Skip to comments.Mystery monster returns home after 121 years [Montana][Cryptozoology][Shunka Warak'in]
Posted on 11/15/2007 2:27:42 PM PST by BGHater
ENNIS - More than a century ago, a wolf-like creature prowled the Madison Valley, killing livestock and letting out screams that one account said would leave a person's hair standing on end.
A bullet from a Mormon settler's rifle ended the animal's life and triggered stories of the creature that were passed along through generations of family history and local folklore.
The only evidence of the creature's existence was a missing taxidermy mount and a grainy black-and-white photograph of that mount - which fueled strange speculation about what kind of animal it really was.
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.
I never doubted the story, said Jack Kirby, grandson of the settler who shot the animal.
After reading a Halloween-themed Chronicle story about local legends of strange creatures, Kirby tracked down the mount in the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello.
The museum has since loaned it to him to put on display at the Madison Valley History Museum, although at the moment it resides in the basement of a building on the north edge of town.
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. It arrived in Ennis Friday.
One of its first stops was the gravesite of the man who shot it, Israel Ammon (I.A.) Hutchins.
We took him down to the cemetery to see I.A. to let him know (the creature) is back in the valley, said Kirby's wife, Barbara.
Hutchins shot the animal in 1886 on what is now the Sun Ranch, but not on his first try. He accidentally shot and killed one of his cows when he first spotted the creature on his land, his son Elliott Hutchins recounted in his memoirs.
He killed the strange animal when it appeared on his land a second time and traded the body with entrepreneur Joseph Sherwood for a new cow.
Sherwood was a taxidermist. He mounted the animal and put it on display in his combination store-museum at Henry's Lake in Idaho. His taxidermy collection was later given to the Idaho Museum of Natural History, where it was kept in storage.
The creature apparently baffled the people who saw it alive, and some speculated it was a hyena escaped from a circus rather than a wolf. The younger Hutchins remembered its haunting screams at night and wrote that after it was shot and in its death throes, the animal bit through a half-inch rope with a single bite and exerted his very last strength to reach any one of us.
The story of the ringdocus - as Sherwood reportedly named it - reached a national audience when the prolific writer and naturalist Ross Hutchins wrote about it in his 1977 autobiography, Trails to Nature's Mysteries: The Life of a Working Naturalist, and included a picture of the mount. I.A. Hutchins was his grandfather.
The tale was again picked up by writers Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark in their book Cryptozoology A to Z. In that book, Coleman linked it to a Native American legend about the shunka warak'in, a creature that snuck into camps at night to steal dogs.
The animal has so far eluded identification. The younger Hutchins wrote that a detailed description was sent to the Smithsonian Institution, which wasn't able to identify it.
The picture of the mount included the scientific-sounding name Guyasticutus as a label for the creature, but the name may have been tongue-in-cheek. Early accounts report that the Guyasticutus was a mythical creature invented by traveling showmen to swindle gullible ticket-buyers.
Coleman and Clark suggested that a DNA test should be done on the mount to determine what it is. Kirby, however, was not so certain he was ready to end a mystery that had been passed down by his family for four generations.
Do we want to know? he said.
The mount will be displayed in the Madison Valley History Museum when it reopens in May.
Walt Williams is at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2630.
In the late 19th century, the Hutchins family moved into an area of Montana along the Madison River's West Fork, in Broadwater County. They were soon to report encounters with a mysterious canine beast known to Native Americans.
One of the descendants of the original clan was zoologist Ross Hutchins. In 1977, he would write Trails to Nature's Mysteries: The Life of a Working Naturalist. Within this book is reference to one of the most obscure creatures to grace North America's cryptozoological landscape. The following account is reproduced from that book.
'One winter morning my grandfather was aroused by the barking of the dogs. He discovered that a wolflike beast of dark color was chasing my grandmother's geese. He fired his gun at the animal but missed. It ran off down the river, but several mornings later it was seen again at about dawn. It was seen several more times at the home ranch as well as at other ranches ten or fifteen miles down the valley. Whatever it was, it was a great traveler... 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. Then one morning in late January, my grandfather was alerted by the dogs, and this time he was able to kill it. Just what the animal was is still an open question. After being killed, it was donated to a man named Sherwood who kept a combination grocery and museum at Henry Lake in Idaho. It was mounted and displayed there for many years. He called it ringdocus.'
