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13 animals hunted to extinction

By: Bryan Nelson on May 6, 2011, 12:45 p.m.
An illustration of a flock of Great Auk

Photo: Errol Fuller/Wiki Commons/CC License

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Great auk

Once estimated to number in the millions, these huge flightless waterbirds were hunted to extinction by the 1850s. As their numbers dwindled, the price of their pelts and eggs became so valuable that even museums of the time had sanctioned them to be collected, so that their skins could be used for preservation and display.

The effort to wipe the birds out was so systematic that the killing of the last known pair was documented in gruesome detail. On July 3rd, 1844, a hunter named Sigurður Ísleifsson had strangled the last two adults, while his partner Ketill Ketilsson smashed the egg the birds had been incubating with his boot.