DNA Testing Confirms Montana Mystery Animal Was Gray Wolf

MT wolf mystery solved

In May a mystery creature was shot and killed on a ranch outside Denton. What the heck is it? Locals buzzed about the possibilities. Some said wolf with weird genetics…others grizzly cub…conspiracy theorists screamed Dire Wolf, an extinct prehistoric carnivore that some people swear still lives…or Dogman, a relative to Sasquatch, a large cryptozoological creature that looks and walks like an upright canid.

The DNA results are in and, ho-hum, it was a common old gray wolf. This press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks explains:

The canine creature shot in Montana a month ago that captured the curiosity of the nation is actually a gray wolf. DNA from the animal, which was shot legally by a rancher near Denton on May 16, was tested at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensic laboratory in Ashland, Ore.

The lab compared the animal’s DNA with thousands of other DNA samples from wolves, coyotes and dogs. The conclusion was clear – this animal is a gray wolf from the northern Rocky Mountains.

Confusion about the animal might be due to the condition of the animal and the photos, which seemed to show short legs and big ears. Inspection of the animal at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife health lab in Bozeman revealed a relatively normal looking, dark brown wolf.

Physical variations aren’t unusual for animals, said Mary Curtis, geneticist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Within species there can be variability that’s not surprising at all,” Curtis said.

The wolf was a non-lactating female, which means she didn’t have a litter of pups. However, any unique physical features she has might also appear in her siblings or parents and may continue to be passed along by others in her family. The wolf measured 45 inches from the tip of the nose to the rump and weighed 84.5 pounds. It’s estimated that the wolf was between 2 and 3 years old.

According to the 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report, population estimates suggest there are approximately 900 wolves in Montana. This marks the 13th consecutive year that Montana has far exceeded wolf recovery goals.

Property owners in Montana have broad legal authority to shoot wolves they feel might be a threat to their livestock, as was the case with this wolf near Denton.

Mysterious Wolf-Life Creature Shot In Montana

MT wolflike creatureFrom the Great Falls Tribune: Was it a wolf, some type of hybrid, or a creature that hasn’t been seen in Montana since the Ice Age?

On May 16 a lone wolf-like animal was shot and killed on a ranch outside Denton. With long grayish fur, a large head and an extended snout, the animal shared many of the same characteristics as a wolf; but its ears were too large, its legs and body too short, its fur uncharacteristic of that common to a wolf.

So what was it? At this point, no one is 100 percent sure.

The locals are buzzing about the possibilities. Some think it’s a wolf with weird genetics…others say grizzly cub…or a Dire Wolf, an extinct prehistoric carnivore that some people swear still lives…or even a Dogman, a relative to Sasquatch, a large cryptozoological creature that looks and walks like an upright canid.

The strange creature’s carcass was sent to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services forensics lab in Oregon. “We have no idea what this was until we get a DNA report back,” said a spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

It could take weeks or months to find out.

(Photo: KXLO Radio, Lewistown, Montana)

Deer Science: What Causes Most Fawn Deaths?

nj fawn

Our friend Jeff saw this newborn on his New Jersey farm last Saturday. If the little deer can make it until early August, its chances of survival soar. Scientists note that most fawn deaths occur in the first 12 weeks of life.

A grad student at Penn State’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management examined the causes of fawn deaths listed in 29 different populations, and calculated the proportion of fawns that died from each of 3 categories: human, predation, and natural causes.

coyote wiht fawn

Not surprisingly predators, namely coyotes, bobcats, bears and dogs, killed the most fawns, about 25% of them in the populations studied.

About 8% of fawns died from natural causes like starvation, disease, hypothermia and drowning.

About 5% of fawns died from human causes (cars to combines to indirect causes, like getting tangled in a fence). The researchers noted that while we humans are the smallest source of mortality for whitetail fawns, it is worth noting as the human impact moves into more and more areas.

On the flip (and good) side 55% of fawns survive.

How Spring Floods Affect Deer

floods deerThis week a low-pressure system has brought steady rain and localized flooding to the Carolinas, and today it’s moving up the East Coast. Late April and especially May is also when floods are common along the Mississippi and other rivers and streams in the Midwest.

How does all this spring rain and flooding affect the whitetail deer?

The good news, biologists say that rising floodwaters of river and creeks won’t kill many if any adult deer, though it will displace the animals for days and perhaps weeks. But the deer will filter back into their habitats and core areas once the waters recede.

While pregnant does will move out of rising water now and for the next few weeks, the primary concern for deer herds in and around flood zones occurs later on in May and in early June, when the does start dropping fawns.

“But fawn survival in flood plains is typically very high, even during flood years,” says noted whitetail scientist Grant Woods.

“To cause any significant problems in a herd, the water levels would have to rise very rapidly and be timed when the peak of fawn births occur, and before the fawns are mobile. This is a narrow window of time. Rivers rarely rise that quickly on that timing, and does are excellent mothers!”

Another and perhaps more serious concern is where floodwaters might affect preferred fawning cover. “When does are forced to fawn in adjoining croplands or woods where there isn’t as much cover predation on the fawns can increase. But overall, I’m not worried about the fawns and the deer herds in a normal flood zone.”

