Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pity the Poor Chupacabra

Artwork from How Stuff Works

It seems that not a week goes by that I don't see a report about someone "discovering" a chupacabra. Sometimes they've even killed it and stuffed it in a freezer, in anticipation of the cameras and curious news crews who are sure to want a look.
The interesting thing about all these reports is that the descriptions of the animal are usually rather at odds with the desiccated corpses on display. People often describe the chupacabra (that's a "goat sucker" to you and me) as looking alien, frightening, with a ridge of feathers or scales along its back. Its eyes are said to glow red, and its teeth are supposed to be long... Perfect for sucking the blood out of unsuspecting farm animals. 
What are these reports really describing? I'd say that would be feral dogs, coyotes, and even raccoons with sarcoptic mange. Sad, really, when you look at it that way. The reported "ridge of feathers or scales" is probably just the remnants of the animal's fur, running in tufts along its spine. The only good to come out of people shooting these benighted beasts is that it puts them out of their misery, and miserable you can be sure they are if they are living on a diet of farm animals. Healthy wild animals would rather stay far away from humans, hunting other wild animals. 
Photo from Fox News
Just take a look at the photo on the right of a supposed chupacabra and tell me it doesn't look like a dog without hair. It was found as roadkill by a woman in Texas who claims that it sucked the blood out of 26 of her chickens. Her main basis for this seems to be that it's ugly, and doesn't look like other animals. 
Want to know if something is really a chupacabra? Well, science to the rescue! There are ways to figure things like this out, even if the animal in question has never been seen before. I consulted an article in and found this helpful checklist, compiled by Benjamin Radford, who literally wrote the book on chupacabras:
"1) Was the animal actually seen attacking other animals?
2) If it was, was it seen or videotaped sucking blood from its victim(s)?
3) Was the suspected chupacabra victim autopsied by a qualified veterinarian or medical pathologist?
4) Did this veterinarian or pathologist conclude that blood had actually been extracted from the animal?
5) Does the suspected chupacabra have a mouth structure that would allow it to suck out blood?
6) Has the chupacabra’s saliva been scientifically tested for anti-coagulant and anaesthetic properties?
7) Has the suspected chupacabra’s digestive tract been examined for specialized vampire structures?
8) Has the chupacabra’s stomach contents been examined to determine if it lived on a diet of blood?
9) Have samples of the suspected chupacabra been subjected to DNA sequencing?
10) Has testing of samples of the suspected chupacabra’s skin conclusively ruled out sarcoptic mange?
If you can answer yes to all of the above, you might very well have the world's first scientifically legit chupacabra."
In short, don't forget to bring along some science when you go monster hunting! Think a hairless animal wouldn't fool you, that you could spot a shaved coyote a mile away? Well, check out this critter:

Photo: Belgravia Center Blog
It's a raccoon with alopecia. And it too was at first thought to be a chupacabra!


  1. Go, chupacabra!

    If that racoon had wings, I'd think it was a mutant bag. :)

    I love science over irrationality.

  2. My favorite was the hairless sloth in Cerro Azul I think really creepy looking!

  3. Haha My favorite "chupacabra" story involved what turned out to be a dead turtle without its shell. I have no idea what that was about!

  4. Whoa, I thought raccoons always had the black masks imprinted on their skins (the babies do, when still hairless). But this guy sure doesn't--I never would have guessed it was a raccoon. Thanks for the fun post! Come visit my blog sometime when you get a chance!


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