DNA Test Identifies Mysterious Midwestern Mammal | Tech News

The hunt for Bigfoot continues after a large wooly animal shot and killed last month in Montana was identified.

DNA from the creature—shot legally by a rancher near Denton, Mont.—was tested by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensic lab against thousands of samples from wolves, coyotes, and dogs.

“The conclusion was clear,” according to Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) division. “This animal is a gray wolf from the Northern Rocky Mountains.”

As reported in May, the canid came within several hundred yards of the unnamed rancher’s livestock when it was shot dead.

Originally assumed to be a wolf, the mysterious mutt garnered interest among wildlife officials and the public; social media was quick to pronounce the animal as everything from a hybrid dog to the mythical Stark direwolves.

Rather than blindly guess (or take the people’s word for it), FWP sent the carcass off to have tissue samples collected and analyzed. Less than a month later, the lab’s results are in.

Close-up of its paw (via Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks)

The gray wolf (Canis lupus)—also known as the timber wolf and western wolf—is the largest surviving member of its family; it is distinguished from other species by its larger size and less pointed features, specifically on the ears and muzzle.

Which might explain some of the initial confusion about the animal, based on its condition and photos showing short legs and big ears.

Physical variations aren’t unusual for animals, according to Mary Curtis, geneticist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Within species there can be variability that’s not surprising at all,” she said in a statement published by FWP.

The wolf was a non-lactating female, which means she didn’t have a litter of pups. (So at least there’s not a pack of furry little cubs missing their mom.) Estimated between two and three years old, she measured 45 inches from tip of the nose to the rump, and weighed 84.5 lbs.

Wolves are no stranger to Montana: Population estimates suggest there are some 900 wolves in the state, which continues to exceed its wolf recovery goals.

Property owners in Montana have legal authority to shoot wolves they feel may be a threat to their livestock.

For more on DNA testing visit our sister site PCMag for their complete round-up and recommendations.

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