Illinois Coyote Hunt: 5 Critters and a Shed

Longtime BIG DEER blogger Scott from MI and his buddies made their annual trek to coyote camp, and he recaps their awesome hunt:

scott 1

Hi Mike: We headed out about 9:30 am Thursday morning Jan. 26th from Michigan and made the 6-hour trip to northwest Illinois, to a place along the Mississippi River.  The normal gang was along for the hunt, good friends John, Ryan, Mike and Jason. My dad Russ did not make the trip this year but I told him I would keep him posted with the play by play if we got some action.

The weather was pretty good, mid-teens at night and mid-20s during the day. Winds were a little stronger than we would have liked, about 15 mph average with gusts over 25 mph but the direction was ok. The wind was not too bad in the lower areas where we call. Those bottom lands had almost no snow, but we had a good couple inches of fresh powder on the hilltops and sides.

Mike and I decided to make our first set at Jessie’s draw, a spot that has produced coyotes almost every year we have hunted it. It’s a large ravine that runs the better part of a mile downward from the hilltop. We made our way to the stand location, sneaking in behind some pines so as not to be spotted by any game that was down below.

We set the Foxpro between us and Mike started with some coyote vocals, then rolled into some distress house cat sounds. Going back and forth between the two for 28 minutes I was thinking nothing was going to show. But then a coyote popped out, scaling the bottom of the hill about 100 yards away. Soon as it cleared the brush I gave a mouth bark to stop it and put it down with my T/C Venture chambered in .243, with a 70-grain Nosler ballistic tip that Mike had hand loaded for me. It was a nice-size male, good way to start the day.

mike 2

For our 3rd set of the morning we went to another part of the property that has produced for us in the past as well. As we were approaching our setup we noticed something moving across the hilltop about 600 yards away. Turned out to be a coyote heading down into the draw we were just about to call. He hadn’t seen us, so we made the decision to get into position quickly and see if we could call him in before he got too far away.

Mike set up on the closest finger coming out of the large draw and facing the coyote. I looked over the next finger back, in case he tried to flank us. Mike ran the same coyote howls and then some distressed cat sounds with the Foxpro that he did earlier. About 15 minutes later I heard a shot. After he finished the call I walked over to see a guy grinning from ear to ear. Mike had just scored his first kill with his new Cooper rifle chambered in .204 Ruger. The coyote had come running right to him along the hilltop and he was able to stop it with a mouth bark at 40 yards; he put it right down with a 35-grain handload. It was a large male that weighed in at 45 pounds! I sent dad text messages telling him that we had scored on a couple.

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The winds picked up in the afternoon and we didn’t have any more luck the rest of the day. That night we found out that we had gained permission to hunt a large piece of property where we used to call a few years back ago. Excited to hear this, we set a game plan for the next morning.  John, Jason and Ryan would try to cover as much ground as they could with the wind direction we had.

On the first set John and Jason set up on a point overlooking the intersection of two large ravines. John set out his Foxpro and started calling with a TT Frenzy rabbit distress. About 5 minutes into the call a yote came running right in. John gave a mouth bark to stop him at 80 yards and took him with his Tikka .223 using 55-grain Hornady Vmax ammo. Another nice male coyote.

On their 3rd  call of the morning John and Jason made their way down the steep ravine and back up to another nice ridgetop. They set up in a new spot where they could see a good ways off. John started with the TT Frenzy again and about 3 minutes in, a coyote came running in from the bottom. John gave a mouth bark to stop and when he squeezed the trigger the gun dried fired.

scott jason

The coyote, now on alert, took off running and Jason was able to crack off a shot at about 50 yards and put it down with his .22 Hornet. It was a nice-colored female. Jason has been 4 for 4 with that gun since he’s had it. The 35-grain Hornady Varmit Express does a good job on the predators.

After hearing from John that they had called in two within an hour using the TT Frenzy sound I said to Mike, “I guess we better try some rabbit sounds!” The wind had switched directions a little on the way to our next set so we decided to call a tall ridgetop overlooking a huge valley with a power line clear cut running through it. I placed the FoxPro call between Mike and me and started with the TT Frenzy. It wasn’t much past a minute and I caught movement out of the comer of my eye. I turned to the right and saw a coyote trotting down the finger toward me, trying to get downwind. The critter disappeared in the ditch between us.

In a slightly controlled panic, knowing the yote may catch our scent soon as it popped up, I spun around and tried to pick the spot where it might show. A few seconds later it appeared 40 yards farther to my right than I had thought. I gave a mouth bark as soon as it cleared and took the shot. The animal disappeared and I wasn’t sure if I had hit it. Mike and I walked over and saw it lying 15 yards down the ditch. That was number 5 for our trip! I texted Dad to let him know we had just killed 3 in about 2 hours.

Ryan was not able to have any luck getting a yote, but did find a nice heavy shed antler while walking in to make a call. We left it for the property owner that had given us permission to hunt the property again. Hopefully 2 dead coyotes and a shed antler on his property will earn us an invite back in the future! We had another great hunt and are already looking forward to next year.

Thanks Mike and keep up the good work!–Scott from MI