Between 2004 and 2017 I’ve been on many expeditions (mainly funded by TV channels) to Puerto Rico in search of the legendary Chupacabras. The phenomenon began in 1995. It was specifically in August of that year when a woman named Madelyne Tolentino – who lived in Canovanas, which is close to the northeast coast of Puerto Rico – changed everything. Tolentino’s description of the creature she encountered, close to her mother’s home, was disturbing, to say the very least. Around three feet in height, the animal was bipedal, ran in a weird, hopping fashion, had large black eyes, bony fingers on each hand, overly long arms and legs, and a kind of feathery line running down its back. Or, it appeared to Tolentino to be a feathery line: a young boy employed by Tolentino’s husband claimed that he saw the beast up close and personal and maintained that the feathers were, in reality, sharp spines. The boy also said that the creature possessed a mouthful of vicious-looking fangs. Not only did the people know of the chupacabra and its predations, they also now knew what it looked like: something straight out of their worst nightmares.
One of the strangest things about the creatures is the fact that they are incredibly elusive. Not only that, people have seen them disappear incredibly quickly. This begs an important question: how can they, the Chupacabras, elude us so skillfully? There’s a possible answer to that question: caves. Puerto Rico is known for its large amount of caves. Could the creatures hide out from the human race – for the most part – by spending most of their time in caves, coming out mainly at night to hunt? Let’s have a look at the data in-hand. That Puerto Rico is home to a large number of caves is not in doubt. Many of them have huge populations of bats. That’s not a matter of any doubt at all. In fact, “large” is an understatement of epic proportions. For example, Cucaracha Cave alone – which is situated south of the city of Aquadilla, in the Cordillera Jaicoa – is home to quite literally hundreds of thousands of bats. That gives you some idea of how extensive some of these caves and caverns extend. Roughly seventy-five percent of the bat population are Jamaican long-tongue bats, while the remainder is comprised of the imaginatively and colorfully named (a) sooty moustache bats and (b) Antillean ghost-faced bats.
On this latter point, and as just one example of many, the Camuy River Cave Park (so named after the municipality of Camuy, situated north of mountainous Lares) is comprised of almost eleven miles of caverns, and more than 200 caves. Rather significantly, and as I learned to my great surprise on my first trip to Puerto Rico, even at the dawn of the 21st Century the cave systems were barely explored or mapped. Certainly, skilled cavers conclude to this day that the park is home to hundreds of additional caves which very likely still remain untouched, and un-investigated, by anyone. That other portions of the caves were, and still are, closed to the public – as a result of the actions of Puerto Rican authorities – has led me to wonder just what might be lurking in those out of bounds, underground realms. Over at the Islands of Puerto Rico website, we learn the following of the Rio Camuy cave: “This cave is the third largest underground cave system in the world…The main part of the cavern is massive, with a ceiling over 10 stories high. Photos can’t capture the beauty of this world-class wonder, Camuy River Cave Park is among the top ten attractions you can’t miss in Puerto Rico…”
From Discover Puerto Rico there is the following: “One of the most recognizable caves in Puerto Rico isn’t underground but instead looks out over the Rio Grande de Arecibo valley, creating a window-like opening on the sheer rock face of a mountain. This unique framing of the valley, river, and town below earned the cave its name, Cueva Ventana (Window Cave), and both locals and visitors eagerly snap photos of the Instagram-worthy view from the cave’s opening.” Now, we come to one of the most significant parts of the story. It comes from Luxury Villa Rentals: “In Puerto Rico there are some 2,000 caves, of which about 415 have been explored [italics mine].” That is not an exaggeration: most of Puerto Rico’s caves have really not been investigated at all. Could this situation allow more than a few Chupacabras to successfully hide out in these huge numbers of caves? Might that explain their elusiveness? I think it’s a distinct possibility. Perhaps, those who seek out the Chupacabras of Puerto Rico should not be looking across the landscape, but way below it.