13 Animals Hunted to Extinction

Color painting of a male quagga from Africa standing in an open field with a blue sky in the distance

Jacques-Laurent Agasse / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The tragic story of animal extinction is all too familiar. Numerous species have been wiped out primarily by human hunters in the last few hundred years alone. From marine life to flightless birds and mammals, no animal is exempt from the wrath of human interference. In memoriam, here's our list of 13 animals that have been hunted to extinction.

1
of 13

Tasmanian Tiger

One male and one female thylacine at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

Baker; E.J. Keller / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Despite their name and appearance, these dog-like creatures were not tigers or canids. Rather, they were marsupials; 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 shot and killed by a farmer in 1930, while the last one to die in captivity was at the Hobart Zoo in 1936.

2
of 13

Passenger Pigeon

Side view of a passenger pigeon with a brown head and a purple and orange neck

Seabamirum / Flickr / CC by 2.0

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, numbering in the billions.

The birds flocked and migrated in large groups, and that congregation assisted in their demise. They became easy targets for hunters searching for cheap food that could be sold commercially, particularly with the development of the railroads, which gave hunters the ability to travel quickly to sell pigeon meat.

The last passenger pigeon, named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoological Garden in 1914.

3
of 13

Great Auk

Illustration of a. pair of Great Auks, one on a rock and the other floating in the water

John James Audubon / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Once estimated to number in the millions, these huge flightless waterbirds were hunted to extinction by the 1850s. Widely distributed across the North Atlantic, the great auk was highly sought after for its down, which was used in pillows, as well as for meat, fat, and oil.

As their numbers dwindled, the price of their pelts and eggs became so valuable that even museums of the time sanctioned them to be collected, so that their skins could be used for preservation and display.

The last live great auk was seen in 1852.

4
of 13

Quagga

Black and white image of a quagga male in an enclosure at a London zoo

Frederick York / Wikimedia 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 primarily for their unique and beautiful hides, quaggas were wiped out by hunters by the 1870s. The last quagga held in captivity died in August of 1883 at the Amsterdam Zoo.

5
of 13

Falkland Islands Wolf

Color illustration of Falkland Island Wolf

George R. Waterhouse / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

This unique species of wolf, also known as a warrah, is the only native land mammal from the Falkland Islands.

Discovered in 1670, the Falkland Islands wolf is thought to have arrived on the islands long before it was first recorded. The decline of the Falkland Islands wolf began in the 1800s due to hunters who killed the mammals for their fur as well as to protect their sheep.

The wolf officially became extinct in 1876.

6
of 13

Zanzibar Leopard

a Zanzibar leopard baring its teeth in the Zanzibar Natural History Museum in Zanzibar City

Peter Maas / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

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 belief among locals that these cats were kept by witches and sent by them to cause harm, an extermination campaign was launched and was underway for decades.

Though unsubstantiated reports of sightings of Zanzibar leopards occasionally surface, none have been confirmed since the 1980s. Most scientists believe the leopard is extinct.

7
of 13

Caribbean Monk Seal

Black and white of Caribbean monk seal in an enclosure in New York, circa 1910

New York Zoological Society / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

First discovered during Christopher Columbus’ 1494 voyage, the Caribbean monk seal is the only known native seal to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

Predators of the Caribbean monk seal were sharks and humans. The seals were hunted for their skins and blubber, which was used to make oil, and due to competition with fishermen.

The Caribbean monk seal was officially declared extinct as recently as 1986, though there have been no confirmed sightings since 1952.

8
of 13

Carolina Parakeet

Carolina Parakeet specimen with green feathers, an orange head, and a yellow neck at Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois

James St. John / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The United States is not home to any species of parrot today, but that wasn't always the case. The Carolina parakeet thrived in North America until as recently as the early 1900s, and it was common from as 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 last Carolina parakeet in captivity died at the Cincinnati Zoological Garden in 1918. Undocumented sightings of the bird persisted into the 1930s.

9
of 13

Atlas Bear

Mosaic depicting an Atlas bear attacking Carthage, Tunisia

DEA PICTURE LIBRARY / Getty Images

This extinct subspecies of brown bear was once Africa's only native bear. Recognized by its small size and stocky build, the animal was hunted to extinction almost entirely for sport. They were often captured and used for the execution of criminals ad bestias after the Roman Empire expanded into North Africa.

The last specimens recorded were killed by hunters in the 1870s in the Rif mountains of Morocco.

10
of 13

Toolache Wallaby

Artistic representation of two Toolache wallabies, one standing, and the other laying down, in a field

John Gould / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Once occupying the open lands of Australia, the nocturnal Toolache wallaby was considered an elegant and graceful kangaroo species.

The Toolache wallaby suffered from habitat loss, the clearing of native vegetation, and the introduction of the red fox. This beautiful animal was also hunted for its fur and for sport.

The last wild specimen was recorded in 1927, and the last one in captivity died in 1939. The Toolache wallaby likely went extinct by the 1940s.

11
of 13

Sea Mink

Black and white pen and ink drawing of a sea mink

Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club / Wikimedia Commons / No Restrictions

Once occupying a range along coastal regions from Maine to New Brunswick, Canada, the sea mink was vigorously hunted for its fur, leading to its extinction.

Unfortunately, the hunting of the sea mink was so rapid that little is known about the animal’s behavior, reproduction, and communication, as scientists were unable to thoroughly study and describe the species.

The sea mink is estimated to have become extinct in approximately 1860.

12
of 13

Bubal Hartebeest

Hand colored, copperplate, stipple engraving of a bubal hartebeest

J. G. Pretre / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Once common throughout Northern Africa, parts of Egypt, and the Middle East, fossil remains of the Bubal hartebeest have been discovered in these regions. A subspecies of hartebeest, the Bubal hartebeest occupied a rocky habitat in the sub-desert steppe.

The Bubal hartebeest was overhunted for centuries for meat and sport. The last known individuals were shot in Algeria between 1945 and 1954, and the Bubal hartebeest is considered extinct.

13
of 13

Steller's Sea Cow

Engraving of Steller's sea cow from 1803

THEPALMER / Getty Images

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

Because of the frigid waters where they lived, Steller's sea cows grew to immense sizes, with reports putting them at around 25 feet long and weighing up to 12 tons. Unfortunately, it was their size and fat content that made them such valuable commodities.

Ruthlessly hunted, they were declared extinct in 1768.