Editor’s note: Every Sunday through July, we’ll be bringingyou an East Texas urban legend to prove or debunk.
This week we travel to the forests of East Texas in search of theelusive mystery beast many refer to as a “chupacabra.” While itsexistence is not nearly as debatable as other East Texas urbanlegends due to the well-documented 2004 death of one in the Pollokarea, complete with animal autopsy, the “what is that?” factorremains seven years later.
While many scoff at the term “chupacabra,” believing it to be aseverely manged coyote, others eagerly accept it as proof of amythical blood-sucking beast chronicled in Mexican folklore. In anew book, “Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact,Fiction, and Folklore,” author Benjamin Radford reports that thelegend is only about 15 years old, started in Puerto Rico in1995.
Chupacabra sightings were rampant following the East Texas animal’sdemise in 2004, when it was shot and killed after crawling under ahouse in Pollok.
Stacy Womack, a family member of the home’s owner, was called in totake a look due to her more than 20 years of experience working atEllen Trout Zoo and for a local veterinarian, according to previousreports. Concerned that the obviously distressed beast could havebeen spreading disease, and by the fact that an identical live onewas spotted running across the road as she arrived, Womack decidedto share her photos with local animal experts and the media in anattempt to determine the animal’s origins.
The animal’s blue-gray skin was almost hairless and appeared to becovered with mange. A closer look at the animal’s jaw line revealeda serious overbite and four huge canine teeth, as well as a long,rat-like tail that curled behind the animal’s emaciated frame. Itsfront legs were much smaller than its hind legs, and despite it’soverall ghoulish appearance, its extremely long canine teeth werein excellent condition. There was virtually no blood seeping fromthe animal’s carcass, and its ear “broke like a cookie” when itshead was held up for a photograph, she said in a previous article.Its body looked like something that had been dead for a month orso, she said at that time.
“It was so necrotic, its tissue was just rotted,” Womack said atthe time. “It had no hair, a severe overbite and its claws wereentirely too long for a dog.”
Several local animal experts, who only had photos to go on,speculated the animal was likely a sick coyote. The animal’s skincondition could have been caused by sarcoptic or demodectic mange,and its unusual jaw line and skull shape could have been caused bya congenital defect, most surmised. All agreed the animal wasobviously canine — either coyote, dog or a mix of the two — andthat it had suffered greatly either through neglect orundernourishment.
Just last week, Jack Crabtree, a retired wildlife biologist fromLake Jackson jokingly sent photos of what he believed to be a mangycoyote to his local newspaper. The photo ran on the front page witha headline about a reported chupacabra sighting, and soon reporterswere calling from all over the United States.
“It was immediately clear to me it was a coyote with a severe caseof mange. It was obviously sick,” he said in an ABC News article.“I’ve been amazed with the fascination people have with chupacabrasand other mythical animals. I’m really not a believer inchupacabras or Bigfoot or the Abominable Snowman.”
When shown of photo of the East Texas chupacabra, Crabtree said hebelieved it to also be a mange ridden coyote.
Jessica Cooley’s email address .