Chupacabras Invasion!

P1040239Across the arid plains of Texas, macabre, vampire-like animals are lurking, allegedly aspiring to suck the blood out of hapless livestock. These grotesque, hairless, zombie-gray canines have seemingly multiplied in number since the first known specimen was, shot by a rancher named Devin McAnally back in 2004. The Elmendorf Beast, as it later became known, was accused of slaughtering dozens of McAnally’s prized chickens and then leaving their bloodless bodies behind like sinister calling cards. As word spread about the malevolent ‘Beast’ and its timely demise, local old-timers in Elmendorf began to recall similar events from their native homeland of Mexico and before too long, the dreaded name Chupacabras was, uttered.

While there are distinct differences between Texas’ version of the ‘goatsucker’ and its Puerto Rican cousin, there are also some striking similarities. Most readers are, by now familiar with the notorious Chupacabras creature that was first encountered by residents of Puerto Rico during the mid 1990s. Its goblin-like image, complete with large, lidless eyes, sharp claws and a Mohawk of spikes running down the length of its back, was disseminated on Internet websites around the world. Claims that the unearthly, biped was responsible for hundreds of animal mutilations on the island of Puerto Rico are well documented. Most disturbing was the carnage it left in its wake, bloodless livestock that typically bore two distinct puncture wounds. A modern day Dracula was afoot! In Texas, the massacre has not been nearly as extreme. However, residents of the Lone Star State are encountering a creature that cannot be easily explained and in some of the cases, claims of vampirism have been made.

Take for example, Cuero rancher and big game hunter Dr. Phylis Canion, who had the foresight to collect and preserve the remains of a so-called ‘Chupacabras’ after her neighbors had alerted her to its grisly, road-killed body on the nearby highway. Phylis had seen the mysterious critter prowling around her property in recent weeks and like McAnally, had been losing a surprising number of chickens to a type of predator that she had never encountered before. Canion couldn’t understand why some varmint was slaughtering her poultry but neglecting to devour their flesh like the coyotes, bobcats and other animals she’d dealt with. Instead, it was the victim’s blood that the night stalker seemed to be after.

When Phylis examined the carcass of the specimen, she was shocked. The four-legged creature weighed at least forty pounds and was completely hairless, with a rough, leathery hide that reminded her of elephants she had encountered while on safari in Africa. Its fangs seemed to be pronounced, although all of its incisor teeth were conspicuously absent. It’s claws were razor sharp. After much ado, Canion’s creature was DNA tested and determined to be a hybrid between a coyote and wolf, although officially wolves are no longer considered to be native to Texas. Experts pointed out that a parasitic skin mite known as mange might be responsible for the hairless condition of the animal, but Phylis wasn’t buying it. She had seen plenty of mangy coyotes in her day and they all had had displayed patches of fur on their bodies and irritated skin; not at all like this thing.

Then there was the video footage that stunned the world. In 2008, a deputy sheriff from DeWitt County, (not far from where Phylis lived), captured an incomprehensible image on his dashboard camera while on patrol one afternoon. A squat, brown-colored critter suddenly emerged on to the dirt road he was cruising and began jogging along in front of his car while he filmed. Whatever the thing was, it didn’t appear to resemble any animal that Deputy Brandon Reidel had ever encountered before. At one point when the creature turned its head to the side, its muzzle appeared to be entirely too large for the size of its head, almost like the snout of a pig. The resulting footage was widely disseminated by CNN on their news broadcasts and also on the Internet. Subsequently, the video received quite a bit attention from the general public, who were baffled by what kind of animal they were observing.

Around that time I was contacted by, a gentleman named Harvey Hayek who is a well-regarded citizen of Fayette County, which lies approximately halfway between the cities of Austin and Houston. Harvey felt compelled to get in touch with me after a series of encounters with mysterious critters on his property. He had pondered whether there might even be a connection to the unexplained death of one of his prize calves. The yearling had seemed fine one summer day, but then its remains were discovered in the pasture the following morning, with no logical explanation for its passing.

Within the year Harvey had come in contact with three different neighbors who had taken photos of perverse, four-legged creatures, including a rancher who’d watched one of his calves being stocked by one of the beasts. In July of 2009, he came to be in possession of an unidentified carcass, which had been run over just outside of Fayetteville. Harvey and I studied the animal’s decaying remains together, before sending them off to scientists at Texas Tech University for analysis. To my knowledge, they still haven’t provided any definitive answers, though paleontologists felt that its skull most resembled that of a coyote.

In the past two years, there seems to be a marked increase in Chupacabras activity around the state of Texas and expanding north into Oklahoma. In May of that year I was, contacted by a gentleman who resides on the west side of San Antonio, mere miles from where I live. The individual named Greg had, videotaped one of the creatures lurking at an abandoned lot in a subdivision known as Leon Creek. It seemed to fit the profile of the other creatures that have turned up and looked essentially like a coyote with rough, hairless skin. When the animal retreated into the brush, Greg undertook and investigation of the area and found the remains of a dismembered house cat, along with some droppings.

