As someone who has spent a lot of time investigating alleged Chupacabra sightings in Texas, I'm often asked if the animals are simply coyotes with bad cases of mange or something more. The one person, more than any other, to answer that question is Ken Gerhard. Ken - a well-respected cryptozoologist and creature-seeker - has spent years digging into the matter of the Texas beast and has some intriguing thoughts and theories on the matter, as you will now see. I interviewed Ken a few years ago and he shared with me some notable data: “Going back to 2004, and right after the reports of the Elmendorf Beast came out, state-biologists came out with this sarcoptic mange theory; that these animals were just mangy coyotes. The way that it was explained, it made a lot of sense, initially, because they explained how the bodies of these mangy animals will go through all kinds of extreme changes. Without the hair, they appear to shrink, somewhat. They’re very emaciated, so their teeth look larger, their claws look much larger, and so forth.”
Ken continued: “To my eyes, they didn’t look mangy because, typically, with mange you have an animal that has patches of hair, and not something that’s completely hairless. Yes, the Elmendorf beast does have a very slight Mohawk or fringe, which seems to be going down the back parts of their bodies. But, in 2008, I had the opportunity to examine the remains of about a half dozen animals. To my eye, it didn’t really seem like mange, because they weren’t covered in scars. They weren’t bloody. The skin seemed uniformly rough and leathery, but I didn’t see any evidence of the scratching and irritation.”
Ken added: “There are, as you know, a handful of other physical abnormalities that have been related to these Texas chupacabras that don’t necessarily tie-in with the mange theory. Some of them seem to have deformed overbites on their mandibles. There are claims of them having disproportionate limbs. I have photographs where it looks like the hind limbs might be slightly longer than their forelimbs. [They have] marsupial-like sacks on their hind-quarters, on their haunches, abnormal numbers of nipples, and very strange, steely-blue eyes, almost as if they had cataracts. These abnormalities pop up occasionally, but not consistently.”
Ken then got to the crux of his theory. Namely, pollution: “Talking about the pollution aspect, the thing that has always amazed me about these so-called Texas chupacabras is why had we never heard of them before 2004? And why are there so many of them popping up, in the past decade, all over the place, with increasing regularity? That’s why I began to wonder if there could be some kind of ecological component, pollution or something else that’s causing these animals to appear this way."
Ken expanded further: “If you remember, back in 1995, there were an incredibly large number of deformed frogs that were found in a pond in southwest Minnesota. It made big, national news. It was kind of looked at as a sign of the times: there was so much pollution that man’s impact on the environment was causing these really bizarre frog mutations, where they would have extra limbs, missing limbs, weird eyes, and things like that. So, it has occurred to me over the past couple of years that, perhaps, we’re looking at something very similar here in Texas. It is likely that one or more combinations of chemicals, biological, and physical factors are responsible for causing the malformations.”
On the matter of the deformed frogs of Minnesota, the U.S. Government said: “Pesticides are known to cause malformation or death of frogs when present in sufficient concentrations. Studies in Canada show a relation between the percentage of malformed frogs and pesticide use. Methoprene, an insecticide widely used to control mosquitoes, also has been suspected as having caused malformations. Endocrine disruptors also are being studied to determine if they are responsible for some of the frog malformations in Minnesota. Endocrine disruptors are natural and human-made chemicals that interfere with or mimic natural hormones that control development, growth, and behavior of organisms. The number of endocrine disruptors is unknown; only during the last decade has screening of chemicals begun to evaluate endocrine disrupting activity.”
Ken has suggested that perhaps something similar may be going on with the Chupacabra of the United States: “Many of these Texas chupacabras have been reported in areas in and around coal-burning power-plants. Coal-burning power-plants release massive amounts of toxins, including sulfur-dioxide, which – in laboratory tests – has been proven to be a mutagen. This is a toxin that can get into an animal’s blood make-up and actually cause their cells to mutate. Maybe, as a result of the pollution, the immune-systems of these animals have been weakened to the point where, when they do contract the mange mites, their resulting symptoms are much more extreme than anything we’ve encountered before. This may be why they become completely hairless, so fast, and why they look so sickly. It might also explain the physical changes, like the forelimb lengths, the overbites, and the pouches.”
We know that in many cases the so-called "Texas Chupacabas" turn out to be coyotes: a careful study of the DNA of the animals has proved that. But, as Ken notes, there may well be something else afoot, too - namely, pollution and mutagens which are radically altering a known animal.