Passport
Full Episode
The Wolf That Changed America

In 1893, a bounty hunter named Ernest Thompson Seton journeyed to the untamed canyons of New Mexico on a mission to kill a dangerous outlaw. Feared by ranchers throughout the region, the outlaw wasn’t a pistol-packing cowboy or train-robbing bandit. The outlaw was a wolf. Lobo, as locals simply called him, was the legendary leader of a band of cattle-killing wolves that had been terrorizing cattle ranchers and their livestock. It was up to Seton to exterminate this “super-wolf.” The ensuing battle of wits between wolf and man would spark a real-life wilderness drama, the outcome of which would leave a lasting effect on a new and growing movement in America: wilderness preservation.

This film premiered November 23, 2008.

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F. Murray Abraham: IN THE AUTUMN OF 1893, A MAN CALLED ERNEST THOMPSON SETON CAME TO NEW MEXICO.

THESE WERE THE DYING DAYS OF THE OLD WILD WEST, AND SETON'S MISSION WAS TO HUNT DOWN THE LAST OF THE OUTLAWS.

THE OUTLAW WOLVES.

BUT WHAT BEGAN AS A TWO-WEEK JOB TURNED INTO AN EPIC DUEL, A DUEL THAT WOULD TOUCH SETON'S HEART... AND ONE WHICH -- IN THE END -- HELPED TO CHANGE FOREVER AMERICA'S RELATIONSHIP WITH ITS WILDERNESS.

AND IT WAS ALL BECAUSE OF ONE REMARKABLE ANIMAL.

[ WOLF HOWLING ] Abraham: THE STAGE FOR THE DRAMA COULD HARDLY BE WIDER OR MORE EPIC.

NEW MEXICO... A LAND WHERE THE ROLLING PRAIRIES MEET THE FOOTHILLS OF THE ROCKIES.

BY 1893 -- THE YEAR SETON CAME TO HUNT WOLVES -- THIS WAS A LAND BEING SWEPT BY PROFOUND CHANGE.

[ TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWING ] [ LOCOMOTIVE CHUGGING ] THE MODERN WORLD WAS STEAMING IN.

SETTLERS WERE ARRIVING BY THE TRAINLOAD.

WHAT HAD RECENTLY BEEN THE LAND OF THE APACHE AND THE BUFFALO WAS NOW THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY.

LIVESTOCK WERE POURING IN.

RANCHING WAS BIG BUSINESS.

BUT THE OLD WEST HADN'T COMPLETELY DISAPPEARED.

PARTS OF NORTHERN NEW MEXICO WERE STILL UNTAMED.

IN THE REMOTE CURRUMPAW VALLEY, WILD WOLVES STILL ROAMED THE CANYONS.

A VICIOUS WAR WAS UNDERWAY TO EXTERMINATE THE LAST OF THESE CATTLE-KILLERS.

[ CATTLE LOWING ] ONE OF THESE WOLVES, HOWEVER, SEEMED TO POSSESS AN ALMOST SUPERNATURAL ABILITY TO CHEAT DEATH.

[ GUNSHOT ] [ GUNSHOT ] SETON SOON HEARD ABOUT THIS 'SUPERWOLF' FROM THE COWBOYS.

HE WAS KNOWN AS 'LOBO'... KING OF THE CURRUMPAW.

LOBO AND HIS BAND OF OUTLAWS WERE BLAMED FOR KILLING HUNDREDS OF CATTLE... AND NOT SURPRISINGLY, THE CATTLE BARONS AND THEIR COWBOYS WANTED HIM DEAD.

IN MANY WAYS, SETON WAS THE PERFECT ASSASSIN.

HE'D HUNTED WOLVES FOR BOUNTY MONEY BEFORE, AND WRITTEN A MANUAL FOR HIS FELLOW TRAPPERS ON HOW TO CATCH THEM.

[ GROWLING ] HE EVEN CLAIMED THAT ONE OF HIS SCOTTISH ANCESTORS HAD WIPED OUT THE LAST REMAINING WOLVES IN THE BRITISH ISLES.

BUT BEHIND THE GUN LAY A MORE COMPLEX CHARACTER.

SETON WAS A NATURALIST WHO'D GROWN UP IN THE BACK WOODS OF CANADA WITH A REAL LOVE AND FASCINATION FOR NATURE.

HE WAS ALSO AN ARTIST, TRAINED IN PARIS AND LONDON, WHOSE FAVORITE SUBJECTS WERE THE WILD ANIMALS OF NORTH AMERICA.

THE STORY OF THE HUNT FOR LOBO IS THE STORY OF A DIVIDED MAN.

ON THE ONE HAND, A ROMANTIC, WHOSE HEART WAS WITH THE WILDERNESS AND ITS WILD CREATURES.

