Shunka Wars

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 11th, 2007

Shunka Warakin

Lance Foster, myself, and others have looked for the mounted Shunka Warak’in for decades. I’ve written about it in columns, books, and blogs. Finally, after 121 years of it being missing-in-action, the taxidermy mount has surfaced.

But guess what? There is a developing tug-of-war over who owns it, which state has the rights to it, and where it will end up.

Shunka gun

Jack Kirby with Island Park’s mystery animal. Bozeman Chronicle photo.

I posted what Montana felt previously. Now here is the Idaho side of the story:

The Sherwood Beast of Island Park legend and lore has been kidnapped!

The stuffed critter of mysterious origin — long displayed at the Sherwood Museum on Henry’s Lake — was recently removed from storage in Pocatello and loaned to a Madison Valley, Montana man who claims he is the grandson of the settler who shot the animal.

The Island Park Historical Society Board of Directors and other area residents are concerned about the move because they believe the mount should remain in Idaho and hope someday it can be displayed in Island Park.

The Sherwood Museum closed in the late 1970’s, and the family sold the museum and surrounding property in the 1990’s to Steve and Carol Burk of Idaho Falls. Before the sale the Sherwood family donated the taxidermy mounts and artifacts to the Idaho State Historical Society. The mounts are stored at the Museum of Natural History in Pocatello and the artifacts and photographs are stored in Boise.

A recent Bozeman Chronicle article by Walt Williams, “ Mystery monster returns home after 121 years,” makes it sound as if the animal belongs in Montana. It states, “Now after 121 years, the taxidermy mount has been found. The creature that once spooked some of the Madison Valley’s first white settlers has come home.” Full article is here.

Williams writes that Jack Kirby, claiming to be the grandson of the settler who shot the animal, read a Chronicle story about local legends of strange creatures, and tracked down the mount in the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello.

The museum loaned him the mount to display at the Madison Valley History Museum when the facility reopens in May 2008. Meanwhile, it is stored in the basement of a building on the north edge of Ennis.

Williams describes the mount: “The “ringdocus” or “shunka warak’in” — two of the names it has been given over the years — strongly resembles a wolf, but sports a hyena-like sloping back and an odd-shaped head with a narrow snout. Its coat is dark-brown, almost black, with lighter tan areas and a faint impression of stripes on its side. It measure 48 inches from the tip of its snout to its rump, not including the tail, and stands from 27 to 28 inches high at the shoulder. The mount is in amazingly good shape, showing no signs of wear and tear and retaining the color of the fur.”

The article notes that Kirby took the mount to the gravesite of the man he claims shot it, Israel Ammon (I.A.) Hutchins. Based on information in a family member’s, Ross Hutchins, autobiography, Kirby claims I. A. Hutchins shot the animal in 1886 on what is now the Sun Ranch, and traded the body with Joseph Sherwood for a cow.

A few years ago, Mack’s Inn resident, Harold Bishop, did some research on the beast for a scout project. He interviewed a Chester resident, Pete Marx, who told him a range rider named Heini Schooster killed the beast that was displayed in the museum. Schooster lived down the Madison River from the old Cliff Lake Post Office, which is not that far from the Sun Ranch.

Bishop’s story had Schooster killing the beast with a lever action .32 special, Kirby claims the fatal shot ws fired with a G. W. Morse rifle — caliber is not given.

The Island Park News runs Bishop’s story every October when it publishes its annual Sherwood Beast Halloween haunts story. The story also notes that people at Bozeman College were unable to ID the animal.

When the state accepted the Sherwood collections, officials said they would hold them until they can be displayed properly in Island Park. The Island Park Historical Society helped broker the deal under the leadership of its president at the time, the late Mary McBroom. For years, the IPHS has tried to raise interest in building a local museum.

This week, IPHS’s Board of Directors agreed to write a letter of concern to the state, expressing an interest in making sure the mount is returned properly and hoping it would then be displayed at the John Sack cabin in Island Park. ~ by Elizabeth Laden “Sherwood Beast loaned to Montana,” The Island Park News, 2007-12-07.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. 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. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

15 Responses to “Shunka Wars”

  1. Robtastic1 responds:

    I hope someone does DNA testing on it in the near future, But from the two not so great pictures, it does look like it could be a wolf that was mounted to look strange. But i’d love to be wrong.

