Wolf-like creature puzzles animal experts in Montana
Wildlife experts and conspiracy theorists in Montana have been left baffled by the discovery of a wolf-like creature, which was shot after coming too close to livestock.
The odd-looking creature has many of the characteristics of a wolf, including long grey fur, a large head and a snout. However, it also possesses many features that are not typical to wolves, including ears that are too large, a short body and short legs. Apparently, the type of fur was not normal for a wolf either.
According to The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the animal was shot and killed on a ranch outside of Denton on May 16 and the shooting was then reported to the department, as is required by law. Legislation passed in 2013 made it legal for a landowner to kill a wolf if it is on their property and carries "a potential threat to human safety, livestock or dogs."
Wolf specialists working for the department have identified that it was "a young, non-lactating female and a canid, a member of the dog family, which includes dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves." However, exactly what the creature's lineage may be is yet to be confirmed.
If it does turn out to be a wolf-dog hybrid, as some have suggested, the discovery may still be more unusual than most people would assume. On their website, the International Wolf Center says that even in the wild, interbreeding between wolves and dogs is rare: "Although hybrids can occur naturally in the wild, they are rare because the territorial nature of wolves leads them to protect their home ranges from intruding canines such as dogs, coyotes and other wolves."
Despite the department's statement reassuring the public that the creature was probably not "something mythical", it didn't stop people speculating as to what it could be. Some social media users argued that it could just be a really big dog, while others suggested it is more likely to be a malnourished baby grizzly bear. Some even claimed that it could be a direwolf, a type of large prehistoric wolf that was - until now - believed to have become extinct many years ago.
Bruce Auchly, information manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said: "We have no idea what this was until we get a DNA report back", adding that the animal had been sent to their lab in the city of Bozeman. The official statement also warned that it may take "weeks or months" for the results to come back.