A strange canid recently shot and killed in Montana looks so weird, that authorities are going to be conducting DNA testing to determine what kind of animal it actually is.
A rancher near the town of Denton killed the animal on May 16 when it ventured within several hundred yards of his livestock; he then reported the kill to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) in accordance with local law.
Because the animal was close to a residence and livestock, the rancher was within his legal rights to shoot it.
Wolves are native to the area, so that's what the animal was reported as - but when the department's wolf experts looked at photographs of the animal, they noticed several problems with the identification.
"Something was not right about the animal," a spokesman for the department said in a video released on Twitter. "It does not look like a wild wolf."
Update on wolf-like animal shot bear Denton, Montana. pic.twitter.com/otvrPrIWD2— Montana FWP (@MontanaFWP) May 25, 2018
The canid was a young female, but her paws were too small for a wolf, her teeth too short, her ears too big, and her front claws too long.
This means she is probably some sort of wolf hybrid - perhaps with a coyote, which are also found in Montana, or, as Montana FWP suspects, with a dog.
That hasn't stopped the internet, as the internet does, from wildly speculating, with cryptid communities excited about the possibility of a dogman (or dogwoman, as it were) or werewolf, or even it being a member of the extinct dire wolf species.
But the case for any of those options is weak at best, especially since none of them have been seen and reported by a reliable source, while dog-wolf hybrids are totally a thing.
"We've had a few instances of wolf/dog hybrids out there," Montana FWP wolf expert Ty Smucker told the Great Falls 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."
Dog-wolf hybrids are mainly produced in captivity, and supposed to be registered with a tattoo, since they can be unpredictable. And, although it's rare because wolves are so territorial, this kind of crossbreed could occur in the wild.
Furthermore, not everyone follows the regulations about dog-wolf hybrids; according to the International Wolf Center, this can lead to poor behaviour when owners realise they may have bitten off a bit more than they can chew.
"Every year, thousands of pet wolves or hybrids are abandoned, rescued or euthanised because people purchase an animal they were not prepared to care for," the organisation's website reads.
"Education about the behaviour, health and containment of wolves and hybrids and about laws pertinent to their ownership before people buy may prevent hardships for both human and animal."
Meanwhile, samples of our mystery animal's DNA have been sent to Montana FWP's laboratory for analysis. Depending on the backlog, it may be some months before we get an answer - but we're willing to bet money that answer will not be "werewolf".