[ HONKING ] AND ON THE OTHER... AND HIRED HUNTER, WHO, LIKE THE COWBOYS, SAW WOLVES AS SOMEHOW DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER ANIMALS -- AS WANTON KILLERS THAT HAD TO BE DEALT WITH.

[ WOLF HOWLING ] Abraham: LITTLE DID SETON KNOW THE REMARKABLE WOLF HE WAS UP AGAINST... THE WILD AND ROMANTIC STORY THAT FOLLOWS IS BASED ENTIRELY ON THE JOURNAL THAT SETON KEPT AT THE TIME, AND THE BOOK HE SUBSEQUENTLY WROTE.

IT IS, ACCORDING TO SETON, 'ALMOST COMPLETELY TRUE.'

'THE ANIMALS,' HE LATER WROTE, 'WERE REAL CHARACTERS, WHO LIVED THE LIVES I HAVE DEPICTED.'

AND YET, SETON MADE SUCH SURPRISING, ALMOST HEROIC CLAIMS ABOUT LOBO AND HIS PACK THAT WE ARE BOUND TO WONDER HOW MUCH OF IT WE CAN REALLY BELIEVE.

[ HOWLING ] SETON HAD COME TO NEW MEXICO EQUIPPED TO WAGE A POISON CAMPAIGN -- A TRIED AND TESTED METHOD FROM HIS WOLF-HUNTING DAYS IN CANADA.

IT WAS LATE OCTOBER.

SETON SET OUT TO LAY HIS FIRST BAITS.

OVER THE FOLLOWING DAYS, HE MADE A SERIES OF WIDE CIRCUITS AROUND THE PLAINS, DROPPING A PIECE OF PIECE OF POISONED MEAT EVERY SO OFTEN, TAKING CARE NOT TO TOUCH THEM WITH HIS HANDS, OR TO GET OFF HIS HORSE.

SETON, THE MAN WHO'D WRITTEN THE TEXTBOOK ON HOW TO CATCH A WOLF, WAS CONFIDENT THAT HIS EXPERTLY PREPARED BAITS WOULD SOON BRING HIM HIS THOUSAND-DOLLAR BOUNTY.

ALONGSIDE HIS HUNT FOR LOBO, SETON ALSO PURSUED HIS LOVE OF NATURE, TAKING EVERY CHANCE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WILD INHABITANTS OF THE CURRUMPAW.

[ BIRD CALLING ] [ CALLING ] SETON THE NATURALIST MAY HAVE BEEN CRAMMING HIS NOTEBOOKS WITH OBSERVATIONS, BUT HIS HUNT FOR LOBO WAS ABOUT TO SUFFER A HUMILIATING SETBACK.

DESCRIPTIONS LIKE THIS SEEM FAR-FETCHED.

JUST HOW CLEVER ARE WOLVES?

COULD LOBO REALLY HAVE PLAYED A JOKE ON SETON?

SINCE SETON'S TIME, WE'VE LEARNED A LOT MORE ABOUT WOLF BEHAVIOR.

TODAY, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK SUPPORTS A THRIVING POPULATION OF WILD WOLVES, WHICH ARE CLOSELY MONITORED BY SCIENTISTS.

WITH OVER 20 YEARS' EXPERIENCE OF TRACKING AND STUDYING WOLVES, DOUG SMITH IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S LEADING EXPERTS, AND UNIQUELY QUALIFIED TO ASSESS WHAT SETON WROTE.

SETON WAS IMPUTING THESE POWERS OF RIDICULE TO THE WOLVES THAT REALLY ARE BEYOND THEM.

WOLVES REALLY DON'T CARE ABOUT US.

BUT IT'S WELL KNOWN AMONG WOLF BIOLOGISTS THAT WHEN YOU TRAP AND CATCH WOLVES A LOT, THEY GET EDUCATED -- YOU TEACH THEM HOW TO AVOID YOU CATCHING THEM.

THE WOLVES THAT WERE LEFT WERE GETTING EDUCATED BY THE TRAPS AND THE GUNS AND THE POISON THAT PEOPLE WERE USING TO KILL THEM.

AND SO WHAT SETON ENCOUNTERED, IN SOME WAYS, WAS THE BEST OF THE BEST.

[ GROWLING ] Abraham: SETON HAD COME TO NEW MEXICO AS A HIRED GUN TO DO A DIRTY JOB, EXPECTING TO STAY FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS.

BUT LOBO CONTINUED TO ELUDE HIM.

AND AS THE WEEKS STRETCHED INTO MONTHS, THE UNTAMED BEAUTY OF THE LAND BEGAN TO CAST ITS SPELL.

HE WAS FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE WEST.

HE WAS ALSO LEARNING OF THE OLD DAYS, WHEN THE WILD GAME ABOUNDED AND THE WILDERNESS WAS UNSPOILED.

