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Chupacabra found in Texas: Is it a coyote?

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The chupacabra found in Texas this week and killed by an animal control officer appears to be yet another case of mistaken identity.

"It’s your typical mangy canid," says Loren Coleman, who heads the International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine and has researched the legend of the chupacabra, which means "goat-sucker" in Spanish. "It's probably a coyote with mange."

In a video report this week, San Antontio-based WOAI.com reported that a Hood County rancher heard a growl come from his barn. When he looked inside, "he saw the ugliest creature he’s ever seen. An animal officer came out, pulled the trigger, killing what some believe is the mythical or mystical goat-sucker.”

“All I know is, it wasn’t normal," Frank Hackett, the Hood County Animal Control officer who killed the beast, said in the TV report. "It was ugly, real ugly, and I’m not going to lie on that one.”

DNA tests are now being done on the animal.

The Hood County Animal Control office declined to take questions from the Monitor today, redirecting all queries to the office of Chief Deputy George “Biff” Temple, who did not return a phone call.

This was by no means the first chupacabra sighting in Texas. DNA tests on similar-looking animals found on separate occasions in 2004 revealed them to be coyotes. In January, CBS News reported that several golf course workers found the corpse of a chupacabra.

But Mr. Coleman, author of more than 30 books on mythical creatures, including “Cryptozoology A To Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature,” says the most recent chupacabra sighting is only another case of media hype.

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Most sightings, he says, turn out to be dogs, foxes, or coyotes with mange – the skin disease caused by parasitic mites.

"There is absolutely nothing complex, nothing unexplainable, nothing mysterious about them," he says. "What is mysterious is that the media keeps writing about them."

Most of the chupacabra sightings have been in the US or Latin America, and are believed to have begun in Puerto Rico. But the Americas aren't the only places with a fetish for mythical creatures.

In April it was revealed that a former Scottish police chief took measures to protect the Loch Ness Monster. Earlier that same month, China captured the so-called “Oriental Yeti,” which was really no more than a common civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) or a masked or Himalayan palm civet (Paguma larvata) that had lost its hair because of a bad case of mange.

The latest supposed chupacabra sighting in Texas appears to be a coyote, says Coleman, reached by phone.

"A lot of people seem unaware of how strange coyotes look without hair," he says. "Coyotes have a bushy coat and very pronounced nose. But as soon as they lose their hair they look extremely weird and strange to people."

At the Animal Care and Control Division in the nearby City of Forth Worth, there are no calls on record of chupacabra sightings.

"I have never, ever, ever heard of that in my life," says division spokesman Bill Begley.

"They say that it is real," says another employee. "It’s an ugly animal, I’ll tell you that much."

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