Wolf Park is situated under one of the narrow ends of the bell-shaped curve. In such a location we expect the unexpected. So when I got an urgent call from the intern doing meatballs on April 1, saying that there was a strange animal loose inside our perimeter fence, I wasn’t exactly surprised. Luckily I was already driving to the Park, and spent the drive wishing for those thrilling days of yesteryear when a neighbor’s pit bull occasionally paid us a visit, running the fence and frothing the wolves. (Luckily she was a friendly pit bull. The female wolves hated her on sight but a few of the males thought she was intriguingly cute in a weird way.)
When I arrived at the Park, the mystery animal was out in the bison pasture, excitedly trying to make friends with the bison. It was probably not a dog or a coyote. All our wolves, yotes, and foxes were present and accounted for. The critter didn’t look like a big cat, or a raccoon either. I did notice that it had a thick tail that tapered noticeably from base to tip. Its topline also had a somewhat serrated, or possibly spiked, look. I called Animal Control, but found that not only will they no longer come and collect injured or diseased raccoons, but neither will they come out and remove crypto-critters. Apparently it’s some sort of insurance thing. They suggested I call Wild Cat Creek Wildlife Rescue.
Meanwhile, several angry bison cows were chasing our mystery animal, which was busily running away. It traveled in a mostly quadruped fashion, but rather like a raccoon, and again like a raccoon it appeared to have very dexterous paws, at least in front. With the bison in hot pursuit it swarmed over the pasture fence, appearing to grasp the wire with its front paws, and in a dramatic display of bad life choice, it vaulted up and over the Turtle Lake Enclosure fence in a very raccoon-like way. Inside the enclosure at the time were the Threebies – Bicho, Kanti and Fiona – who saw the invader and immediately gave chase. I excitedly attempted videotaping this with my phone. The video is not very useful for identifying the animal in question, though the fact that something was among us was plain to see.
With a quick doubling back maneuver, the strange beast caused Bicho and Kanti to crash into each other, but as they went down in a welter of flailing paws, Fiona kept up the chase. The animal ran toward the pond and straight into the pond where for two bounds it appeared, like Wile E. Coyote, to be able to run over the surface of the water, but then it sank and thrashed back up to the surface. It looked as though it used its tail to help propel itself through the water. Fiona leaped into the pond after it and moments later, Kanti and Bicho swam after it too. Our wolves are all used to swimming. They all gave aquatic pursuit to the astonishment of a small flock of Canada geese who were swimming on the pond. The creature submerged about 20 feet away from the birds and seconds later two of the geese began to honk and beat their wings. The entire flock took flight at that point, and the crypto-beast, firmly gripping the feet of two of the geese, one set of legs in each front paw, rose out of the water with them. The flock left, still calling noisily, with the strange animal holding onto two of the geese. We were left with angry bison cows, wet Threebies, and all the wolves at East Lake running up and down their respective fences. The coyotes were speechless, for once, and at the time of this writing are still so wide eyed that their eyes look as big as saucers. The foxes all have big eyes too, but their eyes are only the size of coasters that you put under drinking glasses. Scarlette shrieked EEEEEEEE EEEEEEEE EEEEEEE until the geese were out of sight.
The question of the crypto beast’s identification remains. Unfortunately (or maybe it is fortunate) we have no remains to identify. It was about the size of a large coyote, and looked leggier than a raccoon or otter. If it had a pelt it was very short and fine – rather like bison coats (on the back half of the bison) in summer. It ran on all fours but could climb at least as well as a raccoon and its method of using geese to escape showed that it has impressive gripping ability in its front paws. The tail also did not look like either a canid or a felid tail. Along its dorsal surface it had what appeared to be small serrations, but not really spiny and it was uniformly dark in color. Qualified cryptozoologists who may be able to tell us what this was are requested to contact Wolf Park.