News for Public Officials and the People They Serve


Texas Chupacabra Caught On Deputy's Dash Cam?

August 14, 2008


The bizarre creature is said to have prowled the dusty back roads of Texas for years, sometimes attacking livestock and pets. Last week, DeWitt County deputies were startled to see the “Texas Chupacabra” casually loping down the road in front of them.

Cpl. Brandon Riedel was training a new deputy on Friday when he said they spotted something running down a dirt path along fence lines. When the creature ran in front of the patrol car and in range of the dash cam, Riedel recorded the rare daylight sighting.  

Dash Cam Chupacabra Video

"You need to record something like this because it's not everyday you find something that looks like this, running around out in the middle of the county," Riedel said. 

The film depicts a creature that, at first glance, appears to be the back side of a heavily-built and hairless dog kicking up dust as it runs in front of the camera.  The canine appears heavier than a coyote which are common to the area but carries its tail between its legs which is characteristic of coyotes in flight.  

It wasn’t until the animal turned to glance back at the officers before darting into the brush that Riedel was convinced – what his camera had captured was neither dog nor coyote. The profile shows an animal with an oversized head and snout bearing long fangs seldom seen on canines. The creature’s forelegs appear to be slightly shorter than the hind legs.

What is it? 

While locals are calling the creature a Chupacabra, it bears little resemblance to the legendary creature described in reports coming out of Mexico and Latin America. Chupacabras which translates into English as “goat sucker” is a vampire-like animal that was so named because of reports that it sucks all the blood from its hapless livestock and pets. Ranchers in DeWitt County have reported similar attacks but this is where the similarity between the Texas Chupacabra and the Latin Chupacabras ends.

El Chupacabras has been a popular Latino legend since the mid-1990s and is regarded in a similar way to Bigfoot in the US. The animal is most often described as being about 4 1/2 feet tall with glowing red eyes, spikes down its back and standing on two legs that resemble those of a kangaroo. The creature is said to bound over obstacles sometimes with the assistance of small wings.

Tasmanian Wolf (Thylacine)
The last known photographs of a living Thylacine were taken  in Australia  in 1933.

The animal reported in Texas and now captured on video more closely resembles a Thylacine, a dog-like animal commonly called the Tasmanian Wolf and thought to have become extinct in 1936. Thylacines had large heads and oversized snouts and jaws capable of opening to an incredible 120 degrees. Throughout the 20th century, the Thylacine was often characterized as primarily a blood drinker, but little reference is now made to this trait; its popularity seems to have originated from a single second-hand account. They also had forelegs that are slightly shorter than its hind legs.  The species was often observed standing on hind legs for sustained periods of time and were capable of  bounding away like a kangaroo when frightened.

Could a breeding population of Tasmanian Wolves have survived in the Americas? In 1920, conservationists proposed a plan to protect the endangered animal by exporting it to suitable locations outside Tasmania but there is nothing to suggest the animal was ever brought to the Americans. The Thylacine has some of the physical characteristic of the Texas Chupacabra and some of the abilities attributed to the creature of Latin American legend.  It is a fascinating theory but scientific examination of animals that were found dead in Texas and thought to be examples of the Texas Chupacabra were mammals. Tasmanian Wolves are marsupials.

Friday's sighting isn't the first time Texans have spotted the creature.  Stories about the Texas Chupacabra go back to the 1990s. The animal in the video resembles one of four peculiar, lavender-colored, dog-like animals Cuero residents found dead since last year. DeWitt county rancher Phyllis Canion found a dead animal near the town of Cuero in 2007 that was thought to be a Chupacabra. Biologists at Texas State University-San Marcos analyzed the carcass and tested DNA taken from the remains. The test results were inconclusive but indicated the animal could be the result of hybrid cross between a dog and a coyote.  The hairless condition was attributed to mange, a parasitic infection that can cause canines to scratch away large patches of hair and sometimes lead to death.

But Canion wanted to know more about the family of beasts she says are living on of her Cuero ranch. So she sent more DNA, tooth and tissue samples, off to California for additional testing. Results from the University of California at Davis confirmed the TSU findings of  a hybrid with DNA on the mother's side from both a domestic dog and coyote but also found the hybridization includes DNA from a Mexican wolf on the paternal side. Scientists from UC Davis say they can't tell when the Mexican wolf heritage made its way into the gene pool.

The creature’s hairless, odd-colored skin originally thought to be caused by parasites or disease could be the result of a feral hybrid wondering the hill country of Texas. Although natural breeding between feral canines and domestic dogs is rare, selective breeding has resulted in a near-hairless condition in healthy breeds like the tiny Chinese Crested which bares little resemblance to its wolf ancestry.

"You know, it's just kind of one of those things to hear about and talk about, but to actually see something on video that may actually be a live one, that's pretty amazing," DeWitt County Sheriff Jode Zavesky said.

Whatever it is the residents of DeWitt County are encountering, it probably isn’t the Chupacabras of Latin folklore, or a mangy coyote, or a surviving Tasmanian Wolf... But whatever it is,  it certainly is strange. Texas offers some mighty exotic hunting.


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