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The DNA results are in for a mysterious wolf-like animal shot and killed in Montana in May. To nobody’s great surprise, it didn’t turn out to be some sort of mythical monster.
But, contrary to the expectations of experts at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), it’s not a wolf-dog hybrid, either.
The animal has turned out be just a pure grey wolf, from the northern Rocky Mountains.
The appearance of this unusual wolf first made global headlines when it was shot by a rancher on May 16 near Denton, Montana after it ventured a little too close to his livestock.
He reported it as a wolf, but photos of the beast seemed to show some inconsistencies with standard wolf morphology.
According to wolf experts, it seemed that the young female’s paws were too small for a wolf, her teeth too short, her ears too big, and her front claws too long. They suspected the animal might be a dog-wolf hybrid, which, while rare, do show up from time to time.
“Confusion about the animal might be due to the condition of the animal and the photos, which seemed to show short legs and big ears,” FWP said in a new statement.
“Inspection of the animal at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife health lab in Bozeman revealed a relatively normal looking, dark brown wolf.”
Individual physical characteristics aren’t uncommon in the wild, so if she differed slightly from other wolves, that would still be totally normal.
“Within species there can be variability that’s not surprising at all,” said geneticist Mary Curtis of the US Fish and Wildlife Services.