Posts Tagged ‘chupacabras’

Well, West Virginia really isn’t either.

But I mean come on! This is obviously a raccoon. Having caught a few raccoons in traps just like this one, they all make this growl! It’s almost diagnostic of a raccoon.

Of course, the hands give it away, and I’d like to know what state wildlife official deemed this thing a “canine.”  What breed of dog has hands?

Just watch this clip and try to keep your head from exploding. The stupid. It hurts.

I don’t care if this man has hunted raccoons with dogs for years. Raccoons don’t make that growl when dogs are chasing or killing them. That’s a threat growl they make when they are in cage traps.

Raccoons basically do look a lot like dogs with hands. When Miley first encountered one in a cage trap, she went into play bows in front of it.

It was less than impressed.

Chupacabras are just normal animals that are hairless for some reason. The most common chupacabra is a mangy fox or coyote.  Most of our native carnivorans are well-furred out, so when they lose their hair for some reason, most people are shocked at what their bodies actually look like underneath.

Raccoons really don’t look much like raccoons when they lose their hair.

But if you know that a raccoon is basically a dog-like animal with hands, I don’t think you’d be able to mistake it for anything.

But maybe I’m weird in that I’ve seen too many raccoons up-close that it’s hard for me to see how anyone could be so daft as to declare this poor animal a unique species.

However, this is the internet. And many people don’t go to the internet to find out things.  They go to the internet to believe.

So I bet as soon as a sane, qualified zoologist declares this chupacabras to be a raccoon, there will be all sorts of denials that there is no way this animal could be a raccoon– and, of course, there will be a conspiracy theory or two spun out of it.

(See the Montauk Monster debacle, if you don’t believe me!)







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It never ceases to amaze me about how poorly informed people are about the natural world.

Whenever someone runs into a wild animal that is hairless for some reason, the imagination starts running wild.  People start making claims that they’ve seen some sort of new species, perhaps an extraterrestrial or something from a secret government lab.

You often run into internet experts who swear that an animal can’t be merely a common animal with alopecia– “because it looks so different!”

Never mind that genetic studies clearly reveal the animal’s identity.  It must be something unique!

Most northern hemisphere mammals are pretty well-furred.

From a distance, we don’t normally see the animal’s musculature or physique. We don’t see how its ears fit into the skull.  We don’t see how the head is really shaped.  The fur hides that much.

When the fur is gone, all of these features are revealed, and they do make the animal look more bizarre.

My personal favorite of all these amazing new animals is the chupacabra.

Pretty much every chupacabra ever killed or described to science has turned out to be either a dog or a coyote.  In Puerto Rico, some might even be mongooses, which were introduced to control the rat population. On the  US mainland, some chupacabras have turned out to be raccoons.

But the vast majority of these chupacabras have turned out to be canids. Some have been red foxes, but they most usually have been coyotes or domestic dogs.

And when the animal’s skin can be tested for disease, it almost always turns out that Sarcoptes scabei is the culprit.  In short, these animals are hairless because of a severe case of sarcoptic mange.

The dead canid in the photo above is one two similarly afflicted individuals that were found in the vicinity of Cuero, Texas.

It was the second one to have its DNA analyzed. The first was found dead on a ranch in the vicinity of the town. DNA tests revealed that it was a coyote.

The second one was shot in roughly the same area, and it turned out to be a bit different. It had coyote mtDNA, but its y-chromosome was that of a Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi).  Y-chromosome tests merely trace paternal heritage, so it is very possible somewhere along the way, a Mexican wolf mated with a coyote somewhere in that region. The offspring then bred back into coyotes, and through each generation, the wolf component of their ancestry became diluted.  But the Mexican wolf y-chromosome remained, even though these animals are coyotes.

Now, that finding is much, much more interesting than all the crap that has been written about these particular chupacabras from Cuero. The woman who collected these samples runs a website that is full of denialism about what these animals actually are. I am particularly enjoying her claim that the tracks of these animals don’t look like those of coyotes, even though the track pictured looks exactly like the coyote track I photographed two years ago.

To me, it’s a much more amazing find to discover that Mexican wolves have contributed a few genes to the Texas coyote population.

It’s a much more amazing discovery than anything people can imagine about these animals being a unique species, which some have suggested should be called a “Texas blue dog.” (I thought that was a political term!)

This animal is yet another example of the wondrous species complex that exists between Canis lupus and Canis latrans.

Trying to turn these animals into unique species really isn’t that different from what people have tried to do with the red wolf and the so-called Eastern wolf species. Both have ancestry from both wolves and coyotes, but that does not make them unique species at all.

If the case for the Eastern wolf and red wolf as distinct species is that terrible, the case for the Texas blue dog is even worse off.  Its blue eye and so-called “pouches” aren’t going to make any difference.

Coyotes can have blue eyes.

This one, I believe, was killed in New Mexico, where the coyotes are either free or almost entirely free of dog ancestry:

They actually can get bluer than this one. Coyotes may have a mutation that causes blue eyes that is entirely different from what causes blue eyes in domestic dogs. No one has performed any analysis to determine why coyotes, even those from populations that have not been known to cross with dogs, like the ones in the Southwest, sometimes have blue eyes.

As for the pouches, those are actually cysts called hygromas that develop when an animal spends so much time sitting on its haunches scratching its neck.  Which is exactly what we’d expect from an animal suffering from a severe case of sarcoptic mange.

Of course, Texas isn’t a place where knowledge about zoology should be expected. This is, after all, the state that attempted to  introduce creationist textbooks into the class room.