My own personal experience with a one of these things occurred during the early summer months of 2010. Harvey Hayek had called to tell me that he had yet another carcass in his possession and that I was welcome to it. Apparently, several people had pulled over to the side of a road near Rutersville, Texas to gawk its weird, road-killed body. Since no one there was quite sure what they were looking at, one gentleman at the scene had the presence of mind to place the remains in the bed of his pickup truck and put them on ice. It was a smelly experience for me over the next few days, as I maintained its corpse in an igloo cooler on my patio. I attempted to find a taxidermist who could make me a proper mount of the specimen. But alas, its flesh was too far-gone and no one would touch it. Subsequently, I took some photos and measurements of it, removed some tissue samples for testing and buried its body in the garden of a good friend so that I could dig up its bones at a later date. As I had studied the specimen, it seemed like an all too familiar sight. By now, I had seen these malformed canids over and over again. But still had no earthly clue why they looked this way.

In August of 2010, came the first known attack on a human. Staysha Henderson of Jack County, Texas (near Dallas) had entered a camper on her grandmother’s property and encountered something that she at first mistook to be a malnourished dog. When she reached out to hand the animal a bowl of water, the thing lunged at her hand and bit it. After a relative dispatched Sayasha’a attacker with a bullet, she was taken to the local hospital treated for potential rabies and also for a large gash that required stitches. The creature was again virtually hairless, with scabby, gray skin and long, white fangs. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve been receiving reports pertaining to these ‘blue dogs’ steadily over the past year.

So now what? First, we should probably dispose of the notion that these variant canids are blood-drinking vampires. Despite the testimony of credible witnesses like Devin McAnally and Phylis Canion, there just isn’t scientific evidence that these animals possess the specialized adaptations they would need to feed exclusively on blood. For this affirmation we can look to the only blood drinking higher mammal – the vampire bat, which has a unique digestive system, as well as an anticoagulant in its saliva. However, we might consider the possibility that these sickly-looking, blue dogs crave certain minerals found in blood due to malnourishment. Or perhaps they are simply too weakened by their condition to chew and swallow flesh, so their tendency is to kill with one bite, then lap up whatever blood they can digest. In this sense, there may be a shred of truth to the legend. But the name Chupacabras has obviously been over-hyped by the media and popular culture in general since the notion of night stalking ghouls almost always results in good ratings and public interest.

We must then address the statement by experts who say that these Chupacabras are merely mangy coyotes. Though oversimplified, this theory is probably accurate despite the fact that DNA tests from different laboratories have shown that some were hybrids with wolves or feral dogs. We may be splitting hairs since they are ultimately all members of the same genus (Canis) and therefore can interbreed. But, it is debatable whether simple inbreeding would cause significant congenital defects. For example, one specimen, which was shot near Pollok, Texas during 2004, bore strange limbs, a freakish overbite and was likened to an enormous rat. Its skin was necrotic and bloodless, as if the thing had been dead for days. Its ear even broke off when veterinarian Sandy Womack pulled on it. She later remarked that she had never seen anything quite like it in all her years of practice.

An interesting development of late has been the capture of hairless raccoons in Oklahoma and Kentucky. While the Oklahoma specimen was determined to be stricken with sarcoptic mange, experts determined that the Kentucky critter was suffering from a condition called alopecia. Generalized mange, a parasitic mite that can burrow into the skin of animals and causes hair loss, might be the cause of these animals’ strange appearance. However as I’ve pointed out, most residents of Texas are familiar with the appearance of mangy coyotes. It is unprecedented for victims to be completely hairless, which would indicate a potent strain of mange the likes of which has never been seen before. And what of the other deformities that have been noted, including abnormal teeth, disproportionate limbs with long claws, flaps of skin on the hindquarters, missing nipples and even cataracts?

Perhaps a genetic component therefore bears some consideration. This possibility was, recently conveyed to me by a dog breeder named Adrienne Powers. A producer of rare hairless, Peruvian Inca Orchid show dogs, Adrienne invited me out to her facility near Austin to observe her prize-winning animals and I was intrigued by the similarities in skin texture between her dogs and the monstrosities I’ve studied. Adrienne pointed out that naturally hairless dogs have sensitive skin that is prone to outbreaks similar to the scabbiness that has been described on Texas’ Chupacabras. Perhaps not coincidentally, the dominant gene that carries the hairless trait also can cause irregular dentition, which most of the creatures have displayed in one form or another. Or is it possible that there is a more diabolical explanation, such as a mutation caused by pollution, covert government experiments or even extraterrestrials?

Whatever the cause, disease, mutation or a combination of both, the time has come when we must acknowledge the fact that many more of these monster dogs are out there… and whatever they are, they’re multiplying.

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