Montana Nessie

Freshwater Monster of Montana.

Etymology: After Scotland's Nessie.

Variant name: Flattie.

Physical description: Apparently, two types of animal are involved. Large animal—Eel-shaped. Length, 20-40 feet. Brown to bluish-black. Head like a snake's. Distinctive, steel-black eyes. Dorsal fin sometimes reported. Small animal— Like a large fish. Length, 6-10 feet.

Behavior: Swims on the surface with vertical undulations. Often seen cavorting in the water, which could be either playfulness or feeding behavior.

Distribution: Flathead Lake, Montana.

Significant sightings: In 1889, Capt. James C. Kerr, piloting the steamboat U.S. Grant, noticed a whalelike object. Thinking it to be an approaching boat, he kept an eye on it but soon realized the object was an animal 20 feet long. His passengers became frightened, and one gun-toting man pulled out his rifle and shot at it. He missed, and the creature submerged.

On May 27, 1937, L. J. Eakins saw what looked like a large dog swimming down the Flathead River. It held its head out of the water and looked at him once as he shouted at it.

H. W. "Buck" Black and his family were returning to Polson by boat on July 10, 1949, when they saw a large fish about 150 feet away. Six feet of its back was showing, but the head was submerged. Black is convinced it was a 10-to 12-foot sturgeon.

Howard Gilbert and his wife were driving along the eastern shore on June 12, 1955, when they saw two large fishes, one 8 to 10 feet long, cavorting in the water. After two minutes, they submerged, one disappearing and the other swimming underwater toward the shore.

The E. E. Funke family saw a shiny, black animal with a dorsal fin swimming toward their boat dock on Indian Bay on August 19, 1965. It created a boat-sized wake.

U.S. Army Maj. George Cote and his son Neal saw a black object, as long as a telephone pole and twice as thick, surfacing and diving in Yellow Bay on May 25, 1985. It had a head like a snake's and a tail like an eel's. They saw a similar animal on July 1, 1987, near Lakeside.

Rich Gaffney and his family watched a NESSIE-like animal surface about 50 yards away amid a school of fish in Skeeko Bay on July 29, 1993. It had shiny humps and was 15-20 feet long.

On June 20, 1998, three brothers were wakeboarding on the lake when they saw three dark-green humps in the water ahead. The animal the humps belonged to was about 30 feet long, with rough scales. It dropped below the surface and swam past their boat, leaving a small wake.

Present status: Local investigator Paul Fugleberg has identified ninety different sightings from 1889 to 1999. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks had collected seventy-eight sightings by 1998; 32 percent fit the description of a large sturgeon, while the other 68 percent describe a snakelike animal with humps. Possible explanations: (1) The White sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), though not officially known from this lake, reaches lengths of 20 feet

352 MONTANA NESSIE

and is the largest freshwater fish in North America. It is dark gray or pale olive above and white to pale gray on the underside. The report that a sturgeon 7 feet 6 inches long was caught here on May 28, 1955, by C. Leslie Griffith is not accepted by all investigators; the fish can still be seen in the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum, however. The smaller, fishlike animal could be a sturgeon.

(2) The Northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) matches the size, but unfortunately, this is a marine mammal.

(3) A miniature submarine has been suggested.

Sources: Tim Church, "Flathead Lake Monster," Pursuit, no. 32 (October 1975): 89-92; Tim Church, "Flathead Lake Monster Update," Pursuit, no. 35 (Summer 1976): 62; Gary S. Mangiacopra, "The Two Monsters of Flathead Lake, Montana," Of Sea and Shore 12, no. 2 (1981): 93-96, 114; Paul Fugleberg, Montana Nessie ofFlathead Lake (Polson, Mont.: Treasure State Publishing, 1992); Paul Fugleberg, Flathead Lake Nessie Log: A Listing of Reported Sightings, 1889-1999 (Polson, Mont.: Paul Fugleberg, 2000); Paul Fugleberg, "Montana Nessie? The Creature from Flathead Lake, Montana," Crypto Dracontology Special, no. 1 (November 2001): 20-25; Monsterwatch Project, http://www.monsterwatch.itgo.com.

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