I’m not saying everyone in Texas is an idiot, but any state that would elect this guy governor has a large number of citizens who have issues with critical thinking.

The discovery of a coyote with a Mexican wolf y-chromosome is an amazing discovery. If we’ve found one coyote with this ancestry, there are likely many of them.

There are lots of questions to ask about these coyotes.  When did the y-chromosome enter the population? How widespread are coyotes with this ancestry?  These questions are very much worth asking.

After all, the Mexican wolf is the most critically endangered subspecies of wolf in North America, and although its former range included Texas, the exact limits of its historical range are not clear. There is some evidence that it occurred as far north as Colorado, and its range in Texas may have been more extensive than we currently estimate.

But we can’t ask that question when we’re trying to turn these animals into paranormal bloodsuckers.

I know that chupacabras get the headlines.

But we’ve actually found something quite interesting here.

The truth is actually much more amazing than anything our imaginations could contrive.

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Another raccoon with mange.

The article suggests that this might be an opossum, but opossums generally don’t get mange.

And the digits on this animal are quite slender and straight, like we would expect from a raccoon. Opossums have curled digits that are quite clunky by comparison.

It is almost identical to this mangy raccoon that was captured in Oklahoma:


The chupacabra phenomenon is really bizarre, for nearly every one of these animals has turned out to be a dog, a coyote (or coyote hybrid), a fox, or a raccoon that simply has no hair.

When humans see such an animal, the imagination tends to embellish what they eyes are observing. And our ability to tell stories about what we think see means that we can take what are really mundane occurrences and make them quite fanciful.

That these animals are given such wide billing online is really the result of our alienation from the natural world. When people lived closer to nature, mangy foxes and raccoons would be known to nearly everyone, but in our post-industrial societies, most people find out about nature through television and the internet. And both of these media can create a whole new set of mythologies.

In colonial New England, it was accepted biological fact that gray foxes scouted prey for cougars, simply because gray foxes had figured out how to follow cougars as a way of getting access to deer carcasses. People knew that cougars and gray foxes were always found together, so they embellished a story about the foxes helping the cougars hunt.

Now that cougars no longer roam New England (at least officially), hairless canids and raccoons become chupacabras. I am sure that someone will leave comments on this blog telling me why this animal cannot be a raccoon. I still have people telling me that the dead raccoon that was given a Viking funeral off the coast of Long Island (“Montauk Monster”) was some kind of dog. (That’s easy to debunk. No dog has “hands.” When fully-furred, raccoons look fatter  and shorter legged than they are. That’s why the legs look too long on the hairless animals.)

The real problem with these animals is people like to create fantasies and conspiracy theories about them, which take on an almost religious overtone. One cannot question the fantasy or the conspiracy theory.

The animal becomes a totem in a religion without a deity.





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Hairless raccoon


This animal has severe mange or some other skin condition.

But some would call it a “chupacabras.”

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It’s actually the Montauk Monster.

In seriousness, it’s a raccoon with mange. And the others have all been coyotes or foxes with mange.

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Two hairless coyotes chupacabras were killed in Hood County, Texas.

One of the officers describes the animal beautifully:

“It was ugly, real ugly. I’m not going to tell no lie on that one.”

Texas A & M scientists believe these creatures are both coyote hybrids with very severe cases of mange.

This story gets repeated so often on this blog that these stories are starting to run together. Almost all of these have involved coyotes or coydogs or possible coyote-wolf hybrids. I can remember at least one that involved a red fox.

And then there was the one in Iraq that was nothing more than a ratel or honey badger.

Whenever a hairless dog-like creature is seen in Texas, someone shouts “chupacabras” and the media go into sensationalism overdrive.

It’s not as bad as the Montauk Monster nonsense, but I’m sure one can find conspiracy theories about these animals.  In fact, if you know of any, please pass them along.

It seems that whenever people see a hairless animal of a species or form we typically think of as furred, our imaginations start rolling until we have created something so fantastic that our rationality refuses to believe otherwise.

We are at the beginning of the silly season. I guess we haven’t had any exciting shark attacks to report, and the pit bulls (and the Labs who look  like them) must be behaving themselves.

I’m awaiting another story about some rednecks who claim to have bigfoot in their freezer.

Or maybe something hairless and decomposing will wash up on the beach somewhere.

It’s all in good fun.

Just don’t believe it, or you’ll become like  Dale Gribble Rusty Shackleford.

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It has nothing to do with politics.

It is also not the blue lacy dog (“state dog of Texas.”)

It’s this thing:


“It looks like a coyote.”

“Tests say it was some sort of coyote.”

My guess is that these animals are coyotes with mange.

However, they could be coyotes that are evolving sparse hair– perhaps with an infusion of Latin American hairless dog genes.

It is speculated that sparse hair and hairlessness evolved in domestic dogs in Latin America as a way of dealing with ectoparasites.

In Pre-Columbian Latin America, larger numbers of dogs existed in very high densities. Dogs were food and sacrificial animals for some civilizations. It is also very likely that ectoparasites were a major problem. Having sparse hair or hairlessness is one way to deal with these parasites. The bugs are more easily plucked from the bare skin than they are from thick coats. If you’ve ever had a tick in your hair, you know how much harder it is to get it out than it is to pluck it off your leg.

Coyotes do exist at very high densities in parts of Texas, so it is possible that this same sort of environmental pressure is resulting the evolution of the same adaptation.

Of course, hairlessness in domestic dogs was always encouraged through selective breeding. If a dog didn’t have hair, it would be more likely to mate before it got eaten or sacrificed.

I think these animals will prove to be “some sort of coyote.”

That’s my guess.

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