7 Animals Humans Devoured Into Extinction

Imagine sitting down to dinner with a woolly mammoth steak on your plate, or perhaps a dodo bird drumstick. Sounds like something out of a wild fantasy, doesn’t it? Yet, once upon a time, such creatures were not just figments of our imagination but real, breathing animals that roamed the Earth.

Our ancestors, however, had a knack for turning these extraordinary beings into their next meal, often without a second thought about tomorrow.

This tale isn’t just about culinary adventures gone by; it’s a cautionary story of how human cravings have nibbled some of the Earth’s most magnificent creatures right out of existence.

1. Woolly Mammoth

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Image Credit: Pavel Kruglov/Shutterstock.

The woolly mammoth, an imposing creature that stood up to 12 feet tall and weighed over 7 tons, once roamed the frigid landscapes of Eurasia and North America. While climate change played a significant role in their extinction around 7,500 years ago, recent studies suggest that human hunting may have also been a driving force in their demise.

Thanks to a number of well-preserved, frozen carcasses in Siberia, the woolly mammoth is the best-known of all mammoth species.

2. Eurasian Aurochs

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Image Credit: Michal Ninger/Shutterstock

The Eurasian aurochs, the ancestor of modern cattle, once inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa. These massive bovines stood up to 6.6 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed around 2,200 pounds ¹.

Hunted for their meat, hides, and horns, the last known aurochs died in Poland in 1627.

Attempts to breed back the aurochs have resulted in cattle breeds that resemble their extinct ancestor, but the original species is lost forever.

3. Passenger Pigeon

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Image Credit: ChicagoPhotographer/Shutterstock

Once famed for its massive migratory flocks that would darken the sky for days, the passenger pigeon was hunted to extinction in the early 1900s. Billions of these gregarious birds once inhabited eastern North America.

As settlers pressed westward, passenger pigeons were slaughtered by the millions yearly and shipped by railway carloads for sale in city markets. Enormous numbers were captured by sailors, who often drove the birds up planks and slaughtered them on their way into the hold of a vessel.

4. Steller’s Sea Cow

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Image Credit: Danny JP/Shutterstock

Discovered in 1741 ³ by German naturalist Georg W. Steller, Steller’s sea cows once inhabited the near-shore areas of the Komandor Islands in the Bering Sea.

Much larger than present-day manatees and dugongs, these massive, docile animals floated at the surface of the coastal waters. This made them easy targets for the harpoons of Russian seal hunters, who prized them as a source of meat on long sea journeys.

Killing was often wasteful and the species was exterminated by 1768, less than 30 years after it was first discovered. No preserved specimens exist today.

5. Dodo

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Image Credit: The Art of Pics/Shutterstock

“Dead as a dodo.” These flightless, ground-nesting birds were once bountiful on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Larger than turkeys, dodos had blue-gray plumage and a large head.

With no natural predators, the birds were unfazed by the Portuguese sailors that discovered them around 1507. These and subsequent sailors quickly decimated the dodo population as an easy source of fresh meat for their voyages.

The later introduction of monkeys, pigs, and rats to the island proved catastrophic to the languishing birds as the mammals feasted on their vulnerable eggs. The last dodo was killed in 1681.

But, scientists are working to bring the bird back to life ⁴.

6. Caribbean Monk Seal

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Image Credit: C mcarter/Shutterstock

This docile, trusting seal once inhabited the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Their curious nature and tendency to approach boats made them easy targets for hunters, who prized them for their meat, oil, and skin.

The last confirmed sighting of a Caribbean monk seal was in 1952, and the species was officially declared extinct in 2008.

7. Great Auk

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Image Credit: Ann Stryzhekin/Shutterstock

The flightless great auk, once found in the North Atlantic, was hunted to extinction for its meat, feathers, and oil. The last pair was killed on Eldey Island, Iceland, in June 1844 ², and the species was lost forever.

The great auk’s tragic story has come to symbolize the devastating impact of human exploitation on vulnerable species.

Humans & Choices

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Image Credit: Gorodenkoff/ShutterStock.

Human appetites have driven numerous species to extinction, serving as a sobering reminder of our impact on the natural world. As we move forward, it is crucial that we learn from our past mistakes and strive to protect the incredible biodiversity that still exists on our planet.

By making conscious choices about what we consume and advocating for the conservation of threatened species, we can help ensure that future generations have the opportunity to marvel at the rich web of life on Earth.


  1. https://www.theextinctions.com/articles-1/ns0atubs8qd60o16itraa69zhw7e0w
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6879203/
  3. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/stellers-sea-cow-first-historical-extinction-of-marine-mammal-at-human-hands.html
  4. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/01/31/genetics-company-wants-bring-back-dodo-along-woolly-mammoth/11141047002/
Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.