AN AMAZING FACT: Between 1883 and 1918, over 80,000 wolves were systematically slaughtered. By the early 1920s, wolves in the lower United States were all but completely wiped out. Near the end of the wolf extermination a lone wolf limped up to a ranch house in South Dakota. He had lost one of his toes in a trap. Wolves are social creatures, and because he had lost all his fellow wolves he seemed to be seeking human aid. Instead of help, he was met with a raised rifle and had to flee. From that day until his death in 1925, Old Dakota Three Toes waged a vicious one-wolf war on Harding County, South Dakota.
Measuring six feet and weighing over 80 pounds, Three Toes spent his remaining years killing ranchers’ stock. In one three-month period he destroyed $6,700 worth of sheep, cattle, and even horses. This “renegade wolf” who had watched his species annihilated undertook seemingly wanton attacks on cattle and sheep, killing scores in a night out of what seemed sheer vengeance.
Whole communities marshaled their resources to kill this last of the Dakota wolves. Old Three Toes proved to be more intelligent than the 150 professional hunters who tracked him. He led riders down ravines that became too narrow for the horses, and through fields full of gopher holes where the horses could easily trip. He once hid in the body cavity of a dead horse. The old wolf ate only his own freshly killed prey to avoid poisoned bait. He was also especially good at springing traps.
Finally, the legendary old wolf was trapped by a state deputy predatory animal inspector who buried traps on a hill, then transplanted sagebrush beside them. The next day Three Toes, curious about the freshly dug earth round the bush, stepped into two of the traps. “Old Three-Toes,” the last natural wolf in South Dakota, was killed in 1925. He had lived for nearly 20 years, twice as long as the average wolf, driven by vengeance.
Some people spend much of their lives driven by bitterness and anger until they self-destruct. Peter once rebuked a man named Simon who thought to buy the Holy Spirit for money. “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:22,23). In the end, vengeance will trap and destroy us.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: Ephesians 4:31