A mysterious wolf-like creature killed on a ranch in Montana has baffled local wildlife officials.
The animal, which was shot within several hundred metres of the rancher’s livestock, has long greyish fur, an extended snout and a large head like a wolf.
It also has long, large ears and a short body and legs – features that are uncharacteristic for a North American wolf.
The creature is now with officials at the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for a DNA analysis, with one official saying he had ‘no idea’ what it is.
UK experts said the animal was most likely a cross between a wolf and a coyote or dog, and may even be part of an elaborate prank.
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A large wolf-like creature shot and killed on a ranch in Montana has baffled local wildlife officials. The animal (pictured), which was shot within several hundred metres of the rancher’s livestock, has long grayish fur, an extended snout and a large head like a wolf
Richard Morley, director of the Exeter-based charity the Wolves and Humans Foundation, told MailOnline: ‘This is almost certainly a wolf or a wolf/dog or wolf/coyote hybrid.
‘It will be interesting to see if the DNA results ever surface. It could even be a badly stuffed taxidermy specimen set up as a joke.’
Mike Collins, site manager and wolf keeper at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Berkshire, said the specimen could simply be a wolf with unusual features.
He told MailOnline: ‘I would hazard a guess at either a wolfdog hybrid or just a regular wolf.
‘Wolves can be as individual as we are, in fact every animal is an individual as a result of our genetic material.’
The lone-predator was shot and killed on a ranch outside Denton, Montana on May 16 and quickly turned over to State officials.
The strange creature also features long, large ears and a short body and legs that are uncharacteristic for a North American wolf. Pictured is the animal’s head next to a pen for scale
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.’
Montana government officials say they have ‘no idea’ what the creature is. Pictured is its paw next to a human hand
‘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.’
Ty Smucker, wolf management specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the animal is most likely a wolfdog hybrid.
He said: ‘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 it.
‘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 wolfdogs are common in North America, where they are highly regulated and often bred in captivity.
Breeders are supposed to tattoo the animal’s lip and register it with the state to keep numbers down, though locals often ignore these regulations, Smucker said.
UK experts said the animal was most likely a cross between a wolf and a coyote or dog, and may even be part of an elaborate prank. Pictured is a North American gray wolf
Thousands are released into the wild each year as the pets become too big and dangerous for owners to keep.
After photos of the creature shot in Montana surfaced online a number of people took to Twitter to weigh in on what they thought the animal was.
@GFTrib_SDettmer wrote: ‘Adolescent werewolf, for sure.’
User @Rambobiggs said: ‘Sooo basically what you’re saying is that a wolf and bear made love in the woods’.
Some social media users suggested the creature was a Dogman – a mythical wolf-like predator said to roam the forests of North America.
‘That could very well be what’s being called Dogman,’ one user suggested, as reported by Montana’s Great Falls Tribune.
‘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 you don’t believe it.’
The theory is unlikely to be true as there has never been a confirmed sighting of the hybrid beasts.
Some speculated the animal was a malnourished bear cub or a dire wolf (artist’s impression) – a mythical dog-like creature made famous after it featured on TV drama Game of Thrones
Some speculated the animal was a malnourished bear cub or a dire wolf – a mythical dog-like creature made famous after it featured on TV drama Game of Thrones.
This theory was rejected by Auchly.
‘First off (dire wolf) was a song by the Grateful Dead from 1971,’ he said of the mythical creature.
‘I know; I listened to it many times. Number two, it’s a prehistoric animal, like mastodons and saber toothed tigers; so it doesn’t exist.’
Mr Morley told MailOnline: ‘What it definitely isn’t is a grizzly bear cub, dire wolf or dog man! It must have been a slow news day in Montana.’