DENTON, Mont. — The unusual-looking creature shot and killed in Montana has officially been determined to be a gray wolf, according to an official release.
The canine was shot and killed by a rancher in Denton on May 16 after it came too close to his livestock.
The animal caused confusion and stirred national curiosity when pictures showed the creature its legs and big ears -- leaving officials puzzled about what it was.
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Once the animal was brought to a health lab at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, scientists said it was determined that the animal was "relatively normal looking."
DNA from the animal was tested at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensic laboratory in Ashland, Oregon.
Scientists compared the animal’s DNA to thousands of wolves, coyotes and dogs.
See photos of the animal here.
Officials said the conclusion was clear -- the animal was a gray wolf from the northern Rocky Mountains.
The wolf was a non-lactating female and never had a litter of pups, officials said. It is estimated that the wolf was between 2 and 3 years old, and weighed nearly 85 pounds. The animal measured 45 inches from the tip of the nose to the rump.
Mary Curtis, a geneticist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the wolf’s physical differences aren’t unusual.
“Within species there can be variability that’s not surprising at all,” Curtis said.
There are approximately 900 wolves in Montana, according to the 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report.
Property owners have broad legal authority to shoot wolves that get too close to their property or livestock.
Cox Media Group