Last month, a strange wolf-like creature showed up on a ranch in Denton, Montana and was promptly shot and killed by the rancher after it strayed too near to his livestock.
Game wardens collected the animal and took it away for DNA testing and physical inspection.
Officials from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (Montana FWP) were puzzled at the time. "Something was not right about the animal," they said in a video. "It does not look like a wild wolf."
The Internet speculated that it could be a werewolf (of course), a dire wolf (#TeamStark), the Chupacabra (why not), or even the Shunka Warakin, an animal from Native American folklore that resembles a hyena as well as a wolf.
Speculation focused on the animal's short legs, large ears, and fur, which many said were not typical of a wolf.
Specialists suggested that the animal could perhaps be a wolf-dog hybrid. It is possible for the two species to interbreed and they share an evolutionary past. It was definitely less far-fetched than Internet speculation about the Wolfman, anyway.
“Based on the photograph, [the wolf expert] has some doubts as to whether or not it’s a pure-bred wolf or hybrid of a wild dog of sorts,” Sargeant Kyle Andersene of the Montana FWP told a local radio station at the time.
The canine was taken to the US Fish and Wildlife Service forensic laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, for further tests. DNA has since been taken from the animal, compared with thousands of samples from wolves, dogs, and coyotes, and a definitive answer has been found.
So what is this mysterious "wolf-like" creature? Well, in short, it's a wolf.
Specifically, DNA tests and physical inspections confirmed that the animal was a 2 or 3-year-old female grey wolf. Upon closer viewing, the wolf didn't even look that odd, the Montana FWP revealed in a statement.
Physical variations, like those seen here, aren't unusual for animals, Mary Curtis, a geneticist at the US Fish and Wildlife Service told Montana FWP.
“Within species there can be variability that’s not surprising at all."
The wolf wasn't lactating, which means there isn't a litter of pups out there missing their mom, just in case you are worried.
Gray wolves are listed as "endangered" and currently protected under the Endangered Species Act. According to the 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report, there are around 900 wolves thought to be in the area, after a successful recovery program. However, despite the Court of Appeals ruling against the previous delisting of the animals last year, the US Fish And Wildlife recently announced it is again "reviewing" their endangered status.