Friday, July 17, 2009
A MonsterQuest Look at “Mutant Canines”
In episode entitled “Mutant Canines”, the MonsterQuest team takes a look at the possibility of large mutant canines in the United States. There have been numerous reports of some unknown canine creature that may be attacking domestic dogs and livestock. Reports state that this mutant canine is not a wolf, coyote or domestic dog. Eyewitnesses report seeing a canine like beast with large hunched shoulders, a flat snout, short mangled ears, bushy tail and weighing around 120 pounds. While reports have come in from across the country, Maine and Minnesota are the center of these mutant canine sightings.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, author of Mysterious America, says that tales of this creature go back centuries. Native Americans and early colonists had tales of unknown canine creatures that would hunt in the wilderness. In the 1880s, a Montana rancher claims to have shot and killed one of these creatures and had it mounted. This creature was called Shunka Warak’in which is an Amerindian name meaning “to carry off dogs”. While mounted creature later disappeared, a photo of the creature appears in the 1977 book entitled Trails to Natures Mysteries.
(Note: Since show’s airing the stuffed Shunka Warak’in was found at the Idaho Museum of Natural History
A recent sighting of these mutant canine creatures occurred in September of 2006 in Rollag, Minnesota. Wendell Olsen let his Jack Russell terrier out one night and it never returned. When he went out looking for his dog, he heard yelping sounds but was never able to find his dog. About a month later, he found that something had ripped out the throat of a 700 pound colt that belonged to him. A local Department of Natural Resources agent investigated the incident and said that the culprit was most likely a pack of dogs or coyotes. A few weeks after the killing of the colt, Olsen saw a wolf like creature running over a hill near his house. Wolves are not common in the area of Minnesota around Rollag.
Another sighting of the beast that occurred in Turner, Maine has more evidence. On 12 August 2006, Michelle O’Donnell saw a large canine creature crossing her yard. She described it as a large dark dog like creature that looked wild but not a wolf. The creature had large jaws, huge eyes, tasseled ears and was bigger than most dogs. The creature eventually ran away. A couple of days later, she received a call from a neighbor saying that they had found the body of the creature near her house. She took pictures of the creature and kept the carcass as proof of what she had seen. She sent copies of the photos to reporter Mark Laflamme. The photos of what was called the Turner Beast were run in the Lewiston Sun Journal. ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14383883/ )
Sightings of this creature in Maine go back to at least 1906. The Lewiston Daily Sun carried an article about a creature lurking in the fields and menacing local pickers. The dark brown creature was dubbed the Injun Devil. Like the photo of the Turner Beast, the Injun Devil was reported to have tasseled ears.
Other sightings of these creatures have occurred recently in Maine. In 2004, Leo Doyon reported seeing what he described as a unknown canine with dark or rust colored fur and reddish eyes in Auburn, Maine. Doyon said the creature’s body was built like a hyena. Leo Michaud tells how his 50 pound Doberman Pinscher was attacked by some sort of creature and had to be put down. A couple of days later, Michaud returned home to find an unknown werewolf looking creature near the steps to his house. Michaud has been a hunter for years and is familiar with local wildlife but he could not identify the creature.
Many people believe that these sightings are of wolves or feral dogs. Wolves can be found in many parts of the country and can weigh over 150 pounds. Feral or wild dogs are harder to recognize as they are often not suited for the wild. According to Peggy Callahan of the Wildlife Science center, frostbite can make them lose part of their ears and mange can totally alter their appearance. Mange is caused by a mite that feeds on the proteins on an animals skin. Mange leads to hair loss that can leave the animal with hairless patches and a bone spike for a tail. The disease makes it harder for them to obtain food and drives them into closer contact with humans. Often an animal with mange will look so strange that people familiar with healthy animals will not recognize a diseased specimen.
Another possibility is that the creatures spotted could be some sort of hybrid dog. According to veterinarian Jay Epping, a hybrid dog can result from the mixing of any two dog species including wolves. Peggy Callahan states that there is no way to define the result of mixing dogs with wolves. The temperament, behavior, and reactions to disease can vary greatly.
Some suggest that a member of the weasel family may be responsible for the sightings. Fishers can make strange sounds like a baby screaming and can be up to four feet long. Wolverines are heavier than fishers and are very aggressive. Wolverines have been known to kill Moose and fight with black bears.
Another theory that some have suggested is that the sightings are of some remnant population of dire wolves. These prehistoric wolves were similar in weight to modern wolves but had broader heads, larger teeth, thicker bodies and shorter legs. Dire wolves are believed to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago.
Wildlife and optics expert Craig Enervold joins up with Wendell Olsen to try to capture some photo evidence of the mutant canine creature. They find the carcass of a deer in the area that appears to have been killed by coyotes. Using the deer carcass and the carcass of a dead horse as bait, Enervold and Olsen set up several motion activated camera traps in the area. Enervold attempts to draw in predatory creatures by playing the recording of a distressed rabbit.
Local animal control officer Wendell Strout joins Mark Laflamme on the search for the Turner Beast. They set up numerous camera traps near the O’Donnell residence in hopes of capturing photo evidence of a live creature. In addition, they set out baited live game traps in the area in hopes of drawing the creature in.
The MonsterQuest team will look at the evidence from the Turner Beast that was collected by Michelle O’Donnell. The photos of the dead animal will be examined by wildlife experts. The collected samples of fur, flesh and bone will be sent to New York University for DNA analysis.
The teams returned to collect images from the camera traps and review them for evidence of unknown creatures. After seven days, the camera trap set near the Olsen residence showed no pictures of a mutant canine. The camera traps set up near the O’Donnell residence had stranger findings. The bait left out near one of the camera traps was gone but the cameral did not capture the image of what had taken the bait. The camera either malfunctioned or the animal that took the bait was too stealthy for the camera to work properly.
The photos of the Turner Beast were examined by two animal experts. Veterinarian Jay Epping examined the photos and determined that the creature looked like a dog that had been in the wild for a long time. The stunted ears were probably due to frostbite and the hair loss due to body decay or mange. Wolf expert Peggy Callahan believes that the creature in the photo is not a wolf. She believes that the creature is probably a domestic dog or possibly a wolf/dog mix. The bulging eyes of the creature in the photo were probably the result of the normal decay process.
The DNA analysis of the tissue samples from the Turner Beast were conducted by Dr. Todd Disotell of New York University. The extracted DNA sequence matched that of a domestic dong. Dr. Disotell said the creature could have been a wolf/dog mix as the DNA is almost identical. But, it was definitely not an unknown species.
The MonsterQuest team was unable to find any new evidence of mutant canines in their research. The Turner Beast evidence was considered the best evidence for a mutant dog, but research showed that the creature was most likely a domestic dog. With numerous sightings continuing in Maine and Minnesota, new evidence may show up of mutant canines.