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.
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.