Wildlife authorities in Montana aren't quite sure what they have on their hands.
But people have been more than willing to speculate, while authorities send off a sample for DNA testing.
On May 16, a rancher near the tiny community of Denton, in central Montana, shot what he thought was a wolf that was a possible threat to his livestock, according to a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
As is required by law, he called the authorities to report that he had killed the wolf.
But when officials arrived and began to inspect the animal, they weren't so sure the creature actually was a wolf.
The canine teeth were too short, the front paws were too small, but its claws were too long, according to the release. According to the Great Falls Tribune, its large, floppy ears and its shaggy fur were also uncharacteristic of a common wolf.
Something didn't add up.
"Based on the photos, we have some doubts as to whether it was a pure-bred wolf, or a hybrid or a wild dog of sorts," Warden Sgt. Kyle Anderson of the Fish, Wildlife and Parks' Lewiston office told KXLO.
What they do know for certain is that it was a young, non-lactating female canid, a member of the dog family.
"Nevertheless, social media was quick to pronounce the animal as everything from a wolf to a wolf hybrid to something mythical," the release said.
Some commenters on the KXLO story called it a direwolf, some thought it may have been a werewolf. Some invoked the old Native American legend "shunka warakin," a wolf-hyena-hybrid creature that terrorized livestock in Montana until it was shot, stuffed and displayed in 1886. It also goes by the name "ringdocus," according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
"That could very well be what’s being called Dogman," one commenter suggested. "They’re spotted each day and the government quells any and all reports. Several people report being strong armed into keeping quiet about their reports by men wearing black suits. These are just facts. Look into if if you don’t believe it."
With the rampant speculation across the state spreading to a national audience, authorities decided they should get to the bottom of the mystery and nail down the animal's exact genetics.
The only problem? That may take some time.
Tissue samples will be collected at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department's Bozeman office before the beast's carcass will be sent to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lab in Ashland, Ore. Depending on their backlog of cases, scientists should be able to find genetic markers to pinpoint exactly what this thing was.
"All of which means it may be a while before anyone knows what the animal near Denton really was," the release said.