August 9, 2008

You know it's summer when chupacabra shows up


DeWitt County Sheriff’s Department
The creature, caught on Cpl. Brandon Riedel’s dashboard camera.

See the video for yourself

El Chupacabras is back.

And this time, it’s alive.

Right on schedule in the middle of a sleepy news summer, the famous fanged beast of Latino folklore has emerged again in South Texas.

On Friday, sheriff’s deputies near Cuero caught on video a weird animal running along a county road.

Judging by their video, this one looks like the other four hybrid coyotes found dead near Cuero since last year — all odd, hairless creatures with long fangs.

They look like miniature versions of the mythical devil beast El Chupacabras, less formally known as the chupacabra.

Patrol trainee Ellie Carter and DeWitt County sheriff’s Cpl. Brandon Riedel were checking fences in the sprawling country southwest of Cuero near Nordheim.

They rounded a corner on Theime Road and saw an animal sitting in the roadway.

After endless news reports about the other coyotes and the lab tests identifying them, plus a History Channel episode of MonsterQuest, Riedel thought he knew what the animal might be.

But he didn’t say it.

Carter blurted out, "I think that’s a chupacabra!"

"It was this — thing, looking right at us," she said by phone Tuesday between European news interviews.

"It had big teeth, a big head, short legs in front and long legs in back. I was raised on a ranch, and I’d never seen anything like it."

Riedel said the animal "didn’t look like any dog I’d ever seen."

Both deputies said they didn’t hear childhood stories about El Chupacabras, a winged beast who lands in pastures and sucks the blood from goats.

(Say it: chew-pah-KAH-brah. The word means goatsucker. Think of a flying Bigfoot.)

They knew it only from a mug shot.

"In Cuero, you see the pictures everywhere," Riedel said.

Carter agreed.

"You can’t live in Cuero," she said, "and not recognize the chupacabra."

Since last summer, Cuero has become the Chupacabra Capital of the World.

Phylis Canion, the rancher who kept one of the dead animals in a freezer until it was tested by university biologists and identified as part coyote, has sold 20,000 T-shirts declaring Cuero the headquarters for the "Summer of the Chupacabra."

Her new bestseller is this bumper sticker: "I’d Rather Be in Cuero, Texas Looking for a Chupacabra."

She was criticized by skeptics who doubted that the dead animals were real. They said nobody would ever find one alive.

"Everybody said, 'Let’s see one on film,’ " she said. "So, what do you think now?"

Another university found that the dead animals were a cross between a coyote and a Mexican gray wolf, she said.

She wonders whether the hybrid might have given rise to the original legend of El Chupacabras.

"I definitely think it’s something different," she said.

She said environmental pollutants aren’t to blame, because the animals have been found about 25 miles apart across the county, on the coastal plains about 45 miles inland from the Gulf.

"There’s something going on with these animals, and whatever it is, it’s going on right here," she said.

For four years, Texans have gone chupacabra hunting every summer.

The first find was a dead fanged animal in Elmendorf, southeast of San Antonio and about 70 miles from Cuero. Another was found near Lufkin in East Texas.

The latest chupacabra remains at large.

"It’s still out there somewhere," said Riedel, the sheriff’s corporal. "If we run across it again, then we might have to do something about it."

Such as reload the camera.

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