During the nineteenth century settlement of Arkansas, the red wolf (Canis rufos), black bear (Ursus americanus), and mourtain lion (Puma concolor) were not only the three largest and most dangerous predators, they also stirred the imaginations of explorers and settlers. References to these species appeared prominently in the journals of early explorers such as George W. Featherstonhaugh (1844) and Frederick Gerstaecker (1854), and their presence inspired voluminous collections of stories and tall tales. Black bears were so common that a large trade developed in pelts, oil, and other body parts, and Arkansas became commonly known as "The Bear State." Wolves and mountain lions also were common and were despised for their suspected predation on livestock and their threat to human life. As a result, the General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature enacted laws that provided bounties for killing these animals. The species were overexploited, and all three nearly were extirpated from the state by the 1920s- 1930s. A stable bear population has now been restored (due to a restoration program in the White River National Wildlife Refuge and re-stocking programs in the Interior Highlands undertaken by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission), the red wolf is considered to be extinct from the state, and the status of the mountain lion is uncertain.

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