You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Is the animal carcass in a cooler a chupacabra?


The first thing that emerged was a paw. Then a head with large fangs appeared.

The creature that Philip Oliveira had frozen in a plastic garbage bag was curled into a ball. Its back legs were longer than its front legs, and the only fur it had was a smooth stripe of brown along its back and some on its tail.

“It’s too big for a coyote,” said Oliveira, a landscaper with a biology degree from Texas Christian University.

“It’s a chupacabra,” said Rocky Howe and Richard Cook, two friends who helped Oliveira find the animal May 31 on his Rockdale farm.

No way, said biologists with Texas State University and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“It’s a coyote with mange,” said Jonah Evans, a mammologist with the wildlife department who has seen photos of the animal Oliveira found.

“Most TPWD biologists have seen hundreds of similar photos, and there is no doubt about what it is,” Evans said.

The chupacabra is a mythical animal whose name means “goat sucker” for its reputation of sucking the blood out of small animals. Evans said he receives reports of people seeing a chupacabra about twice a year, and “every report so far has been either a coyote or raccoon with mange.”

Evans said chupacabra sightings are a “relatively new phenomenon.” The first was in 1995 from a woman in Puerto Rico who had recently seen the science fiction horror film “Species,” Evans said. The first Texas report was in 2004, and a report from Cuero in South Texas in 2007 received global attention, he said.

“The likelihood of discovering an unknown, large, hairless carnivore living undetected amongst people that looks exactly like a common species with mange are so astronomically small that it is difficult to justify spending valuable staff time and resources investigating and conducting DNA testing,” Evans said.

“People want to believe these things are out there,” said Randy Simpson, director of the undergraduate wildlife biology program at Texas State University. “It adds a little excitement.”

Simpson agreed with Evans that the animal Oliveira found was a coyote with mange, which is caused by a mite that leads animals to lose their hair. People are used to seeing animals with their fur, Simpson said, so when they see them without it, “it looks strange.”

Oliveira said he and Howe found the dead animal by a creek on his Rockdale land after he heard his dogs barking “like I had never heard them bark.” Rockdale is about 45 miles northeast of Round Rock.

“When I got a good look at it, I was weirded out,” Oliveira said. “I’ve spent a lot of time camping and fishing, and I’ve been outside my whole life and never even seen an animal that looked like that.”

Oliveira said he doesn’t believe the animal had mange because it didn’t have scabs on its skin. He decided to freeze the critter in a cooler on his back porch until it could be identified.

Howe recently sent pictures of the animal to Ben Radford, deputy editor of the science magazine Skeptical Inquirer.

Radford said Thursday in a phone interview that, after looking at the photos, he decided the animal was a coyote with sarcoptic mange. One of the symptoms of the disease is that an animal loses most of its hair except for a band along its back where it cannot scratch, said Radford, who has written a book called “Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction and Folklore.”

Getting a genetic test would be the easiest way to clear up what the animal is on the Rockdale farm, Radford said.

Oliveira said Thursday he will send a DNA sample of the animal to a lab to be tested.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Parents, special needs children left floundering after Medicaid cuts
Parents, special needs children left floundering after Medicaid cuts

Stacey English has modest desires for her 7-year-old daughter Addison: Be able to eat without gagging and move both her arms. But since Addison’s occupational therapist went out of business this winter, the child with a rare genetic disorder has regressed in her fight to do even that much. “I don’t know where to go from here,&rdquo...
Looking for a two-bedroom apartment here? You need to make $23 an hour
Looking for a two-bedroom apartment here? You need to make $23 an hour

Renters must earn at least $22.98 an hour — more than three times the minimum wage — to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in the Austin area, a recent report reveals. The report, released this month by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, studied the wages needed to afford rental housing throughout the country and uncovered broad...
Hutto files 2 lawsuits after refusing to release city manager records
Hutto files 2 lawsuits after refusing to release city manager records

The city of Hutto is suing the Texas attorney general over the state’s ruling that the town has to release some documents concerning its city manager, Odis Jones. The records were requested by or related to one of three fired female city employees who made discrimination allegations against Jones in March, said the city’s attorney, Michael...
Same tolls, new operators for southern stretch of Texas 130 tollway
Same tolls, new operators for southern stretch of Texas 130 tollway

After more than a year in bankruptcy, the company operating the southern end of the Texas 130 tollway emerged Wednesday under new ownership and new management, shedding about $1.4 billion in debt in what its leadership said makes the nation’s fastest highway more stable. Toll rates won’t be affected. The 41-mile stretch of Texas 130 from...
STONEWALL RALLY: Over 200 celebrate, stand up for LGBT rights in front of Capitol
STONEWALL RALLY: Over 200 celebrate, stand up for LGBT rights in front of Capitol

10 p.m. update: More than 200 people gathered on the steps of the state Capitol to speak up for LGBT rights during the annual Stonewall Celebration and Rally on Wednesday evening.  The event had a series of guest speakers including Miss Austin Pride Nadine Hughes and event organizer Paul Huddleston, who called on the LGBT community and its...
More Stories