A mysterious creature was shot and killed in Montana earlier this month.
The wolf-like animal had long grayish fur, a large head and an extended snout. Although it looked similar to a wolf, its ears were too long. A rancher near Denton, Montana, shot the strange animal on May 16, according to the Great Falls Tribune.
Wildlife officials are stumped.
“We have no idea what this was until we get a DNA report back,” Bruce Auchly, information manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told the Tribune. “It was near a rancher’s place, it was shot, and our game wardens went to investigate. The whole animal was sent to our lab in Bozeman. That’s the last I ever heard of it.”
In a news release, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said, “The animal originally was reported as a wolf, but several Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ wolf specialists looked at photos of the animal and collectively doubted it was a purebred wolf: The canine teeth were too short, the front paws too small and the claws on the front paw were too long.”
The carcass has been sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, and FWP’s lab in Bozeman.
While the officials are moving cautiously, people commenting online have no such reservations.
Some hypothesized the animal was a starving grizzly cub.
Others took the speculation further, wondering if it was a dire wolf. Dire wolves are an extinct canine species. They roamed the North American continent during the late pleistocene epoch, between 125,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Then there was online chatter about Dogman, a theory on par with Bigfoot.
One online commenter wrote, “That could very well be what’s being called Dogman,” the Tribune reported. “They’re spotted each day and the government quells any and all reports. Several people report being strong-armed into keeping quiet about their reports by men wearing black suits. These are just facts. Look into if if you don’t believe it.”
Wildlife officials dismissed those reports.
One more plausible explanation is that the animal was a wolf/dog hybrid.
“We’ve had a few instances of wolf/dog hybrids out there,” Ty Smucker, wolf management specialist for Montana FWP told the Tribune. “One was out somewhere in eastern-central Montana killing sheep like crazy. Finally, we caught it and it turned out to be a hybrid.”
Wolf-dog hybrids can produce offspring, unlike mules. But they can behave erratically and are heavily regulated.
Still, pending testing of the animals carcass, nobody knows what the creature is. The testing could take weeks or even months, depending on the labs’ backlog of cases.
For more, read the Great Falls Tribune’s story.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.