IN THE CURRUMPAW, SETON HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO THINK ABOUT AMERICA'S DWINDLING WILDLIFE.

ONLY A FEW YEARS EARLIER, THERE HAD STILL BEEN BUFFALO ON THE PLAINS.

FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS, WOLVES HAD SURVIVED BY HUNTING ONE OF NORTH AMERICA'S MOST FORMIDABLE PREY SPECIES.

THEY'D PITTED THEIR WITS AGAINST THE SHEER SIZE AND FEROCITY OF THE BUFFALO.

THIS REQUIRED TEAMWORK.

IT WAS LITTLE WONDER THAT WOLVES HAD EVOLVED INTO SUCH HIGHLY INTELLIGENT ANIMALS, WITH INTIMATE FAMILY BONDS.

AFTER THE BUFFALO, A COW WAS A PIECE OF CAKE.

LOBO'S PACK COULD SLICE THROUGH LIVESTOCK LIKE A KNIFE THROUGH BUTTER.

Smith: WOLVES PROBABLY COULD HAVE KILLED AS MUCH LIVESTOCK AS SETON DESCRIBED.

THE LIVESTOCK WAS VULNERABLE AND HELPLESS.

WE BRED THEIR NATURAL DEFENSES OUT OF THEM.

AND WOLVES ARE INTELLIGENT, AND THEY HAD FIGURED THAT OUT.

AND SO WOLVES HAVE A MENTALITY, REALLY, OF 'KILL EVERYTHING YOU CAN.'

Abraham: SETON STILL HAD A JOB TO DO.

AND AFTER THE FAILURE OF HIS POISON BAITS, HE NOW BROUGHT OUT A NEW WEAPON... THE DOUBLE-SPRING STEEL WOLF TRAP.

DARREN BROWN LIVES TODAY JUST A FEW MILES NORTH OF THE CURRUMPAW, ON A RANCH WHERE SETON IS KNOWN TO HAVE STAYED.

SOME OF SETON'S ACTUAL TRAPS WERE LEFT HERE WITH DARREN'S GRANDFATHER, IN THIS VERY BARN.

NUMBER 4 1/2 WOLF TRAP.

THIS IS ONE OF THE ACTUAL TRAPS THAT SETON USED TO TRY TO CATCH LOBO.

Abraham: THESE TRAPS ARE DESIGNED TO GRAB AND HOLD THEIR VICTIMS, RATHER THAN KILL THEM.

I'M GOING TO PUT SOME SOFT DIRT IN HERE SO THE TRAP WILL SET JUST RIGHT.

NOW, ALL THE TIME, KEEP IN MIND THIS IS A REAL TRAP -- IT'D CATCH ME AS WELL AS ANY ANIMAL.

THE WOLF WILL ACTUALLY PUT HIS FOOT ON THIS, IS WHAT TRIGGERS IT TO GO OFF.

NOW, I WANT TO KEEP AN OPEN AREA UNDER THE TRAP PAN, SO THAT WHEN THE ANIMAL STEPS ON IT, IT WILL ACTUALLY SPRING THE TRAP.

IF YOU HAD DIRT UNDERNEATH IT, IT WOULDN'T GO OFF.

IT WOULD JUST SIT THERE.

A REAL KEY ELEMENT IS TO MAKE THIS ABOUT AS NATURAL WITH THE GROUND AROUND IT AS YOU CAN.

OKAY.

NOTHING EXPOSED... NOW WE HAVE THE TRAP SET.

AND THOUGH IT'S OVER 100 YEARS OLD, IT STILL FUNCTIONS PERFECTLY.

IT'S JUST DESIGNED TO CATCH IT, AND STILL GET BLOOD CIRCULATION TO THEIR FOOT.

THIS IS ALSO HOOKED TO A DRAG.

AS IT GOES ALONG THE GROUND, IT'LL GET CAUGHT IN A CACTUS OR A TREE, OR ANYTHING ALONG THE WAY -- IT SLOWS 'EM UP ENOUGH, IT LEAVES A MARK ON THE GROUND, AND THEN YOU CAN FOLLOW THE ANIMAL.

Abraham: CATCHING LOBO WAS BECOMING AN OBSESSION.

BUT WHY WAS A MAN WHO LOVED NATURE SO DETERMINED TO KILL A WOLF?

IT'S A QUESTION THAT'S OFTEN FIRED AT SETH McFARLAND, CURATOR OF THE SETON MEMORIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM IN NORTHERN NEW MEXICO.

McFarland: WE GET ASKED A LOT BY PEOPLE WHY SETON WAS SUCH A CONTRADICTION -- AND HE WAS A CONTRADICTION.

ON ONE HAND, HE'S AN UNSENTIMENTAL HUNTER -- YOU KNOW, HE'S USING FIREARMS AND JAW TRAPS AND POISONS TO KILL HIS ANIMALS.

