Encounters with two hairless canines last week in northeast Hood County are stirring speculation that goat-sucking "chupacabras" have expanded into North Texas.
Or, according to a more scientific explanation, mange is infecting coyotes, robbing them of their coats.
There haven't been any local reports of livestock or pets being sucked dry — the modus operandi of the mythical beasts of south-of-the-border folklore.
But a frail, hairless hound cornered on Wednesday, July 7, was no less startling to a code enforcement officer for the city of Cresson.
Johnny Collins said he was checking a city water well when he saw an emaciated, gray-skinned animal sneak into a barn at the adjacent Wake Sports Ranch, which operates a cable system that slings water skiers around a lake.
Frank Hackett, Hood County animal control officer, entered the building with Collins to flush the creature out, but that's when it showed its teeth.
"It came toward me," Collins said. "It growled and leaped, kind of like a kangaroo rat, and when it came down, it went back toward Frank."
So Hackett shot the animal, Collins said.
Jack Farr, owner of the ranch and neighboring MotorSport Ranch, said he had been seeing the animal for about three weeks on the property.
"One time I was on a four-wheeler and I came within 15-20 feet of it," he said. "I just kind of veered closer to it, but it trotted away. I've never seen anything like it."
Sightings of similar creatures have popped up in recent years at Edinburg along the border with Mexico and farther north near Cuero.
Collins, a member of the Texas State Guard, attended a drill a few days later and showed pictures of the animal to fellow troops from South Texas.
"They'd take one look and say, 'Yep, you got a chupacabra there,'" Collins said.
Actually, said Sgt. Rosemary Moninger of Hood County animal control, the animal was a "coyote-canine hybrid," according to tests conducted at Texas A&M University.
Moninger took the carcass to veterinary experts there, who found skin mites still active on the animal a day after it was killed and put in a cooler, she said.
Mites are known to cause mange, but this animal had even more problems.
"It had extreme internal parasites," Moninger said, "and it was totally emaciated, just starving to death."
Collins said he regrets that the animal was shot.
"But, my gosh," he added, "the misery it was in ... it was just horrible."
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