Monday, May 25, 2009

What is the Shunka Warak’in?

Cryptomundo is running the best photographs to date of a really odd canid-like animal mounted and residing in a glass case in Montana. The animal purportedly dates from 1896 (there are conflicting stories about who shot it and who owns it now). Cryptozoologists hunted for this mount for years, based on an old photograph of it, and in 2007 they found it.
So what is it? Reports of intended DNA testing have not led to any published results. It doesn't look like a coyote, nor exactly like a wolf. The hind legs, as mounted, are shorter than the forelegs, giving it a hyena-like appearance. It has a long narrow snout that doesn't look quite right for any canid people have proposed. The length (without tail) is about 48 inches and the shoulder height 26 inches, within range for a gray wolf or various other canidates.
There are a number of stories, from early American settlers as well as from Native Americans, about strange wolflike animals from this region.
There is some room for error. The mount is so old it's undoubtedly changed a little in appearance, and it's not clear how true to life the original mount was. It's even been speculated that the animal is a hoax mount using parts of two animals. Some people have noted the mount, strange as it is, does not look quite as strange as the one in the old photograph, and it might have been remounted or not even be the same animal.
Speculation about a truly exotic origin, such as the long-thought-extinct dire wolf or a brown hyena, seems extreme, but the bottom line is that it's just not clear what this critter is.

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