The mystery of a seemingly bizarre “wolf-like” creature that was shot and killed in Montana last month has been solved: The animal was a wolf all along.
DNA results from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensic laboratory in Oregon show the lupine creature was a female gray wolf. (The gray wolf is a wolf species, and individuals can vary in color.) The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced the results in a press release on Monday.
In May, a rancher shot and killed the wolf on his property near the Montana town of Denton. He brought the carcass to state wildlife authorities, who were puzzled by its appearance and speculated the animal may have been a wolf-dog hybrid. Officials sent the carcass for further inspection to a lab in Bozeman, Montana. Tissue samples were then sent to the Oregon lab for DNA testing.
Initial “confusion” about the creature could have been “due to the condition of the animal and the photos, which seemed to show short legs and big ears,” the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said in Monday’s statement. When researchers examined the animal in Bozeman, they found a “relatively normal looking, dark brown wolf,” according to the release.
The wolf was 2 years to 3 years old and she wasn’t lactating, meaning she didn’t leave a litter of pups behind.
The rancher who shot the wolf didn’t break the law, the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks statement noted, because it’s legal in Montana for property owners to shoot wolves they believe threaten their livestock.