An Ioway Indian named Lance Foster approached Loren Coleman in 1995 and informed him of traditions existing in that tribe of an animal called a shunka warak'in ('Carrying-Off-Dogs') which cried like a human when killed. Foster's descriptions of an animal that looked something like a hyena and the existence of one in an Idaho museum are testimony that the animal killed at the Hutchins ranch was a Shunka Warak'in.
Coleman speculates that the creature may have represented a survival of a prehistoric species known as Borophagus, although my own researches into the animal makes it seem even more likely that it may belong to another prehistoric species, a creodont known as Hyaenodon montanus. H. montanus was a rather lightly built memeber of the Neohyaenodon subspecies
COLEMAN, Loren 1996 On the Trail: Hunting Hyenas in the US. Fortean Times 87 (June). 1999 Cryptozoology A-Z (w/ Jerome Clark).
Looks like a bloated wolf to me.
Looks like a bad taxidermy job to me.
This is a caption for the Recent photo:
‘Jack Kirby poses in Ennis next to the wolf-like creature his grandfather shot in 1886 in the Madison Valley. He is holding the G.W. Morse rifle that was used to kill the animal. Kirby retrieved the mount from an Idaho museum where it was being stored.’
A neighbor lady relates the story of back in the 60’s she looked out in her back yard and saw a monkey dressed in clothes with a parrot on his shoulders. It scampered off but she called the police, who of course laughed at her.
She saw them (always together) off and on for quite a while over the next few weeks. It turned out a circus HAD lost them and she wasn’t going nuts!
From what little I know, mostly from watching the “Lion King” when my kids were younger, the rear legs being shorter than the front legs reminded me of a Hyena. And maybe they do have a terrible sound - hence using the voice of Whoppi Goldberg for one of the hyenas in the movie?
I hate it when that happens to me...
Looks like a wolf with a severe case of constipation to me...
Looks like a very hungry wild boar to me.
Taxidermy spoofs were very popular a century ago.
Wolves have longer and bigger toes and not the big ham this guy has. May be a descendant of the giant hyenas - sloping back - that used to patrol the land bridge.
The main prey of the shunka warak’in was jackalopes.
You beat me to it!
Looks like a cross between a peccary and a coyote.
This one is a spotted hyena. Maybe it was a cross between something else and a hyena.
Tasmanian Devil. The body build, some aspects of the coloration. Oddly similar.
“Now after 121 years, the taxidermy mount has been found. “
This has always bothered me about state run museums. That phrase “has been found.”
My friend was a curator of oriental art at a state museum. He took me to the backroom where there were drawer after drawer, and case after case, stacked to the ceiling, of oriental artifacts that couldn’t be displayed because of lack of display space in the oriental art section.
Some of the artifacts were crumbling from age and lack of proper climate control.
Artifacts like these need to be auctioned off to private collectors where they will be cared for.
I was thinking Tasmanian something too. Didnt they have a striped wolflike animal? This looks bigger than the Tasmanian Devil to me.
“Thylacine” or “Tasmanian Tiger,” not “Tasmanian Devil,” although I know what you mean because I had the same reaction. But Thylacines’ hindquarters are higher than the withers.
I suspect it’s really a variant Jackalope.
Also in the 60's, in Oakland, CA, a man called police to report that a pig had fallen into his swimming pool.
They came out, along with animal control; looked, and told him that it wasn't a pig; it was a baby hippo.
He told them, "I know that, but if I called and said there was a hippopotamus in my pool, you wouldn't have come."
More specifically, jackalope bucks. Shunka warak’ini clearly werent built for speed but they didnt need it. Jackalope bucks are so territorial and protective of their harems that they charge anything entering their territory with their antlers. In fact, thats why jackalopes are endangered (especially the rare "cedar shoe"). When the rail was first run through the plains, the jackalope bucks charged the steam engines. From the Appalachians to the Rockies they run under the engines one after another, and thats why the tie beds are so deep in some areas.
