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Was It A Shunka Warak’in?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 10th, 2006

Shunka Warakin

In December 2005, a strange wolf-like animal started killing livestock in McCone, Garfield and Dawson counties, Montana. By March 2006, it had struck six herds of sheep in McCone and Garfield Counties, wounding 71 and killing 36 ewes. The thing had even reached the status of being named; it was called "The Creature of McCone County."

News articles appeared throughout the next few months, and it went national with an article in USA Today in May 2006.

The number of livestock the "Creature" killed finally reached about 120, by the end of October 2006.

Now comes word in a December 9th article that first appeared in the Billings Gazette that the animal, the one which may have been attacking the sheep, was killed from the air by Montana’s Wildlife Services agents, on November 2, 2006.

What they shot, it is believed, is the "Creature." But now they aren’t exactly sure what it is they killed. The animal was big at 106 pounds. Its coloration seems unexpected for a wolf. The animal shot in Garfield County had shades of orange, red and yellow in its fur, unlike the Northern Rockies wolves, which tend more toward grays, browns, and blacks, said wildlife officials.

It may take months, but DNA analysis is occurring at the University of California Los Angeles, and the carcass is now at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, for genetic analysis.

Maybe it is the Shunka Warak’in (pictured above)?

In the 1880s, members of the Hutchins family and other locals settled in the Madison River Valley, near the West Fork, in the lower part of Montana, about 40 miles north of the little town of Ennis. It was there on the Hutchins Ranch, where they encountered an unusual animal. The animal bothered the ranchers’ animals and looked very odd. They compared it to a hyena, with low back quarters.

Ross Hutchins, who had a Ph. D. in zoology, wrote about his grandfather’s encounter in his book Trails to Nature’s Mysteries: The Life of a Working Naturalist:

Those who got a good look at the beast described it as being nearly black and having high shoulders and a back that sloped downward like a hyena.

Finally, after a few misses, finally one January, old grandpa Hutchins shot it, killed it, and had it stuffed. The mounted animal ended up in a combination grocery and museum owned by a man named Sherwood at Henry Lake, Idaho, where it stayed for years. Sherwood called it ringdocus.

No one knows what the thing is. Or was.

In 1995, Lance Foster, an Ioway (Hotcâgara) told me: "We had a strange animal called shunka warak’in that snuck into camps at night and stole dogs. It was said to look something like a hyena and cried like a person when they killed it. Its skin is said to be kept by someone still."

Foster, who had heard of the mounted ringdocus, thought it was an example of the shunka warak’in, which he knew of from his own experiences and those of relatives in Montana and Idaho.

The present whereabouts of the mounted Shunka Warak’in are uncertain, though some reports claim it has been moved to the West Yellowstone area. Once it is located, it is essential that DNA testing on samples of the fur be conducted. Only then will we know for certain whether we are dealing with a truly new animal or a very bad taxidermist’s mount.

I wonder what this new animal they killed in Montana is. What if it has something to do with the Shunka Warak’in?

For more about the 19th century cryptid, see its entry in Cryptozoology A to Z, from which the above Shunka Warak’in details were extracted.

Loren Coleman – has written 5491 posts on this site.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


29 Responses to “Was It A Shunka Warak’in?”

  1. bill green responds:

    hey loren, wow very informative article. i wonder if there has been any resent sasquatch activity in montana . it wouldnt suprise me at all if people are seeing sasquatch & wildlife in montana forests becouse they are looking for food resouces etc to store for the harsh winter months. thanks bill

  2. BugMO responds:

    Loren great post, hope to see some photos of the carcass soon. Do you ever sleep?

  3. Cutch responds:

    Hyena-like, eh? Echoes of the Skinwalker Ranch, anyone?

  4. UCTZoology responds:

    Poorly mounted Parahyaena brunnea. See a lot of rubbish taxidermy in Southern Africa. This one, it appears to be in the classic Romulus and Remus pose.

    As for all the killing, it wasn’t your pictured animal, they are scavengers. The spotted hyena, its cousin if you will, would eat the prey while its alive – like wild dogs, and there would be signs of osteophagy. A simple kill to identify.

    Wasn’t the animal pictured above. Molecular data will show that.

  5. shovethenos responds:

    They couldn’t get a reporter in there with a camera to get a picture of the body? Come on, this is fairly hot news for a rural area, you could get national coverage for this.

    They don’t list any characteristics that aren’t consistent with canines other than the weird color, though. Pictures of the body would be very useful.

  6. UKCryptid responds:

    Let’s face it, if it is a species that would indeed be big news, then they’re probably rare and getting rarer now they’re being shot at by so called ‘wildlife services’. What service do these agents serve for wildlife if they’re shooting animals from the air, maybe just because it looked interesting/different? Shame. Even a tranq would’ve got a better results. A living specimen would mean far more in my book.

