on the planet at one time.

The passenger pigeon is featured in the following book:
25 Extinct Animals… since the Birth of Mankind!

6. Quagga

Live quagga mare at London Zoo, 1870

A subspecies of the plains zebra, the quagga was named for its call, which sounded like “kwa-ha”. It was over 8 feet long and more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall. It looked like a half-horse-half-zebra, with its front half striped and its back half plain brown. It lived in herds and ate grass and leaves.

Quaggas were hunted for their meat and their skins. They were also caught and shipped to Europe to be used as harness animals for carriages. Their last major wild population disappeared in the 1870s, and the very last known wild quagga died in 1878. In captivity, they lasted slightly longer, but the last captive quagga died at a zoo in Amsterdam in 1883. In 1984, the quagga became the first extinct animal to have its DNA analyzed.

7. Sea Mink

Sea Mink- Vogt Bradshaw- Pd 2

The sea mink was the largest mink ever, with the longest recorded specimen being 32.5 inches (83 centimeters) long. It was also heavily built and had thick, reddish fur and a bushy tail.

Unfortunately, this fur was what led to the sea mink’s extinction. It was heavily hunted for this, which fetched a high price and was especially popular in Europe. By the 1870s, it was gone.

8. Thylacine

Thylacine family at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, 1910

Also known as the Tasmanian tiger because of its stripes, the thylacine was the largest carnivorous marsupial and the largest predator in Australia for hundreds of years. It was also one of only two species of marsupials wherein both males and females had pouches.

The thylacine was about the size of a large dog and had a stiff tail. It preyed on wallabies and kangaroos as well as wombats, possums and birds, usually at dusk or at night. Female thylacines typically had three cubs per litter, which they carried in their pouches for about three months.

About 2000 years ago, the thylacine’s population began to decline until it became extinct in mainland Australia. In Tasmania, it lived up until 1930. Thylacines were blamed for attacks on sheep and were heavily hunted by farmers and bounty hunters.

Thylacines are featured in the following books:
25 Extinct Animals… since the Birth of Mankind!
101 facts… Marsupials

9. Western Black Rhino

Video Dedicated To The Western Black Rhinoceros (Extinct)

In 2011, the western black rhino (a subspecies of the black rhino) was declared extinct, after being on the list of Critically Endangered species for over a decade. As recently as the 1900s, however, it was the most abundant of the rhinos, its population close to a million, but by 1995, only 2500 western black rhinos remained, and that number was decreasing.

The extinction of the western black rhino is blamed on hunting, mostly for their horns, which are used in making ceremonial daggers as well as in traditional Chinese medicine.

The western black rhino was about 12 feet (3.7 meters) long and, like other brown rhinos, ate the leaves of plants. When it was too hot to eat, it slept or wallowed in the mud.

Also see:
Black Rhino

10. Wolf

Extinct wolves from around the World

Several wolves have become extinct in the past 150 years, from the Falkland Islands wolf (the only mammal native to the Falkland Islands) which became extinct in 1876, to the Bernard’s wolf, which was believed to have died out in 1952. The Kenai Peninsula wolf, believed to have been the largest canid ever to have lived — at 7 feet (2.1 meters) long, 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) tall and 200 pounds (91 kilograms) — has also disappeared, in the 1920s.

In all of these cases, the wolves were hunted (both for their fur and in order to purposely get rid of them because they had become pests, killing livestock) and their homes, the forests, were cleared for ranches, leaving their dwindling populations with less and less habitat, until they were all gone.

Sadly, in most cases, once a species is lost, it is lost forever, and this is not only nature’s loss but humanity’s as well. Animals are more valuable alive than dead — wouldn’t it be a sadder world if there were no tigers? Right this moment, many, many animals are on the brink of extinction due to hunting and habitat loss — such as the green sea turtle, the large flying fox and the bluefin tuna. Unless more efforts are placed into keeping them off our menu and in their own homes, these animals and more could very well wind up next on this list.

Animals Hunted to Extinction

25 Extinct Animals… since the birth of mankind!




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