A large wolf-like animal shot and killed May 16 by a rancher near Denton has wildlife officials and the public wondering what it was.
Here’s what is not in question: The animal came within several hundred yards of the rancher’s livestock. He shot it and reported it as required by law. The animal was a young, non-lactating female and a canid, a member of the dog family, which includes dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves.
Those facts are not unusual in Montana’s farm and ranch county.
The animal originally was reported as a wolf, but several Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ wolf specialists looked at photos of the animal and collectively doubted it was a purebred wolf: the canine teeth were too short, the front paws too small and the claws on the front paw were too long.
Nevertheless, social media was quick to pronounce the animal as everything from a wolf to a wolf hybrid to something mythical.
Rather than guess, FWP sent the carcass to the Department’s lab in Bozeman where tissue samples will be collected, then shipped to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Laboratory in Ashland, Org.
In a laboratory, scientists extract DNA from cells, looking for markers specific to individual species. Those markers are then compared to samples of known species on hand.
While the process may take a week, just getting to that stage may take weeks or months, depending on the laboratory’s backlog of cases.
All of which means it may be awhile before the anyone really knows what the animal near Denton really was.