Number of Montana Sightings: Undetermined (4+)
Counties Sighted: Dawson, Garfield, Madison, McCone
Meet Shunka Warak’in, the beast as difficult to pronounce as it is to find. It’s fitting that this creature’s name should be a mouthful, because according to Native American legend, Shunka Warak’in would sneak into tribal camps to gobble up dogs. (In fact, “Shhuhnkha Warahwalkin” means “carries off dogs” in the Ioway language.)
The monster is described as a wolf with high shoulders and a back that slopes downward like a hyena’s. What is truly remarkable about this cryptid, however, is that unlike the skunk apes of Florida or the Texas chupacabra, this monster has been shot, stuffed, and put on display (because Montanans don’t mess around).
In 1896, Israel Ammon Hutchins of Madison County encountered an unusual wolf-like creature which he dubbed “Ringdocus.” In his memoirs, Hutchins’ son, Elliott, describes the night his father killed the beast, remembering its horrible screams and its ferocity to the end; “[the monster] exerted his very last strength to reach any one of us.”
A simple rifle bullet ended the Shunka Warak’in’s life. Hutchins Sr., like any proud monster slayer, sent the remains to a local taxidermist. The trophy was put on display just across the Idaho border, where it remained for nearly a century. In the 1980s, the remains went missing, but were eventually tracked down and returned to Montana by Hutchins’ grandson, Jack Kirby, in 2007.
In the years since Hutchins slayed the creature, there have been reports of similar wolf-like animals in the West and Midwest. In fact, from 2005-2006, the deaths of more than 120 Montana livestock were attributed to an animal dubbed the “Creature of McCone County.” On November 2, 2006, its rampage was brought to an end by Wildlife Services. The animal’s characteristics initially puzzled wildlife officials, with the head of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s wolf program stating, “Frankly, it has mixed characteristics.”
DNA testing confirmed that the Creature of McCone County was a domestic wolf that had been turned loose. Madison County’s taxidermied Shunka Warak’in, on the other hand, has never undergone DNA testing. According to Kirby, preserving the mystery might be more important than solving it. In a 2007 interview he responded to the issue rhetorically; “Do we want to know?”
Flathead Lake Monster
Number of Montana Sightings: 109
Counties Sighted: Flathead, Lake
Lake monsters are a dime a dozen in this country. Nebraska has the Alkali Lake Monster. New York has Kipsy and Champ. Caddy lives off the coast of Oregon and Cassie off the coast of Maine. Lake Erie has Bessie, Lake Tahoe has Tessie, and Chessie lives in Chesapeake Bay. But the Flathead Lake Monster—“Flessie” to her adoring fans—is no second-rate sea monster; she’s the starlet of Lake and Flathead Counties.
Flessie’s first appearance before a live audience came in 1889, when Captain James C. Kerr and his 100 steamboat passengers spotted an unusually large whale-like creature. Others since have described her features as being like those of a sturgeon or, most commonly, a serpent. Eyewitness testimony puts her length between twenty and forty feet, with roughly eighty accounts of an eel-like creature with steel black eyes.
Despite variances in Flessie’s physical description, all seem to agree on her temperament; she’s no threat to Montanans. Just the opposite, in fact. A 2017 newspaper article titled “Lake creature saves tot’s life” gained national attention for describing Flessie’s supposed rescue of a three-year-old boy. The child, who could not swim, was found soaking wet at the end of a dock. When asked what happened, he replied that he fell in the water and a monster lifted him back up.
According to locals, you couldn’t ask for a better cryptid than Flessie. There are murals and statues in her honor. The Cove in Polson has an 18-inch pizza named after her. She even has her own line of handcrafted gourmet sodas.
Though her stardom is well-deserved, she hasn’t let it go to her head. She’s still as shy as ever, making an appearance only a couple times a year.
Number of Montana Sightings: 52
Counties Sighted: Beaverhead, Big Horn, Broadwater, Carbon, Cascade, Flathead, Gallatin, Glacier, Granite, Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Madison, Meagher, Mineral, Missoula, Park, Phillips, Ravalli, Richland, Roosevelt, Sanders, Silver Bow, Stillwater
Bigfoot’s cross-country adventures put even Forest Gump to shame. According to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (yes, really) ol’ Footsie has been spotted more than 5,300 times and in every state except Hawaii.
Reports suggest that Sasquatch first toured the Treasure State in the 1970s. It was sighted twice in the summer of ‘77, once by a fly fisherman near Hauser Dam and once by a young equestrian on the outskirts of Missoula. The horseback rider, eleven at the time, said she saw the ape man peeking out from behind a tree. Similarly, the fisherman’s testimony describes Bigfoot as a nonconfrontational monster; “A hairy bipedal creature [was] moving very rapidly up the bank and quartering away from me in the downstream direction … Before the sighting of the creature, I had four trout … After the sighting, there were only two trout.” (Talk about a fish story!)
Bigfoot was sighted twice in 2019, most recently on June 12, northeast of Flathead Lake. When the motorist who sighted him pulled over for a better look, he bolted up the side of Crane Mountain.
It’s hard to say why the Foot Man was out and about in Flathead County, but if it’s true that he loves fish, we’d wager he was out looking for Montana’s lovely lake monster.