Was It A Shunka Warak’in?

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.