ON THE OTHER HAND, HE WAS AN AVID NATURALIST, HE'S TAKING VERY DETAILED NOTES IN VOLUMES OF JOURNALS, YOU KNOW.

HE'S STUDYING THESE ANIMALS IN GREAT DETAIL, AND HE WOULD FOLLOW THEIR TRACKS, HE WOULD FOLLOW THEIR SCAT.

HE COULD COMPARE THE ANIMALS JUST ACCORDING TO THEIR SCAT, IN WHICH DIRECTION AND HOW OLD AN ANIMAL WAS.

HE WAS QUITE THE PARADOX.

I MEAN, WE HAVE TO REALIZE THAT IT WAS A DIFFERENT TIME, AND VIEWS WERE DIFFERENT OF WOLVES AT THAT POINT.

WE ALSO HAVE TO REALIZE THAT SETON GREW UP IN THE FRONTIER OF MANITOBA, AND HE WAS FAMILIAR WITH WOLVES DESTROYING LIVESTOCK -- HE HAD FACED THIS HIMSELF.

Abraham: SETON SIMPLY DIDN'T SEE WOLVES THE WAY HE SAW OTHER WILD CREATURES.

UNLIKE WOLVES -- WHICH WERE KILLERS -- ANIMALS LIKE ELK DIDN'T THREATEN ANYONE'S LIVELIHOOD.

[ CALLING ] ON THE CONTRARY, LIKE THE BUFFALO AND THE PRONGHORN, ELK WERE NOW THEMSELVES IN DECLINE... THE VICTIMS OF OVER-HUNTING BY MAN.

SETON'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH NEW MEXICO WAS DEEPENING BY THE DAY.

IN FACT, HIS CONCERN FOR ALL OF NORTH AMERICA'S WILDLIFE WAS VERY LIKELY AWAKENING.

BUT WHEN IT CAME TO WOLVES, SETON WAS STILL THINKING IN THE OLD WAY.

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, WE HAVE DEMONIZED WOLVES, SEEN THEM AS WANTON, BLOODTHIRSTY KILLERS -- ALMOST THE EMBODIMENT OF EVIL.

[ WOLVES GROWLING ] CONTINUING ALONG THE TRAIL, SETON DISCOVERED THAT LOBO HAD DISARMED OVER A DOZEN OF HIS TRAPS IN THE SAME WAY.

HOW COULD HE HAVE SEEN THROUGH SETON'S CLEVER PLAN SO EASILY?

Smith: WOLVES ARE VERY, VERY OBSERVANT OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT.

THEY PAY ATTENTION TO A DEGREE THAT PEOPLE HAVE A HARD TIME FATHOMING.

THEY'RE JUST EXTREMELY ATTENTIVE TO EVERY LITTLE THING IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT.

THEY KNEW SETON WAS AFTER 'EM, AND HIS OTHER COWBOYS.

AND SO THEY BECAME VERY ATTUNED TO HIS TRICKS.

AND ONCE THEY LEARNED ABOUT TRAPS, ABOUT STEEL, THEY BECOME HYPER-OBSERVANT.

THAT'S ALL THEY WERE DOING.

Abraham: THE WILY WOLF HAD OUTWITTED SETON ONCE AGAIN.

IT WAS GOING TO BE A LONG WINTER.

[ WIND HOWLING ] [ HOWLING ] [ WOLVES HOWLING ] [ HONKING ] Abraham: AFTER MONTHS OF FAILURE, SETON MUST HAVE BEEN AT HIS WIT'S END.

HE HADN'T EVEN CLAPPED EYES ON LOBO.

WHAT HE DESPERATELY NEEDED WAS A LUCKY BREAK... AND EVENTUALLY, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HE GOT.

[ SPLASHING ] SETON KNEW IMMEDIATELY THAT THE SHE-WOLF WAS HIS BIG CHANCE.

A CYNICAL NEW PLAN FORMED IN HIS MIND.

DURING THE BREEDING SEASON, WHICH, APPARENTLY, A LOT OF HIS STORY TOOK PLACE, THAT MALE'S TENDING THAT FEMALE EXTREMELY CLOSELY.

HE RARELY LEAVES HER SIDE DURING THAT TIME PERIOD.

I CHASE WOLVES WITH A HELICOPTER.

IT DOESN'T HURT THEM, WE HAVE TO DO IT, BUT WHEN WE MOVE IN ON THEM IT'S DURING THE MATING SEASON, AND YOU CAN ALWAYS TELL WHO'S THE BREEDING PAIR, 'CAUSE THEY WILL NOT SEPARATE.

AND SO THEY'RE MOVING AROUND IN THEIR OWN LITTLE ORBIT OF TWO.

AND THE REST OF THE PACK BREAKS UP AND GOES EVERY WHICH WAY.

