The Saber Wolf – Alaska’s Other Cryptid?

AlaskaCryptozoology reports from the vast state of Alaska indicate there’s another monster afoot in the frozen parts of the world! Is this mysterious creature a relic from the Ice Age, or something new coughed-up by evolution? CryptoVille shovels around searching for the truth!

Last Friday I was watching that new show on Destination America channel, Alaska Monsters. They mentioned this coming week’s episode will be about the saber wolf. I had never heard of that animal/cryptid, so I decided to do some research and see what else may be lurking in the wilds of the last great frontier!

Archaeological Record

To begin with, there was an animal called the Dire Wolf (Canis dirus) that lived in the Pleistocene era up to the most recent Ice Age. Its territory was the North American plains, so that’s pretty much the whole upper Mid-west to Western region, as well as Canada and Alaska.

SaberDireWolfbyFeralkynonDeviantFor some reason, people used to think this animal had long, saber tooth fangs and weighed upwards of 600 pounds, all of which they would use to hunt down and tear apart their unfortunate prey. (Artwork left by FeralKynon on Deviant.)

Thanks to more research done within the last decade, Science now tells us this wolf averaged about 100 – 150 pounds, but could grow up to 200 pounds. It was first thought this wolf was the predecessor of the dogs we know and love today, as well as the gray wolf, but DNA studies done in 2007 at UCLA, proved that was untrue.  The Dire Wolf seems to have died off in the last Ice Age, while another wolf species (Canis lepophagus) went on to survive and become the predecessor of today’s gray wolf and dogs.

The Dire wolf had bone-crushing jaws but archaeological evidence suggests it was a scavenger as well as a hunter. It was a social animal like wolves today, living in packs.

SaberDireWolfRealisticScientists also report that the brains of the Dire Wolf were smaller than those of today’s gray wolf. The Dire Wolf had short, stubby legs which they estimate could run about as fast as a house cat. (More realistic portrayal of the Dire Wolf, right, artist unknown.)

My first thought was that this animal may be a hangover from the Ice Age, still hiding out in the remote areas of Alaska. It could have been renamed by locals as the ferocious predator, the Saber Wolf. But that sounds less likely the more I read about Canis dirus.  Moving on.

Mythology of the Beast

The first fossil remains of the Dire Wolf were discovered in 1854 and people of the day were so fascinated and horrified that a mythology about the creature seemed to spring to life. Namely, they determined the animal was huge, muscular, of savage temperament, with diabolical saber-toothed fangs and glowing green eyes.

This description was picked-up in recent times by a variety of role-playing games and novels.

Odin_and_FenrirSome say the old Viking tale of Odin and Fenrir was the root of this legend. Fenrir was a humongous wolf that Odin chained as a pup. Once Fenrir grew to adult size, it turned on Odin and killed him. Odin’s son avenged his father’s death, killing Fenrir. A Dire Wolf is thought to have been the source for Fenrir’s description, but there’s one problem with that. The Viking poem describing all this was written in the 13th century. No one knew about Dire Wolves until 1854.  So I think we can put all that aside. (Artwork left by Dorothy Hardy, 1909, Odin and Fenrir.)

Do Saber Wolves Exist?

No one has the definitive answer to that, and I seriously doubt the TV program Alaska Monsters is going to shed any real light on whether it exists or not. (I hope I’m wrong!)

However, your intrepid host here has been wondering about this problem for a few days and I would like to share my conjecture with you. Remember this is only conjecture and theorizing – no actual proof.

Science seems pretty convinced that the Dire Wolf died out as the Ice Age ramped up. But they also say things like “probably, we think, it seems.” So they can’t say with 100% assurance at this point in time.

So, what if the Dire Wolf didn’t exactly die off, but instead mutated. I’m wondering about this because of something else I learned a couple years ago.

I was putting together an article about the Black Beasts of Britain. I learned that back in the 1600s, wealthy land owners feeling an economic pinch, let the animals from their menageries loose on the moors and in the forests around them.

I asked an expert in Evolutionary Genetics from the University of Florida if it was possible that in 400 or so years, those lions (and whatnot) could have evolved into their own species, different from their African cousins. He said it was biologically possible.  You can see that article here:

http://visitcryptoville.com/2012/06/27/black-beasts-of-britain-dartmoor-suffolk-norfolk/

So what if the Dire Wolf, instead of dying out completely, evolved a bit differently over the next 12,000 years (the length of the last Ice Age).  Four hundred years versus 12,000 years – a lot could happen.

Let’s add to this the fact that every time we see a show about Alaska, we hear how vast and unexplored it is. We learn about dozens of planes going down and disappearing into thin air (or so it seems).  It’s not the kind of terrain that weekenders can just go out and have a look around.