When the jackalope population was no longer plentiful enough to feed the species, the age of the Shunka warak’ini came to an end.
The white man destroyed and only the Democrats care enough to save.
Its too late for the Shunka warak’ini but you can still save the jackalope.
You forget the specific reference.
A WHITNEY KENNEDY RIFLE! WOW! Now that is rare! Tell us more of the history of this rifle!
WOW! A live Fiji mermaid!
It isn’t a Dire Wolf is it?
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No, this one is crooked. The Dire’s straights.
Not a Tasmanina devil. Goggle it, they have photos of them before they were wiped out by idiots in Tasmania.
The hardest thing to swallow about these cryptozoological stories is that in order for an unknwon species to exist, it needs a large enough breeding colony to sustain genetic diversity. The larger the critter, the larger the range it needs to occupy, and in today’s shrinking world, the less likely such a large critter could possibly go unnoticed.
The idea of an unknown species population existing before the closing of the West and densified settlements is completely believable. The enviro-lefties rave all the time about lost plant species but a native Dingo/Hyena-like creature is even more believable.
Tasmanian Tiger or wolf kept coming up in my memory so I googled that and guess what?
The Thylacine, commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger (due to its striped back), the Tasmanian Wolf is believed to have become extinct in the 1930s.
The pictures of it online sure looks like the description and although it would have been a long way from home, it was fairly common to have odd animals and freaks in traveling shows to amaze and delight rural Americans back in the 19th century.
It’s possible that a traveling circus or carney show might have lost one of the last of the breed somewhere in Montana.
I sent a copy of my information to the reporter in Montana. What fun! No old person should be without the internet to keep up their interest in life.
Yes, I saw that too.. the length and shape of the lower jaw.... kinda looks marsupial- Like a Taz tiger...
Yes, the net is a great tool.
But I think one would have a better chance of finding a Tasmanian wol in Tasmania than in western North America.
If they are seeing the thing now, remember about what I said about breeding populations. You can’t just have a family or two of them living somewhere out west.
Coleman and Clark suggested that a DNA test should be done on the mount to determine what it is. Kirby, however, was not so certain he was ready to end a mystery that had been passed down by his family for four generations.Such test certainly lain to rest last year's Texas Chupacabras imbroglio.
Oh, and by the way, you're spelling it wrongly. Singular or plural chupacabras is spelled c-h-u-p-a-c-a-b-r-a-s, "chupacabra"
People who refer to this wonderful beasie as chupacabra really get my goat. When one says "chupacabra", they're refering to that entity that is the sucker of a goat. Chupacabras is that entitity that is the sucker of goats. Perhaps English speakers feel that a false plural is being formed and they resort to s removal. Fortunately the singular/plural issue is resolvedin Spanishby a definite article placed in front of the noun (el, la, los, las, lo): One single chupacabras: El Chupacabras A troupe of the things: Los Chupacabras If female: La Chupacabras A cluster of females: Las Chupacabras So the word Chupacabras remains intact no need to amputate the final s.
Think of it this way: sort of a Jennifer Lopez thing (good lookin' and cross cultural).
The thing is that chupacabras was first used on television in 1960, in an episode of the TV western, Bonanza by a Mexican character who was talking with one of the Cartwright family characters, about a creature that sucked the milk from goats, hence it being one of the goatsuckers, and was related to the birds, whippoorwills.
Zoologically, night jars and whippoorwills are members of the Caprimulgiformes (goatsuckers) and thus are called Chupacabras in Spanish. It seems a natural extension on the basis of this usage that a cryptozoological creature, a new cryptid sucking the blood from goats, would also be called a Chupacabras.
I posited that he was an animal that got loose from a traveling raree show, not a native breeding animal.
That was the one which was shot. The aarticle said that there was a reappearance of the critter.
I misread the article. I thought there were fresh sightings. The Tasmanian wolf was a marsupial and I believe their dentition is markedly different from that of placental mammals. It should be easy to check.
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