THAT MALE WOLF, THE ALPHA MALE, STICKS RIGHT WITH THAT FEMALE.

Abraham: CUNNINGLY, SETON FIRST PLACED TRAPS RATHER OBVIOUSLY AROUND A DEAD COW, GUESSING THAT LOBO WOULD STOP AND TRY TO DISARM THEM.

WHILE HE WAS THUS DIVERTED, SETON HOPED THAT LOBO'S MATE, BLANCA, WOULD RUN ON TO INVESTIGATE THE HEAD OF THE COW, WHICH SETON HAD CUT OFF AND PUT TO ONE SIDE.

IT COULD ONLY BE APPROACHED THROUGH A NARROW PASSAGE BETWEEN ROCKS, AND IT WAS HERE THAT SETON PLANTED SEVERAL OF HIS BEST TRAPS, PROPERLY DEODORIZED, AND CONCEALED WITH THE UTMOST CARE.

[ SNIFFING ] [ SNIFFING ] [ HOWLING ] [ HOWLING, WHIMPERING ] [ WHIMPERING ] THE FOLLOWING MORNING, SETON WENT UP THE CANYON HOPING THAT, AT LAST, HE'D STRUCK A BLOW AGAINST LOBO.

HE WAS IN LUCK.

BLANCA HAD WALKED RIGHT INTO HIS TRAP.

[ WHIMPERS ] ACCORDING TO SETON, LOBO REMAINED CLOSE BY, RELUCTANT TO LEAVE HIS MATE.

BUT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN SUICIDE TO STAY AND FACE THE MEN'S GUNS.

[ GROWLING ] SETON WOULD LATER RECOIL FROM WHAT HE CALLED 'THE INEVITABLE TRAGEDY THAT FOLLOWED.'

BUT THE PLAIN FACT WAS, HE WAS HERE TO DO A JOB -- HE WAS HERE TO KILL WOLVES.

SUCCESS AT LAST.

SETON HAD CLAIMED HIS FIRST SCALP.

AND YET NOW, WITH BLANCA DEAD, LOBO WAS ABOUT TO TOUCH SETON'S HEART... AND CHANGE, FOREVER, THE WAY HE SAW WOLVES.

THE KING OF THE CURRUMPAW HAD LOST HIS MATE.

[ HOWLING ] [ HOWLING CONTINUES ] [ HOWLING CONTINUES ] [ HOWLING ] [ HOWLING ] Smith: I THINK THERE IS AN EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT BETWEEN WOLVES IN A PACK -- CERTAINLY AMONG A MATED PAIR, AND THE EXAMPLE I USE IS, HERE IN YELLOWSTONE, A WOLF DIED -- A FEMALE WOLF -- SHE WAS THE ALPHA, VERY SIMILAR TO BLANCA.

SHE WAS KILLED BY ANOTHER PACK, AND THE ALPHA MALE -- PARDON MY WAY OF PUTTING IT -- SEEMED TO MOURN.

HE HOWLED FOR TWO DAYS AFTER, MORE THEN ANYBODY HAD SEEN HIM HOWL.

AND HE WAILED, AND HE WAILED, AND HE WAILED.

[ HOWLING ] A LITTLE BIT OF WHAT SETON DESCRIBED IN HIS STORY, WE'VE SEEN HERE IN THE WILDS OF YELLOWSTONE.

Abraham: SETON HAD BROUGHT BLANCA'S BODY BACK TO HIS CABIN.

BUT THE LAST THING HE EXPECTED WAS FOR LOBO TO THROW CAUTION TO THE WIND, AND COME LOOKING FOR HER.

[ CLATTERING ] [ RATTLING ] [ FIRES ] WE CAN ONLY GUESS WHAT DOUBTS WERE CREEPING INTO SETON'S MIND, BUT IT WAS TOO LATE TO STOP NOW.

SETON HAD TO STRIKE FAST, WHILE LOBO'S GUARD WAS DOWN.

HE GATHERED UP ALL HIS TRAPS -- 130 IN ALL, AND SET THEM ON EVERY APPROACH TO HIS CABIN.

LAST OF ALL, HE USED BLANCA'S SCENT AS A LURE TO DRAW LOBO IN.

SETON SET OUT THE NEXT MORNING WITH CONFIDENCE.

EVERY OUTLAW TALE HAS ITS SHOWDOWN, AND FOR SETON AND LOBO, THE FATEFUL DAY WAS JANUARY 31st, 1894.

HIS PLAN HAD WORKED.

THE FIRST THING SETON DID WAS TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH.

IT'S AN ASTONISHING RECORD THAT SURVIVES TO THIS DAY.

OLD LOBO, THE KING OF THE CURRUMPAW, IS CLEARLY VISIBLE CAUGHT IN FOUR TRAPS -- ONE ON EACH LEG.