Dire Wolf and SmilodonNow there are some hearty souls who live in remote areas of that state, and who may have had some close encounters with the more elusive creatures of the Alaskan wilderness.  Could some of these encounters be with an animal more like the imagined Saber Wolf? (Artwork right depicts a pack of Dire Wolves surrounding a Saber Toothed Tiger.)

I would like to leave the door open on this possibility.  Yes, we know there are no living descendants of Dire Wolves, at least in the lower 48. Yes, dogs and gray wolves evolved from another wolf, not the Dire Wolves.

But what was happening up in the remote wilderness of Alaska over the last Ice Age, 12,000 years in the making? Time may eventually tell, but for now, it’s a fascinating theory, at least to me.

What do you think?

 

References

http://www.npca.org/news/magazine/all-issues/2013/spring/wolf-hunt.html

http://www.direwolfproject.com/mythology.html

http://www.wolfsongalaska.org/Mystery_Wolf_Alaska

 

18 comments

  1. I had really high hopes for “Alaska Monsters” but it seems that the producers were able to find people even more ridiculous than the “Mountain Monsters” cast….sigh.
    The content matter of the show interests me greatly but it was all I could do to sit through the first show without changing the channel. It was almost as if they put a beard on Matt Moneymaker and sent him to Alaska.

    I love learning about cryptids, especially ones I haven’t heard about before. I had heard about the Saber wolf but I never did any research on it. Unfortunately I doubt I will get any real info on them from this show either. There may be a few cursory anecdotes mentioned but mainly this show will consist of a bunch or rednecks (I’m one too so I can call them that, I have family that looks JUST like them) crashing through the woods, setting up traps that never catch what they are after, many “That’s him right over there” noises, eye shine, etc., that can’t be verified, a bunch of too convenient home videos that show (what to me looks like a CG’d) “THAT BIG SUMBI**H!” moving through the woods, and FAR too many “close encounters” by one of the cast members and cameramen.

    What I would like to see is some serious investigation by some people who have a smidgen of sense, along with some facts, conjecture, and personal accounts. Similar to what was done on MonsterQuest.
    I won’t give up on “Alaska Monsters” just yet but PLEASE tell me it’s going to get better than the first episode.

    • Oh Patrick, you sure did make me giggle with your comments!! I’m sure many of us agree with you 100%; I know I do.

      Sometimes I wonder why I watch these shows, but the characters, especially on Mountain Monsters, become somewhat endearing & I love to see what happens to them. Mind you, that has NOTHING to do with the cryptids they’re not finding!! (I don’t count finding a huge hog b/c they do that nearly every day in Texas – we ALL know about them.)

      Well, if someone funded me, I’d be happy to go out “there” with the skeptic/scientific approach – but with a twist. I’m sympathetic to the cryptid crowd and am always hoping they DO exist! No one would watch it, probably! LOL!!

      Thanks for visiting CryptoVille!! … Susan

    • I too find the cast really entertaining. They always see things that the cameramen are always a second too late in catching when they pan. It is reminiscent to those Ghost Hunter shows, “Did you hear that? …Did you see that?…. What was that?

      Regardless of how silly these types of show are we must remember there are many areas of the world yet to be truly explored. Also, cryptid studies and research is relatively still a fledgling science. We are always rediscovering species that were thought extinct being rediscovered. As a result anything is possible – so keep one’s mind open to the multitude of possibilities

      • I’m still hoping someone, somewhere finds the definitive evidence we need to convince science that some of these things exist!

        Thanks for visiting CryptoVille! … Susan

  2. Didn’t mountain monsters have a wolf they couldn’t catch too? I’m beginning to think these shows are a lot of bull. Monsters and mysteries in Alaska never mentioned this saber wolf, and now they have Swamp monsters. I really like watching the ghosts and cryptic shows but this is a little to much. I wish it was more like monster and mysteries.

    • Hi Cheryl! I think you’re right! They had some kind of wolf thing they were hunting. I think many of us agree with your opinion of these shows, but as another friend of CryptoVille mentioned (below), they at least bring these creatures to our attention. I hadn’t heard of most of them before, so it’s interesting in that sense.

      Thanks for stopping by CryptoVille! … Susan (CryptoVille)

  3. Hi, and thank you for your ongoing efforts, I truly do enjoy reading you, even if most of the time it is from within my email window because I’m so busy. It wouldn’t surprise me if several mammals from the last ice age still survived in some form way up in the remote wilderness of the north. I want to say that I believe most of the mockumentary shows on these days follow the same (already old) formula and don’t reveal any new information or evidence on the cryptids they “feature”. I suppose the one thing they do that is positive, however, is bring attention to some of these fascinating possibilities. I would much rather read about them here though instead of watch another hokey performance of “did you hear that, that’s definitely a squatch!” or similar LOL. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you Matt! I will try to keep digging into these topics in the hope that we can get to the truth, if not right away, hopefully in the near future.

