Saturday, January 23, 2010

Strange creature 'had' experts scratching their heads

Experts puzzle over mystery creature found in Wise County


WISE COUNTY -- Animal experts are baffled by a small, hairless creature found dead on the golf course at Runaway Bay in Wise County.

Maintenance worker Tony Potter picked it up Wednesday morning. To him it looked a little like a raccoon with no hair.

"Definitely not a dog," he said.

Potter showed the remains to several people and then took it to a veterinarian's office in Bridgeport. He said no one there could identify it, either.

"My wife wouldn't let me keep it in the freezer," he said, so Potter gave it to the Center for Animal Research and Education, a big cat sanctuary in Bridgeport.

The creature is dark brown, about 18 inches long, with a black nose and a face resembling a rodent -- but with long canine teeth jutting from the upper and lower jaws.

The front claws have narrow digits about a half-inch long, with long, narrow nails.

Whatever this is has powerful rear legs "almost like a kangaroo," according to CARE research assistant Sherre Sacher. She said the front claws look like they're made for digging.

The tail is like that of an opossum, but not quite as long.

"It's really exciting," Sacher said. "I can't wait to find out what it is."

The center hopes to hear from experts who would like to examine the animal. Some who have seen it wonder if it's the legendary chupacabra, an animal that supposedly sucks the blood of goats.

If nothing else, one thing appears certain: This is the ugliest bogey ever seen on the Runaway Bay golf course.

You can contact the Center for Animal Research and Education at

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In a followup story: Case Solved

Positive ID for strange creature in Wise County

WISE COUNTY — Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Jennifer Barrow measures the rear feet of a small, hairless creature laid out on a picnic table.

"The pad is the giveaway," she says.

Barrow has seen feet and claws exactly like this many times; teeth, too. She puts a section of jawbone down next to the animal's head for comparison.

"This tooth right here is this tooth right here," she says. "It matches perfectly."

But she's never seen a critter like this.

It was found dead on the Runaway Bay golf course in Wise County last Wednesday morning. Tony Potter picked it up.

"I get out here and I was like, 'What is that? It's not a dog,'" he said. Potter said a local vet didn't know what it was, either.

Potter posted video of the animal on YouTube, and News 8 reported the story on Monday. All the exposure generated an enormous response; many viewers thought it was a type of hairless dog.

It looked to Potter like a raccoon with no hair.

Jennifer Barrow says Potter is correct. "The feet are raccoon feet. The skull is a raccoon skull. Dental formula matches raccoon dental formula. It's a raccoon," Barrow concluded.

A hairless raccoon.

It is just like another specimen found in Kentucky, caught alive and confirmed through lab tests.

We found other photos on the Internet that match the Wise County specimen.

Researchers suspect the hairlessness is due to a congenital defect, not disease. Game warden Penny Nixon wants to emphasize that point.

"This is just an anomaly of a common species," she said. "We don't want anyone alarmed by it. We don't want people to think we have a mange problem or any kind of problem in our wildlife in Wise County."

So wildlife officials are certain they know what it is, but they also know it will likely perpetuate the myth of a creature called the chupacabra.

"They don't exist," Barrow said. "Most of the chupacabra reports are mangy coyotes. Hairless coyotes."

"I was always told that the chupacabra was a mythical beast that was used to keep children from straying far from home, as in: Don't go out there, because the chupacabra might get you," Nixon said.

The little brownish-gray animal on the table might have been a threat to your garbage can, but not to your children.

Barrow said the raccoon apparently was just an unfortunate trick of nature, with no coat to keep him warm through the winter.

The Center for Animal Research and Education in Bridgeport will take custody of the critter. They hope more tests can be performed.

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In a somewhat related story, A Dewitt County Sheriff's Deputy recorded what he and believe is the mythical creature, a Chupacabra.

The video shows some type of animal, possibly a mangy coyote, running down the road in front of the deputy's car.

Note: Congenital defects, mange and other diseases can change an animals appearance quite drastically.

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