July 14, 2010— -- The legend of the chupacabra has returned to Texas.
In the past week, two mysterious, coyote-like creatures have been spotted in a 10-mile stretch of north Texas, WFAA, the Dallas/Fort Worth ABC affiliate, reported. Some of the locals say the unidentified animals could chupacabras, the "goat-suckers" of local legend. (The name chupacabra means "goat sucker" in Spanish.)
David Hewitt, 25, a Hood County man who killed one of the animals, told WFAA he's never seen anything like it.
"From a distance, he looked like a hairless chihuahua, only much bigger," Hewitt said. "From all indications, it seemed to be a chupacabra."
"The claws, toenails, nothing like I've seen on a coyote. Skinny, pointed tail; sure looks like a possum to me," he said. "Never seen any kind of animal that doesn't have hair on it."
Hewitt is hardly the first Texan to think he's seen the curious-looking creature.
Benjamin Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer and author of a forthcoming book on the myth of the chupacabra, said in the past five or so years, there have been about seven alleged sightings in Texas.
Unlike other mysterious monsters people claim to see, like the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot, the chupacabra has only been around since 1995, he said. That's when a woman in Puerto Rico first described a mangy 4-foot-tall creature with spikes down its back.
Since then, people across the southwestern United States have reported sightings of a dog-sized creature that some say sucks the blood of its victims.
"The first [theory] is that it's an alien – it's basically an extraterrestrial or an extraterrestrial's pet. The other major theory about the chupacabra is that it's the result of top secret government genetics experiments," Radford said.
According to WFAA, animal control experts haven't identified the creature, but Radford says he is fairly certain that he knows what DNA tests will reveal.
"What happens is that these things people are finding are mangy canids – dogs, foxes, coyotes," he said. "They have sarcoptic mange, a contagious skin disease that affects many dogs and it's caused by mites on the skin and it causes hair to fall out."
Animals Thought to Be Chupacabras Live Longer in Warm Climates
"The reason that everyone is describing these creatures as mysterious and ugly and things they've never seen before is people have never seen dogs or coyotes without hair before," he said. "The word 'chupacabra' has become a catch-all term for anything weird that they can't identify."
And the reason they seem to haunt Texas and the Southwest in particular?
"Part of the reason is the climate," he said. "In colder climates they die off. [In warmer climates], they're not killed off by the cold and, therefore, they live longer."