THAT'S WHAT IT HAD TAKEN TO STOP THIS INCREDIBLE WOLF.

WHERE ARE YOU GUESSING THIS -- IS THIS A LITTLE RIDGE, OR ARE YOU GUESSING THIS IS GRASS RIGHT THERE?

I'M ASSUMING THAT MAY JUST BE A ROAD.

Abraham: SETON'S JOURNAL RECORDS THE DATE THAT LOBO WAS FINALLY CAPTURED, BUT THE EXACT LOCATION IS UNCERTAIN.

CURATOR SETH McFARLAND IS VISITING RANCHER MARGIE LONG, IN THE HOPE THAT SETON'S PHOTOGRAPH CAN LEAD HIM TO THE PLACE WHERE LOBO WAS TRAPPED.

Long: YOU CAN SEE THESE BIG SQUARE HUNKS OF ROCK, SO IT MAY BE THAT THIS ANGLE IS MORE OVER TOWARDS THE BARN.

THESE HILLS ARE SO BARE, THEY PROBABLY CLEANED ALL THAT WOOD OFF FOR FENCE POSTS AND FUEL WOOD.

YES, THEY SAY THAT THE BRUSH HAS REALLY GROWN BACK OVER THE YEARS, AND LOOKING AT OLDER PICTURES, THERE WERE NO TREES AND, YOU KNOW, CEDARS AND SHRUBS.

I THINK WE'VE GOT THE SPOT.

SEE, HE'S GOT THE FOUR TRAPS ON HIM, WELL, THERE'S ONE, DEFINITELY, ON HIS BACK LEG, THERE'S ONE RIGHT THERE, AND THERE'S A THIRD.

I DON'T KNOW -- I KNOW, IN THE STORY, IT TALKS ABOUT HOW HE HAD ONE POP FREE, AND THAT LEG SEEMED TO BE TUCKED BACK UNDER HIM.

NOW, WHAT ARE THE FAMILY TRADITIONS?

DOES THE STORY DIFFER ANY, OR IS IT PRETTY MUCH THE SAME TALE?

NO, I KEEP HEARING THE SAME STORY, AND IT WAS JUST RIGHT OUT HERE IN FRONT OF THE CHICKEN PEN.

AND THAT HE WAS TRAPPED, BECAUSE THEY HAD HIS MATE CAUGHT, AND HE CAME IN TO HER AND THEY CAUGHT HIM.

AND I'VE JUST HEARD THE SAME STORY OVER AND OVER FROM THE OLD TIMERS AROUND, UH-HUH.

[ SHUTTER CLICKS ] ♪♪ Abraham: SETON HAD WON.

AFTER THE LONG CHASE, HE FINALLY HAD LOBO AT HIS MERCY.

BUT FACE-TO-FACE WITH HIS ADVERSARY, SETON'S RESOLVE FALTERED.

PERHAPS KILLING LOBO NO LONGER FELT LIKE A VICTORY, BUT A CRIME.

PERHAPS, IN HIS EYES, LOBO WAS NO LONGER 'VERMIN,' BUT A CREATURE WITH DIGNITY -- COURAGEOUS, LOYAL, AND LOVING.

UNTIL NOW, SETON HAD SEEN WOLVES SIMPLY AS INDISCRIMINATE KILLERS, BUT THEY WERE OBVIOUSLY MUCH MORE THAN THAT.

THEY WERE THE VERY EMBODIMENT OF AMERICA'S VANISHING WILDERNESS.

IT'S AS IF THE CONFLICT WITHIN SETON -- BETWEEN THE HUNTER AND THE NATURALIST -- WAS FINALLY RESOLVED.

HE DECIDED TO TAKE LOBO BACK ALIVE.

SADLY, IT WAS TOO LATE.

Abraham: IT WAS LOBO'S LOYALTY TO BLANCA THAT HAD BEEN HIS DOWNFALL, AND NOW SETON TOOK LOBO TO BE WITH HER AGAIN.

SETON PROFOUNDLY REGRETTED WHAT HE HAD DONE.

HE NEVER KILLED ANOTHER WOLF.

Smith: WHEN I READ SETON'S STORY, TO A CERTAIN DEGREE I FILTERED THROUGH A LOT OF HIS FLOWERY LANGUAGE.

I LOOKED AT IT THROUGH A BIOLOGICAL LENS.

IS WHAT THESE WOLVES WERE DOING, GIVEN THE CONTEXT OF THE TIME, WHICH WAS NO-TO-LITTLE NATURAL PREY, A LASER FOCUS ON KILLING LIVESTOCK, AN INCREDIBLE ABILITY TO AVOID TRAPS AND GUNS AND POISONS, IS ALL THAT POSSIBLE? ABSOLUTELY.

DO WOLVES HAVE AN INCREDIBLY STRONG ATTACHMENT BETWEEN A MATED PAIR? ABSOLUTELY.

