Peculiar animal sparks rumors of chupacabra

A Lake Jackson resident shot photos of a strange-looking animal near her home. Her husband, a retired biologist, believes it's a hungry coyote suffering from mange. (Linda Crabtree)
July 11, 2011 5:02:07 PM PDT
You've heard the outlandish stories, the unbelievable claims -- the myth of the chupacabra. Over the years, there have been alleged sightings all over the south, creating quite a reputation for a creature that experts say doesn't exist. Now one local town is abuzz with the latest so-called sighting. Any talk may be just that, because even the man who saw a strange critter in a field near his home believes there is a scientific explanation for all this.

On the front of the local paper is a picture of an animal and a headline about a reported chupacabra sighting. But to get to the answer behind all of this, you have to talk to Jack Crabtree, who first saw the animal about three weeks ago.

"Look at that dog. I've never seen a dog like that," he recalled. "That's the response that a person would have."

At the time, a family friend was visiting, and Crabtree informed them of the legend.

"The evil animal of the night that sucks blood from the goats and chickens," Crabtree explained.

The legend of the chupacabra began in Puerto Rico and migrated to Mexico and the US.

Linda Crabtree took some photos of the creature a week ago. The animal has no hair and was walking in a neighboring field, believed to be the same one she and her husband first saw.

"He'd been out foraging, undoubtedly, in the neighborhood, up the creek, looking for something to eat," Crabtree said. "He got caught out later than he should have."

Back to the answer to the question -- is this a chupacabra? Crabtree thinks not. As a former state wildlife biologist, he's in a position to judge. Instead, he believes it's a coyote with mange, which most reported chupacabras have proven to be.

As for sending the photos?

"It was kind of a practical joke, a spoof, with the local paper, that got more attention than I expected it to," he admitted.

Those stories usually do.

Crabtree has put a humane trap near his home, hoping to catch the animal and turn it over to wildlife rehabbers who could treat the skin condition and release it to the wild.

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