Courtesy of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame
The legendary White Wolf of the Judith Basin was first sighted in 1915. Five years later, he was plundering herds of cattle and sheep, but only a few of the Basin’s stockmen actually laid eyes on him. Earl Neill was one of them.
In 1926, Neill shot the wolf in the left hind leg, a wound that permanently crippled him.
In 1930, A.V. Cheney had his own extraordinary encounter. Hearing his Russian wolfhounds barking in the distance, he rode out to find them engaged in a fierce battle with White Wolf. Unarmed, Cheney tried to lasso the animal, but he got away.
Stockmen across the Basin swore the wolf possessed a “superior intelligence.” He was wise to the smell of steel, they said, and could figure out whether or not a trap was cocked. When the men gathered in bars, they swapped yarns about the wolf and wagered on how long he would last. The Associated Press picked up stories of the “wolf war,” and the news went national.
On May 5, 1930, Earl Neill spotted White Wolf once more. He hurried to tell Al Close, and the men set out across the snow with two savvy dogs. In a small patch of fir, the dogs found the bedded wolf and pushed him—clawing, biting, and snarling—toward Close. From about 40 yards, Close stepped out from behind a tree, raised his Winchester, and fired. The wolf collapsed. Paralyzed but still alive, White Wolf snarled at Close and waited. Close fired again.
White Wolf weighed 83 pounds and measured six feet from nose to tail. His teeth were chipped and worn. His age was estimated at 18 years—a venerable age for a wolf. The stockmen had loathed him, but they had grown to respect him. He was too noble an animal to bury and forget. So, they had him mounted.
The legendary White Wolf achieved immortality in Stanford where he’s on display at the Basin Trading Post. He’s the town’s leading attraction.