      I agree that these shows bring these creatures to light (if nothing else!). I’ve never heard of most of them before, so it’s a pleasure to have new cryptids to investigate!

      Thanks again! … Susan (CryptoVille)

  4. I just had to sit through the episode myself because my mom and brother are apparently “in to” the show… I actually did a paper in school on the native myth they referenced and don’t recall anything more than the Dire Wolf information. I think it is the same as Mountain Monsters honestly only different guys getting gun ho worked up about something they can’t get anything more than what you see with Big Foot shows.. And all can be fabricated honestly.

  5. Dude, there is no such thing as evolution, asking a “scientist” doesn’t make it true, once again, ugh, have you seen anything evolve? Has anyone showed any evidence it happens, red flag, red flag, red flag. Why being that you know the world revolves around pride, personal agendas, and money, would you, wow, wow, wow, not think for a second that “scientists” so called, or those believing in evolution wouldn’t also be influenced by such things? Get some wisdom man and get rid of that bias. Look, man: LIVING, FOSSILS. Do you know what those are? They aren’t really fossils, and are not something from evolution, it’s a term made by atheists. But explain why and how they can exist if evolution is true. YOU CANNOT, 100 PERCENT THERE IS NO EXPLANATION UNLESS YOU BELIEVE GOD MADE THE UNIVERSE AND DID NOT USE A SLOW, SLOW, ULTRA SLOW PROCESS OF SO CALLED EVOLUTION. There’s a ton of evidence for creation and amazingly you and millions of others won’t see it!

    • Hello chosenbygrace!

      First, I’m not a Dude, I’m a lady as you can see in my “About” tab.

      I respect your opinion and believe it or not, I can understand your viewpoint. Evolution isn’t necessarily a cut and dried theory.

      I’m Catholic and according to our belief (stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church), evolution is simply the best “working theory” we have as to how life came about on this planet. Science doesn’t negate the teachings of the Bible, as the old Testament has much wisdom to impart to all of us, but we don’t see the Old Testament as a literal account of the unfolding of the world.

      That’s why I respect evolution for what it is, perhaps not absolute proof, but certainly a good working theory.

      Since this is not a theological website, I suggest you turn your concerns and questions to people who are far more knowledgeable than I am in matters of Catholic faith:

      ewtn. com

      Thank you for visiting CryptoVille!

      … Susan (CryptoVille)

      • As a biologist, we very rarely go by 100%. Whenever we have a theory or hypothesis, we run an experiment, either manipulative or observational. To accept the hypothesis, we have to be 95% sure. Of course no one scientist or group of scientists can say definitively that this creature no longer exists, but they can say with a 95% probability that they are extinct. In the science world..the word probable as well as the word significant, have definitive meanings. As to your statement about the cryptids beasts in England, like the biologist at University of Florida stated, it is possible, however taking into account other factors, it is highly unlikely. The weather conditions in the British Isles are not favourable, but more so there is insufficient food source. Despite my username, I do believe that cryptids exist in the wild, even large mammalian cryptids. However, I’m not gullible and I have to look at these things with a critical mind. That’s what I have spend my years at university learning to do.

        • I’m glad you stopped by and commented, Skepticalbiologist! I always love when a scientist will enter the discussion.

          I understand your need for at least a 95% probability in your experiments/studies. That’s why I always tell the Villies that whatever evidence they find, it has to be SOOO good that it will meet or exceed that criteria. I’m longing for the day when we get it so that science can get involved in the studies of these creatures and hopefully implement conservation efforts to protect them.

          Thanks for visiting CryptoVille!

          … Susan (CrytpoVille)

    • Actually, evolution does exist. As a biologist, there are many published peer-reviewed journal articles showing evolution. Most of the animals studied are invertebrates simply because they have a low lifespan and so are easier to study. Drysophila melanogaster, commonly known as the common fruit fly or vinegar fly, is used as a model species for genetics as well as developmental and evolutionary biology.

  6. Every time i watch one of these shows, the first reaction is to get guns. How disgusting. Real scientists, eh? These people are effing ridiculous. NEVER Caught on camera! I bet these are the same people who believe the boogey man exsists. What a waste of good air.

    • Hi Atticus! You’re referring to the show Alaska Monsters? None of them are scientists, they’re just outdoorsmen who survive in very wild places. Hence the guns.

      Thank you for visiting CryptoVille! … Susan (CryptoVille)

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