13 Animals Hunted to Extinction

Photo: Neil Turner [CC by SA-2.0]/Wikimedia Commons

Almost everyone is familiar with the tragic story of the dodo bird, the passive, flightless bird that was hunted to extinction by humans only about 100 years after its initial discovery in 1581. The phrase "to go the way of the dodo" is a linguistic reminder that the careless hunting of nature's creatures can end in tragedy. Though the phrase is an established part of our language, the lesson has taken longer to learn.

Numerous species have been wiped out primarily by human hunters in the last couple hundred years alone. In memoriam, here's our list of 13 animals that have been hunted to extinction.

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Tasmanian tiger

Wiki Commons/public domain.

Despite their name and appearance, these dog-like creatures were not tigers or canids. Rather, they were marsupials. In fact, they were the largest carnivorous marsupials of modern times.

Native to mainland Australia and Tasmania, they were declared extinct as recently as the 1930s after a century of intensive hunting encouraged by bounties (farmers feared that the tigers were killing their sheep).

The last known wild Tasmanian tiger was killed by a farmer named Wilf Batty, who shot the animal after it had been sighted patrolling outside of his house.

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Passenger pigeon

Keith Schengili-Roberts/Wiki Commons/GNU.

The tale of the passenger pigeon is one of the most tragic extinction stories of modern times. It was actually the most common bird in North America as recently as 200 years ago, and some reports counted single flocks numbering in the billions. So what happened?

The pigeon meat was commercialized and sold as cheap food, mostly for slaves and the poor, which began an unregulated hunting campaign on a massive scale. In 1896, the final flock of 250,000 were killed by a group of hunters who actually knew that it was the last flock of that size in existence. Not a single bird was left behind.

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Great auk

Errol Fuller/Wiki Commons/CC License.

Once estimated to number in the millions, these huge flightless waterbirds were hunted to extinction by the 1850s. As their numbers dwindled, the price of their pelts and eggs became so valuable that even museums of the time had sanctioned them to be collected, so that their skins could be used for preservation and display.

The effort to wipe the birds out was so systematic that the killing of the last known pair was documented in gruesome detail. On July 3rd, 1844, a hunter named Sigurður Ísleifsson had strangled the last two adults, while his partner Ketill Ketilsson smashed the egg the birds had been incubating with his boot.

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Wiki Commons/public domain.

They may look like some sort of a hybrid cross between a zebra and a horse, but these majestic animals were actually a unique variety of plains zebra once common in Southern Africa.

Targeted mostly because of their unique and beautiful hides, quaggas were wiped out by hunters by the 1870s. The last captive Quagga, a mare, died Aug. 12, 1883 in Amsterdam Zoo.

In early 2016, a team of scientists in Cape Town, South Africa, used DNA and selective breeding to breed animals that look nearly identical, reports HNGN. The group, called the Quagga Project, says the key to its success was genetic analysis.

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Falkland Island wolf

Wiki Commons/public domain.

This unique species of wolf, the only native mammal from the Falkland Islands, bears the unfortunate title of being the first known canid to have gone extinct in historical times.

Settlers of the islands were threatened by the wolf since they believed it hunted their sheep, so they systematically set out to shoot and poison the animals on a massive scale. The wolf officially went extinct in 1876.

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Zanzibar leopard

Helle V. Goldman e Jon Winther-Hansen/Wiki Commons/GNU.

Found only in the Zanzibar archipelago of Tanzania, this unique subspecies of leopard may have gone extinct as recently as the 1990s.

Due to the widespread but ridiculous belief among locals that these cats are kept by witches and sent by them to cause harm, an extermination campaign was launched and has been underway for decades.

Though reports still occasionally surface of sightings of Zanzibar leopards, none have been confirmed since the 1980s and most zoologists presume the extermination campaigns have succeeded.

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Caribbean monk seal

Wiki Commons/public domain.

The only known native seal to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean monk seal was officially declared extinct as recently as 2008, though none have been seen since 1952. It is the only species of seal ever recorded to have gone extinct primarily due to human causes.

Their demise was foreshadowed during Columbus’ 1494 voyage, when the tiny seals were first discovered. Described as “sea wolves” by Columbus himself, eight were recorded to have been killed and slaughtered for their meat.

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Carolina parakeet

Fritz Geller-Grimm/Wiki Commons/CC License.

Today the United States are not home to any species of parrot, but that wasn't always the case. One species called the Carolina parakeet thrived in North America until as recently as the early 1900s, common from has far north as the Ohio valley and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.

The species' demise came shortly after its beautiful, colorful feathers became fashionable to wear as decorations in ladies' hats. The last known wild specimen was killed in Okeechobee County, Florida in 1904, and the species was officially declared extinct in 1939.

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Atlas bear

Photo via Cryptomundo.com.

This extinct subspecies of brown bear was once Africa's only native bear. Recognized by the distinct reddish orange fur that covered its underparts, the animal was hunted to extinction almost entirely for the purpose of sport. In fact, they were often captured and used for the execution of criminals ad bestias after the Roman Empire expanded into North Africa.

The last specimens ever recorded being seen were killed by hunters in the 1870s.

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Toolache wallaby

Wiki Commons/public domain.

Once considered to be the most elegant and graceful of all species of kangaroo due to its beautiful fur and fanciful hop, traits which eventually spelled its demise, the Toolache wallaby likely went extinct by the 1940s. Hunted for its fur and for sport, the wallabies were often chased down using greyhounds.

The last two specimens alive may have been a female with a young in her pouch, which had survived for 12 years in captivity until finally succumbing to death in 1939.

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Sea mink

Mammals Revealed/New York State Museum.

Aside from the Falkland Islands wolf, the sea mink is the only other terrestrial mammal species in the order Carnivora to go extinct in historic times. Prized for its fur, this tiny creature was vigorously hunted until its extinction in the 1860s.

Unfortunately, the hunting of the sea mink was so rapid that there was never any time for its behavior to have been described by science. Needless to say, those facts are now lost forever.

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Bubal hartebeest

Wiki Commons/public domain.

Common throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East, the Bubal hartebeest was once used for sacrificial purposes by the ancient Egyptians and was even mentioned in the Old Testament.

Even so, this magnificent beast was no match for Europeans hunters, who systematically wiped the species out for meat and sport.

This picture depicts the last known Bubal Hartebeest, a female, which died in the Paris Zoo in 1923.

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Stellar's sea cow

Wiki Commons/public domain.

Related to the manatee and the dugong, this plump sea dweller once lived in the Arctic waters of the North Pacific.

When they were first discovered, sea cows already had a limited range, and their slow swimming speed and gentle nature made them easy targets for hunters. Within 27 years of their discovery by Europeans, they were declared extinct in 1768.

Because of the frigid waters where they lived, Stellar's sea cows grew to immense sizes, with reports putting them at around 30 feet long and weighing up to 10 tons. Unfortunately, it's their size and their fat which made them such valuable commodities for early Alaskan settlers and explorers.