  7. Bigfoot2007 responds:

    I presume Brown Hyena.The weird coloration mentioned and picture above all seem to add up to it.

  8. Loren Coleman responds:

    Various:

    “Shades of Skinwalker Ranch”? I wonder how many of the stories from Skinwalker have been influenced by the Shunka Warak’in, as those Native sightings and folklore were around first.

    The brown hyena (Parahyaena brunnea, formerly Hyaena brunnea) seems to be used often as a metaphor description for these creatures/animals/cryptids, as most people know what hyenas look like. Of course, that does not mean these things are hyenas, at all.

    Considering it took only two weeks to get DNA sampling done in Maine, why is this one taking longer?

    And, yes, indeed, where are the photographs of the carcass of the “Creature of McCone County”?

  9. crypto_randz responds:

    Hopefully soon we will see a photo of the creature if it is a new specie of wolf it will truly will be a remarkable find.

  10. sasquatch responds:

    Bet ya anything it’s a wolf hybrid (With some dog-maybe Irish setter). that’s why the color is different and also explains why it went after livestock- it could be dumber, slower, and less afraid of man than it’s wolf half brothers. It probably couldn’t take a deer or elk and turned to slower, dumber animals. Sometimes an odd animal will be rejected by the pack and have to fend for itself.

  11. sasquatch responds:

    Oh, the skunka wunka (whatever) looks to be a wolf head mounted on a wild boar’s body. The hair pattern, abdomen shape, and scrawny legs make me lean this way. Notice the photo omits the feet-that would say a lot. Someone was having some fun with his/her (limited) taxidermy skills.

  12. daledrinnon responds:

    As a matter of fact, I was just making up “Nandi Bear” artwork for my group and going through Brown Hyena photos, and the commentators that identified the mounted specimen as one are probably right as to the body, the pelt is unmistakable. The shriveled legs would show striping if this were true, but the photo is not good enough to say. The head COULD be that of a brown hyena, or a replacement wolf head, or even a big dog’s head.

    As to the Shunka, it could well be a type of relict Dire Wolf or even some more exotic canid. It is too early to tell, and the description could refer to about anything, even a rabid wolverine (nasty thought).

  13. 12inchPianist responds:

    “shunka warak’in”? Sounds like Klingon to me. The first think I thought of when I saw that picture was ‘Beast of Gévaudan’. Joking aside, this is the age of information, correct? There has got to be more than a couple pictures of this thing. Are they holding back on us for a reason? I could imagine if they were sure of what it was and wanted to keep it to themselves.

    Perhaps if it was someone’s pet, they might not want to take the blame for killing it. Or if it was a wolf, they could claim it was a wild dog to keep ranchers from getting revenge on other wolves. But to tell the public they can’t identify it is to invite the curiosity of many.

    C’mon people, a picture is a worth a thousand words.

  14. kittenz responds:

    I think that the possibility of this animal being any kind of hyena are slim and none. I think that it was either a dog, a wolf, or a wolf/dog or coyote/dog hybrid. Because of the description of odd coloration, I think that dog or hybrid is more likely than wolf.

    If you look at a wolf or a dog, the front quarters DO look much larger than the rear, especially if the animal is big and shaggy with a deep chest. In the winter coat the front looks even larger due to the increased thickness of the fur.

    I once raised a litter of wolf/dog hybrids, and some of the pups had the type of coloration described above: broken coat colors of various shades of red and brown, most with black markings. One was broken shades of gray and blue. They had striking pale eyes of green, blue or yellow. They all had big deep chests like wolves. Their feet were huge; the mother was half wolf and weighed only about 60 lbs, but her feet were much larger than my 105 lb male German Shepherd Dog’s feet.

    I kept one of those pups to maturity, because unlike the other pups (all of whom went to good homes), she would never socialize to people. She behaved very submissively towards us but would not allow us to put our hands on her. I kept her, hoping to train that wildness out of her, but despite all my efforts she remained very wild-natured. Not vicious at all, in fact she would lick people’s hands, and she would sit by me for hours, but she remained wild. She behaved exactly the same way that a habituated wild fox did: she would approach us warily, stop just far enough away to be able to flee, and reach her muzzle out to gently take food from our hands. I spayed her at 6 months but that did not decrease her wildness. At 3 years, she became very predatory, stalking the cats and livestock, and I eventually had to confine her to a very large pen with a wire top. She was teaching herself to hunt, using the cats and livestock, and she was beginning to show a predatory interest in children, which became more intense as she matured. Reluctantly, I finally made the difficult decision to put her down, after she began escaping from her pen regularly. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, euthanizing Blue, but she was beginning to turn feral, and she was habituated to people. I could not take the chance that she would go completely wild, and end up hurting someone or destroying livestock. I have no doubt that if she had lived, she would have eventually gone completely wild.