  2. Robtastic1 responds:

    And i’d like to see it get back to a museum where it belongs. Even if it turns out to be just a wolf, it was still a great mystery for 121 years.

  3. Ceroill responds:

    Very interesting, Loren. I look forward to learning more about this story as things develop.

  4. Richard888 responds:

    The resemblance to a Canis lupus/rufus is probably an illusion of angle. The other picture showing a side view exposes the un wolf-like characteristics, i.e., the hyeena like rear legs, the longer snout and the bigger teeth. I sure hope DNA analysis is underway despite the tug of war.

  5. Robtastic1 responds:

    You also have to realize that whoever mounted it could have taken a normal wolf and made it look strange in order to calm the people and make them think the beast has been killed, or he could have just wanted some local fame. Plus the back legs are a little squated making the back look more sloaped than it may actually be. But its just speculation since all we have is one bad quality picture and another good quality picture at a fairly bad angle.

  6. sasquatch responds:

    Wolf in new picture…The old one is maybe something else….Or it’s a terrible taxidermy job. WildBoarus lupus.

  7. DARHOP responds:

    These 2 photos, I don’t know. Something about ’em. They don’t look like the same animal to me for some reason.

  8. cryptidsrus responds:

    The beast is SOMETHING. Hopefully, DNA testing could be done.

  9. mystery_man responds:

    To me, this really spotlights some interesting potential problems for cryptozoology because there are probably many objects or pieces of evidence floating around out there that are of cryptozoological interest. Who is the rightful owner of some of these cryptozoological relics? Does the rightful owner of the object have any interest in cryptozoology at all or even have any awareness of the importance of an object in their possession? If they do, are they willing to have it subjected to tests or to turn it over to those who would be willing to properly study it? What can anyone do about it if they refuse? What are the legalities of the sorts of tug-o-wars described above and what do they mean for the field?

    These kinds of questions could have all sorts of implications for cryptozoology. This article brings some attention to a problem that might sometimes be overlooked.

  10. kittenz responds:

    I believe that the animal is a poorly mounted wolf.

    As to the ownership, hey, why not have both parties agree to donate it to the International Cryptozoology Museum :)?

  11. Bexta responds:

    When I first saw the two pictures together I didn’t think they looked like the same animal either.

    But I also agree that a lot of things were spliced in the name of entertainment back then, to me it looks like a wild boars body more than anything

  12. dogu4 responds:

    Y’know, you don’t see many old taxidermy mounts that old…for a couple or reasons; bad preservation and they really were pretty bad. My brother just inherited dear head mount from the days before Carl Akeley’s revolution in the art and it does appear to be little more than a crude approximation of the animal, like a piece of old leather furniture with the leather peelin’ back. It’s quickly gained status of revered oddity out in the barn where it hangs next to the woodstove, cigarette hanging from its mouth. Unless it’s proved otherwise, I’d think this was from the same school of taxidermy.

  13. Skullie responds:

    Sounds like a melanistic (dark-furred, too much pigmintation, opposite to albino if you will) Aardwolf…

    Quote from article: “strongly resembles a wolf, but sports a hyena-like sloping back and an odd-shaped head with a narrow snout. Its coat is dark-brown, almost black, with lighter tan areas and a faint impression of stripes on its side. It measure 48 inches from the tip of its snout to its rump, not including the tail, and stands from 27 to 28 inches high at the shoulder. The mount is in amazingly good shape, showing no signs of wear and tear and retaining the color of the fur”

    Quote from Wikipedia: “The aardwolf looks most like the Striped Hyena,… black vertical stripes on a coat of yellowish fur, and a long, distinct mane down the middle line of the neck and back, which is raised during a confrontation to make the aardwolf’s size appear bigger. It is 22–32 inches long, excluding its bushy 8–12 cm tail, stands about 40–50 cm at the shoulder, and weighs between 9 and 14 kg.”

  14. cryp-23 responds:

    i also agree the two pic’s don’t appear to be the same animal but i don’t know if there a wolf made to look like something else or not but i can say that ( in at least the second pic ) that the creature is not a boar because boars have tusks and hooves.

  15. cloudyboy87 responds:

    Whatever happened to this animal?! What is it?!

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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