May 16, 2023 I Paul Seaburn

Possible Chupacabra Killing Near Cancun, Mexico

If a dead sheep, goat or cow is found in most areas of the Caribbean, Central America, the southwestern United States and South America, it seems it takes mere seconds before a cry of “Chupacabra!” springs forth from the owners, then local residents, then the local media and finally the mainstream media. Because the scene of a dead animal, often with eyes or tongues or other body parts removed and no blood splashed or pooled anywhere, is so horrific, the thought of this being simply a dog or coyote attack quickly gives way to talk of evil cryptids or sample-seeking aliens. Fans of the cryptid side mostly envision the three-foot-tall, reptilian-looking, upright-walking, spiny-backed Chupacabra of Puerto Rican origin, except in the southwestern U.S. where it is considered to be a skinny, hairless dog-like creature. Since that area borders Mexico, it is interesting that the Chupacabra suddenly goes back to a goat-sucking reptilian just a few miles south. Yet that is the case with the latest report from the resort city of Cancún, where at least one and possibly more dead sheep were found with eyes removed and no blood spilled. What killed the livestock and, if it was a Chupacabra, which kind was it?

The typical depiction of a Chupacabra

“I spent last night at my house, I think there's already suck goats in Leona Vicario, and all morning I was investigating, if anyone knows what animal. Leave em like that fa inf. In the afternoon she was alive and today at 7am she was like this.” (Google translation)

Witness Jenni Silva Pardo appears to have been the first to report on social media about the latest strange livestock killing, including photos (see them here) of the dead animal found on a rock. Pardo says she found the dead ram in Leona Vicario, a small town just 25 miles from the popular coastal resort city of Cancún on the Yucatan Peninsula – not a place where businesses catering to tourists and sunseekers want rumors of a bloodsucking, animal killing Chupacabra to be spreading. Or worse. One headline attributed the killing to a Chupacabra “vampire” – which most likely refers to one of the origin stories of the Puerto Rican Chupacabra, the “el vampiro de Moca” or the “the vampire of Moca,” a small town in northwestern Puerto Rico. The ‘vampire’ link may be due to gashes seen on the neck of the dead ram.

“More evidence, and then they say it's made up. Just be careful believe it or not if strange things happen. Judge for yourselves.”

A few days ago, Jenni Silva Pardo posted another photo on social media and it sounds like her concerns and fears had been heightened because this animal had its head removed. She writes of being afraid to set up a camera to photograph the creature and alludes to “witchcraft.” While this animal appears to be a deer and not one of her flock, it is still disconcerting to her and her neighbors. Some suggested in comments that the killings might be due to disease (what kind of disease removes heads?) while others think it is cruel young people in the area. A few pointed to the nagual as a possibility – nagual comes from the Nahuatl word “nāhualli” which in Mesoamerican folk religions is a human shapeshifter, sometimes said to be a witch, which changes into animals for its nefarious activities which range from curses and terrorizing to killings. The religion of nagualism is associated with the use of peyote, psylocibin mushrooms and other hallucinogens.

“In my village, we’ve been told for years that it is a night bird that feeds on the brain mass of animals. We know it as the Xnuc.”

One commenter referred to a creature that is not mentioned in most studies of cryptids or folklore – a Xnuc, which the commenter says is a night bird that feeds on brains. In the Mayan language, “Xnuc” means “owl” and “t`ohcah xnuc” is the Mayan term for the ferruginous pygmy owl (Glaucidium brasilianum) which is common in Central America and other areas where the Chupacabra is said to roam. They are most active in the twilight hours and will eat just about any living thing, but aren’t known to be partial to brains, so that part may be Mayan folklore. Also from Mayan folklore is another suggestion – the alux. That mischievous woodland spirit made the news in February of 2023 when no less than the president of Mexico himself, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, shared a photo on Twitter of what he claimed to be an alux allegedly photographed by workers on a new rail system – while Obrador notes that “everything is mystical,” it was hard to tell if he was serious about the questionable photo. While the “Aluxo’ob” are thought to be mischievous creatures, they are said to be elfish human-like beings that are usually invisible and not known to kill farm animals and drink their blood.

“The colony is located in the mediation of the cuxtal reserve, there can be ocelotes or pumas or tigrillos.” (Google translation)

An oncilla or tigrillo

However, there are some creatures native to Mexico that could be responsible for the killing of Jenni Silva Pardo’s ram, the headless deer and any other strange livestock deaths on the Yucatan Peninsula ain the areas of Leona Vicario and Cancún. The tigrillo or oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus), also known as the northern tiger cat, is a small spotted cat ranging from Central America to central Brazil and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because of deforestation due to agriculture and development. As a result, these carnivores are turning to livestock and pets to survive. One commenter noted that there is a known population of tigrillo near where the killings took place and recommended notifying the zoo or wildlife officials because the word is already spreading that they are due to Chupacabras and “I see that many already want to go hunting the "chupacabras" when very certainly it is a big endangered and protected cat to which the colonies are invading their ecosystem.” The last thing tigrillos and local tourism businesses need is people roaming the streets hunting Chupacabras.

As is often the case, this unusual livestock killing can have a very natural, albeit it also unusual, explanation. It shows that we humans know as little about some of the real animals in our forests as we know about the mythical ones.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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