    The description of the animal here sounds a lot like some of the wolf-dogs from that litter.

  15. One Eyed Cat responds:

    “Hyena-like” sounds like an attempt to give a general description, not labeling it one.

    The DNA will have some interest, whatever it was. But the mounted specimen should be found, and I hope someone can get a clearer photo of it then. Even if it is in bad shape a newer photo might have valuable clues.

  16. kittenz responds:

    I agree. The DNA analysis should confirm the critter’s identity.

  17. Brindle responds:

    The above picture is a pig or relative of some kind. Guaranteed.

  18. dewhurst responds:

    Kittenz,

    Thanks for sharing that account of your hybrid. I am interested in hearing how wolf hybrids get on when living domestic lives. In London, as far as I am aware, no one has tried, with good reason. I feel that type of animal needs a rural environment to live in. You should see the looks I get when I walk my Pitbull cross (rescue Dog) let alone how people would react to seeing a wolf hybrid being walked down the street!

    Have her put down must have been a really horrible experience and one that must have taken some time to get over.

    Back to the creature in question. It does look like a badly stuffed Boar or some kind of pig which is what I am expecting the results of any DNA testing to show.

  19. oldbutnotstupid responds:

    Come on people the animal shown is very common in the US. Its scientific name is Wolfaboarus Fakus, its closely related to the Jackalope Fakus, on which it feeds exclusively. This is not your killer. I wish these people would stop using Cryptomundo as if it were a joke. It’s getting boring.

  20. RockerEm responds:

    Wow this was a very interesting read! Just looking at the picture, before I read the blog, made me think this was a hyena. Strange of course thinking a hyena could be in Montana, without someway of escaping a zoo.

  21. Gonch1311 responds:

    Orange, red and yellow in its fur? There is a wild canid with that color pattern, the Cape Hunting Dog. Granted, that animal is indigenous to Africa, not North America.

  22. cosmic monster responds:

    My first impression is that it’s some type of javelina (wild pig) with a wolf head mounted to the body. The bodies are almost identical, especially in the hind legs. They have hooves, so this photo doesn’t help my theory without visible feet.

  23. Robin_Shadowes responds:

    There is a french movie based on ‘Beast of Gévaudan’called Brotherhood of the wolf in english. As I don’t want to spoil anything but I guess anyone with a slightest interest in cryptozoology would probably find it interesting. A fair guess is that this movie has been released worldwide even in america is because it is the same director who recently directed Silent Hill and it is my simple guess that “brotherhood” brought him Hollywood attention.

  24. kittenz responds:

    Has anyone heard anything new about this? I went to the newspaper’s website but did not find anything beyond the original story. I emailed them to ask for an update but have not received a reply.

  25. harandramit responds:

    My sister mother and I have each individualy seen an animal with these same characteristics roaming around where we live. It was bigger than a coyote and smaller than a deer. It seems to bound more than run like some kind of dog playing but it is the animals small back legs which seperate it from any of the wild life around here, which we are very familiar with. All three sightings have been in about a fifteen mile radius. We live in a dry plains like setting. The sightings have also occured in a span of five years, we always called it a hyena and we are not the only ones who have seen it.

  26. seanriddolls responds:

    The creature looks eerily similar to a cryptid recently photographed along the Milwaukee River, on March 8th, 2008 (which was discussed on Cryptomundo, here).

    The creature has the same the same red/brown coloration as the animal shot in Garfield County. It also has the high shoulders and back sloping downwards like a hyena. The ears protrude out vertically, as do those of a hyena.

    A reader dismisses the creature as a coyote with sarcoptic mange, however the creature is far too large to be a coyote. Compare the chain link fence directly behind it. We can see the full height of the fence (which most of us are familiar with), which makes this creature taller than the waist-height of a man.

  27. curious86 responds:

    So, it’s been like what, almost three years and nothing new has come of it? Gee, how long does it take for DNA results to come back. Most importantly, why are there no photos of this alleged creature, I for one would like to see this thing for myself, yet in either news article there isn’t so much a photo of the people involved. Me thinks, that the Montana creature is nothing more than another Ozark Howler.

    If there are photos and results, please post them here or direct me to them.

  28. serjo responds:

    Here’s a web series with non-fiction and fiction segments about the Shunka Warak’in.

  29. glenn responds:

    I am an outsider here and neutral on the subject. But I haven’t heard anyone suggest that which impresses me so strongly. Is there not a striking resemblance here to the dire wolf, as commonly reconstructed?



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