13 Animals Hunted to Extinction

Whether it's for meat, fur, sport, or fear, numerous species have been wiped out.

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.

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. (Marsupials are born incompletely developed and continue to live and nurse in a pouch in the mother's belly, like a kangaroo.)

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, aka thylacine, was shot and killed by a farmer in 1930, while the last one to die in captivity was at the Hobart Zoo in 1936. There's some evidence, however, that the species may have existed into the 21st century, with numerous sightings reported; but experts say it's around a "one-in-10 probability of still surviving."

of 13

Passenger Pigeon

Painting of a passenger pigeon by John Henry Hintermeister, 1908

John Henry Hintermeister / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

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. Reports from the 19th century described the sky darkening for hours as pigeons passed over and making normal conversation impossible.

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, age 29 years. She never once laid a fertile egg.

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, where they bred in colonies on rocky coastal islands and swam underwater with short wings, 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.

of 13


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. They lived in vast herds.

Targeted primarily for their unique and beautiful hides, with zebra-like stripes appearing only on the front half of their bodies and brown horse-like coloring on the rear half, quaggas were wiped out by hunters by the 1870s. The last quagga held in captivity died in August of 1883 at the Amsterdam Zoo. The Quagga Project is now trying to bring it back.

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. It's believed to have diverged from North American wolves roughly six million years ago.

Discovered in 1670, the Falkland Islands wolf is thought to have arrived on the islands long before it was first recorded. It was strangely docile when European explorers arrived, friendly and curious and willing to eat meat out of their hands. This was an oddity that apparently bothered Charles Darwin from an evolutionary standpoint.

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.

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 continued 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.

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 because they competed with fishermen for their catch.

The Caribbean monk seal was officially declared extinct by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service in 2008, after a thorough study and review; however, there have been no confirmed sightings since 1952.

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. It's also believed that some small yet healthy remaining populations succumbed to a kind of poultry disease.

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.

of 13

Atlas Bear

Mosaic depicting an Atlas bear attacking Carthage, Tunisia


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, from 146 BCE onward.

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

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 beautiful fur pelt and for sport. It survived only 85 years of European occupation.

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.

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 rocky 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, which was twice the size of an American or common mink, was not identified as a distinct species until after its extermination. The last verified specimen was killed in New Brunswick in 1894.

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 and lived in large herds. Its main predator was the Barbary lion, now also extinct in the wild.

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.

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. They survived less than three decades after being "discovered" by European explorers.

View Article Sources
  1. Feigin, Charles Y., et al. "Genome of the Tasmanian tiger provides insights into the evolution and demography of an extinct marsupial carnivore." Nature Ecology & Evolution. 2017.

  2. Burbidge, A.A., and J. Woinarski. "Thylacinus cynocephalus (Thylacine)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016.

  3. "Species Profile and Threats Database: Thylacinus cynocephalus — Thylacine, Tasmanian Tiger." Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

  4. BirdLife International. "Ectopistes migratorius (Passenger Pigeon)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019.

  5. "The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon." Colby College.

  6. BirdLife International. "Pinguinus impennis Great Auk." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016.

  7. "The extinction of The Great Auk." John James Audobon Center at Mill Grove.

  8. Hack, M.A., R. East, and D.I. Rubenstein, "Equus quagga ssp. quagga." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2008.

  9. "Dusicyon australis: Falkland Island wolf." Animal Diversity Web.

  10. Sillero-Zubiri, C. "Dusicyon australis (Falklands Wolf)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015.

  11. Goldman, Helle V., and Martin T. Walsh. "Classifying, Domesticating and Extirpating the Zanzibar Leopard, a Transgressive Felid." Norsk antropologisk tidsskrift. 2019.

  12. Goldman, Helle V., and Martin T. Walsh. "When Culture Threatens The Conservation of Biological Diversity: The Tragic Case of The Zanzibar Leopard." American Museum of Natural History, New York. 2008.

  13. Verma, S.K., and G.K. Goswami. "DNA evidence: current perspective and future challenges in India." Forensic Science International. 2014.

  14. "Monachus tropicalis: West Indian monk seal." Animal Diversity Web.

  15. Lowry, L. "Neomonachus tropicalis (Caribbean Monk Seal)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015.

  16. BirdLife International. "Conuropsis carolinensis (Carolina Parakeet)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016. 

  17. "The last Carolina Parakeet." John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove.

  18. "Atlas Bear." Encyclopedia of Life.

  19. "Atlas Bear (extinct)." Bear Conservation.

  20. "Species Profile and Threats Database: Notamacropus greyi — Toolache Wallaby." Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

  21. Burbidge, A.A., and J. Woinarski. "Macropus greyi (Toolache Wallaby)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016.

  22. "Neovison macrodon: sea mink." Animal Diversity Web.

  23. "Bubal Hartebeest." iNaturalist.

  24. IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. "Alcelaphus buselaphus ssp. buselaphus (Bubal Hartebeest)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017.

  25. "Hydrodamalis gigas: Steller's sea cow." Animal Diversity Web.

  26. Domning, D. "Hydrodamalis gigas (Steller's Sea Cow)." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016.

  27. Mikanowski, Jacob. "The Giant Sea Mammal That Went Extinct in Less Than Three Decades." The Atlantic.