North Carolina

Was it a chupacabra? NC biologists try to identify spooky creature seen in the dark

Questions are being raised as to whether a second "chupacabra devil dog" has been photographed in the backwoods of North Carolina.

The latest image features a creepy, skeletal animal with little hair and a long tail, like a monkey. Its head is hidden by bushes.

State wildlife officials admit it's "freaky" and some at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences took to facetiously calling it a chupacabra, which is a mythical monster dog with vampire-like qualities.

The photo was taken as part of a state camera trap program known as North Carolina Candid Critters, which captures images of animals roaming the state's wooded areas at night.

State biologists decided to try and explain the photo in a recently posted YouTube video titled: "You won't believe what this chupacabra really is."

Jessie Birkhead of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission believes the animal is diseased and contagious, but not a monster dog.

"This is a coyote that has a skin condition called mange," Birkhead says. "That's why you're seeing a lot of hair loss, a tail that is almost completely naked ... It causes the animals to itch and hurt and pick at themselves."

And it can give such animals a monstrous appearance: "Their skin gets almost wart like. It's thick. It's leathery. These lesions will develop."

Not everyone believes her theory, however.

Anthony Owens of Hendersonville tells the Observer he and an uncle saw a similar "creature."

"What we saw still makes each of us get chills. I assure you, it's no coyote with mange," said Owens in an email. "This thing almost disappeared right before our eyes and we were within 20 foot of it. It was gone that fast...My uncle's coon hound ran from this creature whimpering...It's real, I assure you."

As monsters go, the chupacabra is a fledgling monster myth, with its origins as “the Latino Bigfoot” going back only 30 odd years to Puerto Rico. But as the Hispanic population has grown in the Carolinas, knowledge of the “legend” has spread, even to the point of alleged sightings.

This is the second time an image captured as part of the camera trap program has drawn comparisons to a chupacabra. Last year, a photo surfaced of a dog-like animal with glowing eyes and a breast plate of bones. Experts said it was simply a coyote or a wolf standing behind foliage that gave the appearance of a ribbed breast plate.

The state Museum of Natural Sciences recently began posting a series of YouTube videos to explain the strangest of the camera-trap photos, some of which have included images of basketball-sized growths on animals.

An albino deer also was sighted, along with a opossum sprouting a tree-like growth from its rear. Mammal expert Lisa Gatens from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences said the latter was most likely a case of the opossum dragging leaves with its tail.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs
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