Abraham: LOBO, THE LAST OUTLAW WOLF OF NEW MEXICO, WAS DEAD.

THE CURRUMPAW VALLEY HAD BEEN SILENCED.

BY 1894, IT SEEMED THAT VIRTUALLY ALL OF AMERICA'S WILDERNESS WAS DESTINED TO BE CLEANED-UP, CIVILIZED, AND MADE SAFE.

SETON HAD COME HERE IN THE TWILIGHT YEARS OF THE WILD WEST, AND HE HAD PLAYED HIS PART IN ITS DESTRUCTION.

BUT THIS WAS NOT THE END OF LOBO'S IMPACT ON THE WORLD OF MEN... WHAT HAPPENED NEXT -- TO SETON, AND TO THE STORY HE WROTE ABOUT LOBO, WOULD HAVE A PROFOUND EFFECT ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AMERICANS AND THEIR WILDERNESS.

SETON HEADED EAST, DEEPLY AFFECTED BY HIS WESTERN ADVENTURE AND DETERMINED TO RECORD WHAT HAD HAPPENED.

IN THE STORY HE WROTE, HE BOLDLY CAST HIMSELF AS THE VILLAIN... AND THE WOLF AS THE HERO.

HIS BOOK, 'WILD ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN,' WAS AN IMMEDIATE WORLDWIDE HIT.

VIRTUALLY OVERNIGHT, IT PROPELLED SETON FROM A LITTLE-KNOWN NATURALIST INTO A MAJOR CELEBRITY.

BUT WHAT REALLY MATTERED TO SETON NOW WAS SAVING AMERICA'S WILDERNESS BEFORE IT WAS TOO LATE.

HISTORIAN DAVID WITT THINKS THE TURNING POINT CAN BE TRACED BACK TO A SINGLE WORD IN SETON'S JOURNAL.

Witt: HE HAS THIS LAST WORD IN THE ENTRY -- 'WHY?'

AND IT'S A VERY BIG 'WHY,' IT WAS EVEN WRITTEN IN LARGE LETTERS.

MAYBE HE WAS PUTTING DOWN THAT 'WHY' ASKING 'WHY DID THE ANIMAL DIE?'

BECAUSE HE FOLLOWS-UP WITH A COUPLE OF NOTES ABOUT THE PHYSICAL CONDITION OF THE ANIMAL.

BUT I THINK THAT THE 'WHY' WAS MUCH BIGGER THAN THAT.

IT REALLY WAS A 'WHY' ASKING, 'WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?

'WHAT IS OUR RELATIONSHIP TO NATURE, WHY ARE WE DESTROYING IT LIKE THIS?'

Abraham: AT A TIME WHEN FEW PEOPLE QUESTIONED THE DESTRUCTION OF NATURE, SETON SPOKE UP FOR THE WILDERNESS.

HIS VIEWS ABOUT THE VALUE OF THE WILD FOUND FAVOR WITH POLITICIANS LIKE TEDDY ROOSEVELT, AND HELPED TO TURN THE TIDE OF PUBLIC OPINION.

[ WATERFALL ROARING ] SETON USED HIS INFLUENCE TO PUSH FOR THE CREATION OF MORE NATIONAL PARKS.

THOUSANDS OF ORDINARY AMERICANS BECAME AWARE OF THEIR SPECTACULAR NATURAL HERITAGE.

[ ENGINE SPUTTERING ] Witt: SO SETON TOOK A LEADING ROLE IN WHAT BECAME THE CONSERVATION MOVEMENT, AND EVENTUALLY THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT.

HE WAS TALKING ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP NOT ONLY TO ANIMALS, BUT TO ALL OF NATURE -- HE WAS DOING IT IN A VERY ECOLOGICAL WAY, HE WAS CERTAINLY ONE OF THE FIRST ECOLOGISTS.

Abraham: SETON ALSO LOBBIED FOR HUNTING RESTRICTIONS AND ANTI-POACHING MEASURES, AND WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN PUSHING THROUGH RADICAL NEW LAWS TO PROTECT MIGRATING BIRDS.

HE DID LOBBY FOR ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION, INCLUDING THE FIRST WILDLIFE LEGISLATION THAT PROTECTED MIGRATORY ANIMALS.

AND BECAUSE OF SETON, THEY LOBBIED CONGRESS AND EXPANDED GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY TO THE INTERSTATE CONTROL OF WILDLIFE.

IT WAS A MAJOR INCREASE IN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY, AND IT LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION THAT HAS COME AFTER THAT TIME.

Abraham: AND IT WASN'T JUST A QUESTION OF SAVING THE WILDERNESS -- SETON FELT THAT PEOPLE HAD TO EXPERIENCE IT IN ORDER TO CARE ABOUT IT, THAT IT SHOULD BE A PART OF EVERYONE'S UPBRINGING.

