US wildlife experts are baffled by a “wolf-like” animal that was killed by a Montana farmer.
The rancher near the town of Denton shot the creature last week when it came within several hundred metres of his livestock, said officials.
State wildlife experts said they have been unable to pinpoint its species.
After inspecting the creature, they said they doubt it’s a wolf as its teeth were too short, front paws abnormally small and claws too large.
Bizarre theories have circulated online that it could be a werewolf, a young grizzly bear or a relative of Bigfoot.
In a news release, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) said it was a “young, non-lactating female and a canid, a member of the dog family that includes dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves”.
“We have no idea what this was until we get a DNA report back,” a spokesman for the agency, Bruce Auchly, told the Great Falls Tribune.
He added that it may be up to a week before results come in, which should help identify the cryptid.
“Several things grabbed my attention when I saw the pictures,” Ty Smucker, wolf management specialist for Montana FWP, told the newspaper.
“The ears are too big. The legs look a little short. The feet look a little small, and the coat looks weird.
“There’s just something off about it.”
The agency noted the “mythical” theories swirling online, including that it could be a direwolf.
“First off [dire wolf] was a song by the Grateful Dead from 1971,” Mr Auchly joked.
“I know, I listened to it many times.
“Number two, it’s a prehistoric animal, like mastodons and saber toothed tigers; so it doesn’t exist.”
It’s too far north to be the legendary Chupacabra, some say, with others wondering if it may be a “Dogman”.
But others think it is a coywolf (a coyote wolf hybrid), or perhaps a wolfdog bred in captivity and later released into the wild.
Wolf hunting is permitted in the state and residents are allowed to kill wolves that threaten their property, the wildlife agency noted in their news release.
Last week, Montana state wolf researchers estimated there to be around 900 wolves across the state.
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‘Wolf-like’ creature shot near Montana ranch puzzles experts