BATTLE GROUND, INDIANA - Growing up in the city of Indianapolis, it's not often that you see animals such as bobcats, coyotes and red foxes. However, as you venture out into the more rural parts of Indiana, more and more wildlife begins to appear (if you're looking for it).
As much as I find interest in the animals that are here today, I enjoy looking at the ones that have came and went. I recently went to Wolf Park located in Tippecanoe County to look at a few of the species that once roamed all throughout the Hoosier State.
According to WFYI, wolves used to roam Indiana by the thousands. Native Americans had found a way to live alongside the wolf and incorporate the mammal into their lifestyles.
Unfortunately, many of Indiana's first European settlers viewed the mammal as a nuisance and began to eliminate the species from the state. This shouldn't come as any surprise if you've looked into the history of our world, Europeans aren't the best at sharing land.
Wolves interfered with the livestock of farmers, and men were determined to get rid of "the big bad wolf". All across the continental United States, wolves were being eradicated from the environment, and by the year 1950, they were almost extinct. The wolf was completely out of Indiana in the year in 1908.
Once federal protection for wolves began in 1973, they began to return to some of our states that share a border with Canada. As of today, there are wolf packs in Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Wisconsin, Michigan, Wyoming and Alaska.
The wolf still hasn't found its way back to Indiana and the last known wolf sighting in our state was back in 2003. Thanks to Wolf Park, located near the city of Lafayette, I was able to see some wolves in Indiana. As I was walking around the park, one of the wolves pulled up right next to me.
It'd be nice if we could find a way to co-exist with the species. With no wolves in our state, deer have began to over populate many areas. Eagle Creek Park, located on the westside of Indianapolis, has had to implement a Deer Management Program. There is a deer hunt at Eagle Creek scheduled for 2019 in which roughly 100 deer are intended to be killed.
Despite the park's name, Wolf Park isn't only a home for wolves, the park features another animal that has been eradicated from our state... the bison.
Washington Times Herald - Native Americans used them for a food source, but they only killed them to satisfy their needs. When the white men entered Indiana it was a different story. They killed not only for the meat and hides of the bison, but also apparently just for the fun and the sport of the kill.
Bison were once so prevalent in the state of Indiana that the animal is featured on the state seal. Killing the bison essentially killed two birds with one stone for European settlers. The removal of the bison was the first step in removing the Native Americans.
Interestingly enough, by the time Indiana had reached statehood, our bison population had dwindled down to the point where only a few herds remained. In the year 1889, less than 1,000 bison were living in the ENTIRE United States (Visit Indiana).
The state has began to reintroduce the animal to our environment and there is now a free roaming herd in Newton County. Here's a look at some of the bison I was able to see at Wolf Park.
Black Bears and Mountain Lions
Black bears used to live in the more forested regions of the state, and it wasn't until recently that they have been seen again. Due to hunting and elimination of their habitat, there was nearly an 150 year gap (1871 to 2015) between bear sightings in Indiana. Seeing a bear is EXTREMELY rare in our state, just a few months ago a bear was hit by a car near I-64.
Mountain lions, like many of the other animals in this article, were out of Indiana before the 20th century. Although there have been some sightings in recent years, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources states there are no breeding populations of mountain lions in the Hoosier State.
I'm proud that Indiana is slowly reintroducing the wildlife that was once misunderstood. I'm currently doing the same for myself, reintroducing myself to the parts of me that I never understood.