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Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has ordered a DNA test because they have “no idea what this is.”
The animal was attacking livestock when it was shot on May 16th in Denton, Montana. So, the rancher called up the local animal authority to report killing the “wolf,” the service decided that the animal’s teeth, paws, ears and fur didn’t fit the profile of a wolf. Bruce Auchly of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks told local media:
“We have no idea what this was until we get a DNA report back.”
Information manager Auchly contined:
“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.”
Bozeman is in southern Montana, west of Billings and south of Great Falls.
Here are some close-up photos of the animal.
In comparison, a wolf’s paw should be between 4″ and 5″ in length not including claws.
Here’s a close-up of the animal’s profile:
So What Is It?
The Wolf Management Specialist with the Montana authority is guessing that it might be a rare dog/wolf hybrid.
“Several things grabbed my attention when I saw the pictures. The ears are too big. The legs look a little short. The feet look a little small, and the coat looks weird. There’s just something off about [the animal].”
In the last few years, hybrids have been killing livestock.
“We’ve had a few instances of wolf/dog hybrids out there. One was out somewhere in eastern central Montana killing sheep like crazy. Finally, we caught it and it turned out to be a hybrid.”
Hybrid Wolf/Dogs Largely Bred In Captivity
According to the International Wolf Center, which provides scientific information and learning opportunities while supporting “well-informed dialogue about management of wolfhuman contact,” most wolf/dog hybrids are bred in captivity because a wolf’s territorial nature prevents them from tolerating dogs, coyotes and other wolves from entering their range.
Hybrid pups can have varied appearances due to the mixed genetic bag, and their behavior is difficult to predict.
Because of the difficulty in caring for a hybrid, thousands of pet wolves and pet hybrids are abandoned or euthanized every year.
So, if the DNA turns out that the strange beast shot in Denton, Montana is a hybrid, it was likely dropped off in the woods by an owner who bite off more than he could chew.
According to Smucker, the hybrids are supposed to be on a list:
“If you have a wolfdog hybrid it’s supposed to have a tattoo on a lip, and it’s supposed to be registered with the state. A lot of those people don’t bother following regulations.”
Let’s take a look at a few of the other possibilities and bring up some comparisons while we’re talking about strange animals.
A doglike creature in Native American folklore, the Shunka Warakin has a sloped back like a hyena and takes its name from the act of carrying off dogs from camps at night.
The first reported appearance of the Shunka Warakin to white settlers was an animal shot in 1886 by a Mormon settler in Montana, who had the beast he called Ringdocus stuffed by a taxidermist. The animal was on display until the 1980s, and no DNA testing was conducted. The specimen was eventually re-located by the grandson of the man who shot the animal and it has been on display since 2007 in a museum in Madison Valley.
Montana Black Wolf
The animal that was shot in Montana has a similar color coat and overall shape.
As for the sloping back of the Ringdocus, let’s compare with a South African spotted hyena with their trademark low back. The backs of hyenas aren’t sloped due to any deformity in the back, but rather due to the evolution of longer front legs.
Legal to Shoot Wolves, but Hybrids?
According to a state law passed in 2013, it is legal for a landowner to kill a wolf when the animal is on the landowner’s property and it poses a “potential threat to human safety, livestock or dogs.”
If the animal turns out to be part of a pattern of aggressive, unpredictable hybrids killing livestock, then more laws might be necessary.
Sources: Great Falls Tribune, The Animal Files, International Wolf Center