INSPIRED BY THE VALUES OF NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE, HE FOUNDED THE 'WOODCRAFT INDIANS,' AN ORGANIZATION THAT TAUGHT CHILDREN MANY OF THE SKILLS NEEDED FOR OUTDOOR LIFE, ALONG WITH A RESPECT FOR NATURE.

MANY OF THESE IDEAS WERE LATER ADOPTED FOR THE BASIS FOR THE BOY SCOUTS IN ENGLAND, AND SETON HIMSELF WAS A FOUNDING FATHER OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA.

BY THE EARLY YEARS OF THE 20th CENTURY, THE UNITED STATES LED THE WORLD IN THE CONSERVATION OF NATURE, AND TENS OF THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN WERE HEADING OFF TO CAMP IN THE WOODS AND THE MOUNTAINS.

SETON HAD BEEN A PRIME MOVER IN ALL OF THIS, AND IT HAD ALL STARTED BACK IN THE CURRUMPAW, IN THE AUTUMN OF 1893, WHEN HE'D SET OUT TO KILL AN OUTLAW WOLF CALLED 'LOBO.'

BUT WHAT ABOUT WOLVES?

WAS THE NEW NATURE-LOVING AMERICA READY TO EMBRACE ITS OLD ENEMY?

FOR DECADES, SETON WAS VIRTUALLY ALONE IN HIS DESIRE TO PROTECT WOLVES ALONGSIDE THE OTHER WILD ANIMALS.

IT HAS TAKEN A LONG TIME FOR THE REST OF AMERICA TO CATCH UP.

AS HEAD OF THE WOLF RECOVERY PROGRAM IN YELLOWSTONE, DOUG SMITH SEES HIS JOB AS TRYING TO COMPLETE WHAT SETON BEGAN.

Smith: THE CHANGE OF HEART TO WOLVES HAS ONLY BEEN GOING FOR ABOUT 30 OR 40 YEARS -- I MEAN, LITERALLY, IN THE UNITED STATES, INTO THE 1960s, MOST PEOPLE STILL THOUGHT WOLVES WERE BAD.

AND I THINK WHAT WE HAD WAS AN AWAKENING TO A NEW ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT, AND THAT KILLING ALL THESE PREDATORS -- WOLVES AND OTHER CARNIVORES -- WITHOUT QUESTION, FOR SO LONG, I THINK THE LIGHT BULB WENT ON IN PEOPLE'S HEADS AS, 'WHY?'

BUT I NEED TO BE VERY CLEAR -- THERE IS STILL A LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO RETAIN THE OLD VIEW OF WOLVES.

I KNOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE COME UP TO ME AND SAID, 'MY GRANDFATHER 'KILLED OFF THIS ANIMAL TO MAKE LIFE HERE EASIER, AND BRINGING IT BACK.'

SO ATTITUDES HAVE CHANGED, BUT THE OLD ATTITUDE STILL EXISTS.

AND SO NOW WE'RE AT THIS VERY POLARIZED BASHING OF HEADS ABOUT HOW TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD.

BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE FEEL PREDATORS LIKE WOLVES HAVE NO PLACE, STILL -- AS MANY PEOPLE FELT IN SETON'S TIME.

BUT OTHERS ARE SAYING, 'HEY, WE MADE A MISTAKE, AND WE NEED TO BRING WOLVES BACK.'

SETON HAS HAD A TREMENDOUS IMPACT ON WHERE WE ARE TODAY IN TERMS OF RESPECTING NATURE.

AND I THINK ENOUGH PEOPLE -- AT LEAST IN NORTH AMERICA -- CANADIANS AND AMERICANS, RECOGNIZE THAT WE HAVE MAYBE OVERSTRETCHED OUR REACH, IN TERMS OF WHAT WE'VE TAKEN.

Abraham: SETON'S PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION, FROM WOLF-KILLER TO WOLF-PROTECTOR, WAS THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING MUCH BIGGER.

IT SET THE COURSE FOR A TOTALLY FRESH UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURE OF WOLVES.

AND IT HELPED PAVE THE WAY FOR THE RETURN OF WOLVES AND OTHER PREDATORS TO THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE AT THE HEART OF THE WILD.

THE DUEL BETWEEN SETON AND LOBO MAY HAVE LED TO SAD DEATHS, BUT ULTIMATELY, IT ALSO BREATHED NEW LIFE INTO AMERICANS' APPRECIATION OF THEIR WILDERNESS.

[ HOWLING ] IN LATER LIFE, SETON RETURNED TO LIVE IN HIS BELOVED NEW MEXICO.

Abraham: RIGHT UP TO HIS DEATH IN 1946, SETON CONTINUED TO REFLECT ON THE WOLF THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE.