Riddle me this: if you’re on a scientific expedition and you stumble across what might be the remains of a dire wolf – not fossils, but an actual bone-in fur carcass – what’s your next move? The hulking, late Pleistocene carnivores enjoyed a 100,000-year run before succumbing to the Ice Age recession. Now here you are, looking at a suspicious mammalian cryptid hung up in a tangle of branches in a creek. What do you do?

Well, if you’re a member of Brandon Fugal’s research team on the trail of anomalies at Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, you remove the beast’s jawbone. Then you leave the rest of it in the water because the stench is so disgusting. You take the jawbone to a biologist for an informed opinion. The biologist compares its dental structure to that of a dire wolf. Quick-cut facial reactions of the biologist’s small audience give producers just what they’re looking for – Shock, Wonder, and Concern. But a dire wolf is just one possibility, the expert cautions. Let’s sample the DNA.

But anyway, yeah, to reiterate: you leave the putrefying remains – potential evidence of something that may have escaped extinction, sort of, at least until now – floating in the water. Just, yeah, leave it there. It’ll probably be OK.

We’re midway through Season 5 of History’s “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch,” and we’ve yet to get a positive ID on the meat. Maybe they’re saving the reveal for last. But it’s the reverse of how old-school research usually works, you know, gathering enough data on the front end to pursue a hypothesis before you hang your evidence on the line. Then again, Skinwalker Ranch with its complex history of UFO and related paranormal activity isn’t your average vinegar/baking soda balloon experiment.

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