The wolf was considered with a lot of respect and often as the origin of men (American Indians, Mongols...) by many old and ancient peoples. In the Roman mythology for instance, a she-wolf took in and raised the two founders of Rome and symbolizes the pax romana. A she-wolf is also at the origin of the first Turks.
Demonization started with the great occidental monotheistic religions and the invasions by Germanic barbarian peoples. Indeed, the warriors of some of these peoples cloaked themselves in wolf hides, creating a negative image of wolves. If one adds to that the damages done to expanding livestock, one can understand how wolves acquired an infernal dimension. The spreading of these religions also dispersed this extremely negative vision at the origin of the persecutions of the following centuries. Therefore, the destruction and extermination campaigns (very often encouraged by the States with slaughter bounties) lasted till the middle of the XXth century and led to the strong decline, or even to the extinction of the predator in many countries (France, Sweden, United Kingdom...).
In North America, whereas the American Indians respected wolves, the arrival of Europeans and the following Christianization caused a systematic destruction of the species, which the extermination of bisons made worse. Apart from the direct extermination, the unlimited hunting of wild ungulates led to the rise of wolf attacks on the domestic herds by a phenomenon of transfer of the predation. These attacks on the livestock increased the hatred people had for wolves and sped up their destruction.
While the number of the species is at its lowest throughout the world, an international realization of environmental problems has allowed protection laws linked to international compacts to be put in place in many countries where wolves have practically disappeared since the 1970s. Thus the remaining wolf populations are strictly protected and, thanks to the reintroduction and protection of wild ungulates, start to increase and recolonize the territory they had lost. For instance, this is the case for the Italian wolves ; the surviving hundred individuals in the Abruzzi multiplied themselves and migrated towards the South and the North, to the alpine arc, and eventually crossed the Franco-Italian border to settle in the Mercantour in November 1992. And this is the point from which wolves progressively recolonized the French Alps and other massifs as well nowadays (Massif central, Pyrenees, Jura mountains).
- Minutes of the seminar of the LIFE programme of restitution - p.129: The human dimension of the conflict between men and wolves (in French)