'Chupacabra' Found In Texas Is Really A Fur-less Raccoon, Says Author of Book on the Legendary Beast

By Gabrielle Jonas on April 4, 2014 4:56 PM EDT

A Texas man says he has captured a corn-on-cob chomping chupacabra: Others say it was just a raccoon with a bad hair day.
A Texas man says he has captured a corn-on-cob chomping chupacabra: Others say it was just a raccoon with a bad hair day.

The so-called chupacabra trapped in East Texas is really a fur-less raccoon, says professional skeptic, Benjamin Radford, author of Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore  and deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. 

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Last Sunday, a man in East Texas caught and captured a strange-looking animal in a tree, UPI reported. "He called me to come and look, and I said, 'Bubba, that looks like a baby chupacabra," his wife, Jackie Stock, told KAVU-TV. 

But Ratcliffe resident Arlen Parma isn't so sure. "I hunted coons for 20 years with dogs and I ain't ever seen anything that looks like that right there," he said, adding that the creature has a growl unlike he's ever heard. "A coon doesn't make that noise, or a possum. What makes that noise? I guess a chupacabra does." 

There have been about half a dozen sightings of chupacabras in Texas over the past 10 years, many of them carcasses. "Texas is sort of a chupacabra factory," Radford said. Almost all of them have turned out to be canides affected by mange. Going strictly by the video, Radford said, "In this particular case, I think it's a hairless raccoon," Radford told the International Science Times in a telephone interview. He believes the raccoon suffers from demodectic mange, caused by follicle mites which cause loss of fur, mostly on the head and foreparts. Even an avid raccoon hunter such as Parma would fail to recognize a raccoon missing its signature physical characteristic. "It's not surprising to me at all that the family that initially found it didn't recognize it as a raccoon," Radford said. "This poor little thing has lost what makes it most identifiable around the eyes and the face."

There are other tells. In the video, the creature scoops up food with a hand; as a raccoon, not a dog would do. And, this "chupacabra" was found in a tree, where raccoons, not canides would be.  

Online commentators of the UPI story were skeptical also, with many wondering why Brent Ortego, a wildlife diversity biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, told KAVU-TV that, based on his seeing it on video, "is some sort of a small canine," meaning it could be a coyote or fox as well as a dog. On Friday, "Andigravity" wrote in the story's comments section, "Brent Ortego needs to be relieved of his job duties. I mean, I know Texas isn't the friendliest state in the Union when it comes to biology education, but it takes an unfortunate sort of talent to look at that animal and mistake it for a canine. One would think the prehensile front paws and the fact it's prone to shuffling around on two legs and sitting upright on its hindquarters so it can hold its food and eat would be a hint it's not a type of wolf, dog, or fox."

That's a raccoon which is, for some reason, missing most of its coat. Having seen other raccoons missing their coats, I can tell you that right off the top of my head, and I think the people guessing it has a really bad case of mange are probably right on the money. The humane thing to do would be to turn it over to a vet who's experienced in handling wild animals so it can be treated."

But there's one way Bubba and his family could be certain. "It's very easy to test," Radford said. "Just put it in a cage with a goat or chicken, and just sit back and wait: If it's a chupacabra, it will attack those things, suck out their blood and sit there and burb and be happy. If it's not, it will look bewildered as if to say, 'What I'm am I supposed to do with these things?'"

The chupacabra that was first sighted in Puerto Rico in 1996, was described as having a spiked back and had a more alien appearance. The word, "chupacabra," is Spanish for "goat eater," as the creature is believed to have slain and sucked the blood of dozens of goats and sheep in Puerto Rico in the 1990s. Radford, who interviewed the woman who first spotted the creature, said she had seen the sci-fi horror film 1995 movie, Species, with Ben Kingleym whome he believes she "confused" with the movie character.

Since the original chupacabra sighting, the definition of a chupacabra has expanded. "If something washes up on a beach somewhere in New York, it's just mysterious enough to trigger the chupacabra label," Radford said. "If you expand the definition to any weird animal live or dead who can't be identified, of course people are going keep finding the chupacabra. People are always going to find some weird animal mangled by a car or who is deformed or who lost its hair, and call it a chupacabra. That's why it's going to keep living."

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