An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Monday, July 29, 2013

Four Corners Mystery Canine Sighting

Illustration of the robust mystery canine known as the waheela, by Tim Morris.
Being an outdoorsman and thus having an interest in the possibility of less-exotic mystery animals which could feasibly remain undetected in the very woods I trek through, reports of unidentified canines have long interested me. While there are multiple reports of robust canids under such names as waheela and Shunka-Warakin1, a lack of any substantiated evidence has cast a doubtful light on these being descriptions of genuine novel species. Still, an interesting eyewitness account of such an animal was brought to my attention quite recently. This alleged sighting was made by Jc Johnson, a cryptozoological field researcher operating in the Four Corners region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. I know of several fellow researchers who hold a reasoned respect for Jc, and my own communications with him have left me with the impression that he is an honest individual. While I feel that Jc is likely being truthful in his recounting of the events, this does not mean that I necessarily share his thoughts regarding the alleged animal's possible identity.
Jc feels that the canine he observed was potentially a relict Canis dirus individual. More commonly known as dire wolves, these animals were a large species of wolf which possessed a robust skull size, powerful jaws, and sizable teeth.Dire wolves lived throughout North America late into the Pleistocene epoch which was, geologically speaking, quite recent.2 They possessed rather stocky body proportions due to shorter limbs in relation to body mass, likely indicating that they were less adept at running in comparison to modern wolves and coyotes.2 Still, inferences from fossil finds indicate that these animals most probably lived and hunted in social groups, a behavior which gives hindrance to the idea of such animals remaining undetected today.2 Also, while dire wolves were 25 percent heavier than the extant gray wolf, they possessed roughly the same body size and certainly did not reach the proportions of the animal described by Jc.2 Biologist Ivan T. Sanderson made the rather radical suggestion that large solitary white wolf-like animals reported from the Northwest Territories (the aforementioned waheela) were relict amphicyonid individuals.3 Such a proposition is reasonably deemed unlikely considering these large 'bear dogs' fell victim to significant ecological changes around five million years ago.4 While several previous reports of  immense wolf-like animals from Midwest North America do seem to suggest the potential of an abnormal species of large canine1, no conclusive evidence in the form of skeletal remains or a specimen has yet come forth. Such evidence would be expected considering the extensive field studies conducted into known wolf populations but perhaps our mystery animals utilize a novel, more cryptic behavior. As cryptozoological researcher Matt Bille has stated, all it would feasibly take is "one big, really remote valley".1 The more parsimonious explanation would be that eyewitnesses are encountering morphological extremes of a sort, perhaps rogue wolf individuals which reached an abnormal size. An alleged Amarok killed in the 19th century and now in the possession of the Copenhagen Museum in Denmark was found to be an atypically large Arctic wolf, lending credence to such a hypothesis.3 Wolf enthusiast and researcher Max Toscano has suggested to me that Jc may have observed a sort of domestic dog crossbreed (either feral or momentarily off leash), possibly a Great Dane mix. Regardless of its true identity, Jc Johnson's compelling account of the animal which he reportedly witnessed is below.

The most striking thing I came across out here was back a few years ago. I had taken a couple of friends of mine down on a two-day river trip on the San Juan River. It's a 17-mile run through some pretty rough and wild reservation country. We took it pretty easy the first day, traveling several miles to a place I call Border Camp. We spent the night and had a leisurely breakfast and relaxed for a time the next morning before heading out. It was early in the snow-melt runoff and the river was flowing at about 6500 c.f.s. There is a particular phenomena on the San Juan known as 'sand waves.' Sediments will build up on the rocks in the river, creating waves that roll back upstream, with heights of up to nine feet. We came a cross a long section of sand waves that as challenging as about a class II rapid. I told my friends, two of whom were in a canoe, that if we had more boats and people to help rescue us, we would normally ride the waves and have some fun. But not this time, as I would be unable to perform any type of safe rescue from my kayak, or like wise, they from their canoe. We paddled hard river right. Once past the sand waves, we allowed our boats to roll backwards to look back at the obstacle. We all saw the creature at the same time. It was right up at the edge of the bluff overlooking the river, and walking towards us. It had a body the size of a medium horse, canine-dog legs, massive muscles, a fairly long neck, and a wolfen head with long ears. We all stared in disbelief for a few seconds before the river sucked us downstream around the next bend. 'What the hell was that?' and other exclamations soon followed after we worked our way through the next rapid, then got together in a fairly calm section of water. I called it 'Donkey Dog' for lack of a better description. During the rest of our journey, we would occasionally turn our boats to the side or backwards to look back river and scan the bluffs for 'Donkey Dog.' Near an area where I usually take folks out of the water to climb up and see some pristine Anasazi Ruins, we spotted 'Donkey Dog' atop the last of the big bluffs before the surrounding area flattens out. He was less than a half mile away, and closing. Near the ruins on the other side of the river, we took out our boats and hid them in the bushes. For our subject to stay in pursuit of us, it would have to cross a flat area about 200 yards long. We hoped this was a good opportunity to get a photo of it. We waited for some time - no dice. We were being eaten alive by horseflies and mosquitoes, so we went back to the boats and the strong current. We were about three miles from our 'take out' at this point. Still, even though the landscape flattened out, we would look back as best we could through the heavy brush of Tammy Trees and Russian Olives. There was no further sign of it. Interviews with witnesses before and after this incident, and in different locations, would lead me to believe we may have some type of cryptid wolf, perhaps left over from the last ice age - perhaps the Dire Wolf.5

  1. Bille, Matt. "Cryptid Canines: Unknown Predators?" Matt's Sci/Tech Blog. N.p., 9 Dec. 2012. Web. 29 July 2013.
  2. Narducci, Rachel E. "CANIS DIRUS LEIDY, 1858." FLMNH Vertebrate Paleontology. N.p., 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 29 July 2013.
  3. Shuker, Karl. "ShukerNature: WITCHIE WOLVES, MEDICINE WOLVES, AND THE WAHEELA." ShukerNature. N.p., 16 Feb. 2011. Web. 29 July 2013.
  4. "Bear Dogs of the Amphicyonidae." Prehistoric Wildlife. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2013.
  5. Johnson, Jc. "Dire Wolf?" Online interview. 28 July 2013.


  1. Is Mr. Johnson saying that the horseflies and mosquitoes caused him to abandon any attempt to capture this creature on film? If so, this is a big red flag, in my opinion. If witnessing something sensational like a dire wolf, wouldn't it take more than some pesky, biting insects to give up?

    1. Well, according to him, they had already been waiting for a very long time for it to come back.

    2. Unless one actually sees a creature like that described by the witness, we have no idea how we would react. Frankly, I would think many people would find it daunting.

  2. Proabably didn't go looking for it because it could be dangerous so he didnt move and then he was being stabbed by mosquitos and cut by horseflies he stayed for at least 30 min.


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