A mysterious wolf-like creature shot dead in the US has baffled wildlife experts who say they have “no idea” what it is.
A farmer killed the animal after spotting it close to his livestock near Denton, Montana.
But state officials, who inspect all wolf killings, say the animal appears to be something else.
“We have no idea what this is until we get a DNA report back,” Bruce Auchly, spokesman with Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) department, told the Great Falls Tribune newspaper.
Among theories already circulating online are that it could be a young grizzly bear, a coyote hybrid or – possibly a little less likely – proof that werewolves exist. Officials appeared sceptical of these explanations.
Rather, the FWP said in a release that the creature was a “young, non-lactating female and a canid, a member of the dog family that includes dogs, foxes, coyotes and wolves”. The FWP added that experts first doubted it was a wolf because its teeth were too short and claws too large.
“Several things grabbed my attention when I saw the pictures,” said Ty Smucker, wolf management specialist with the FWP. “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.”
One theory for now is that it could be a wolf-dog hybrid bred in captivity and released into the wild.
But it could be more than a month before the DNA results come back offering anything conclusive. “It may be a while before anyone knows,” said Mr Smucker.
Wolf hunting is permitted in the state, and residents are allowed to kill wolves that threaten their property. Last week the BBC reported Montana wolf researchers estimated there was around 900 wolves across the state.