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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 November 2007, 04:52 GMT
Tests end Texan goat-sucker stir
The head of a dead Texan coyote mistakenly thought to be a chupacabra - a goat-sucking beast believed by many to be mythical
Coyotes, or prairie wolves, normally have a coat of hair
US scientists say an animal found in Texas is not the chupacabra - or goat-sucker - of American myth, but a coyote with a hair loss problem.

DNA tests on the carcass found at a ranch south-east of San Antonio yielded a virtually identical match to coyote DNA, biologist Mike Forstner said.

The coyote was one of three found dead by rancher Phylis Canion this summer.

Central American myth has long spoken of a vampire-like creature that slays livestock by sucking out their blood.

The chupacabra is said to attack its victims at night, leaving a trail of carcasses with their throats torn out.

Mr Forstner said that he himself had assumed the creature brought in for testing at Texas State University was a domestic dog but "the DNA sequence is a virtually identical match to DNA from the coyote".

Ms Canion and some of her neighbours discovered the 40-pound (18-kg) carcasses of three of the animals over four days in July outside her ranch in Cuero, 90 miles (145km) south-east of San Antonio.

She said she had saved the head of one of them to get it properly tested.

Additional hide samples have been taken to try to determine the cause of the animal's hair loss, Mr Forstner said.


Your comments:

Yep seen lots of them... They even have a den at the golf course. Funniest encounter was when my playing partner had hit a great shot onto the green only to have his ball taken off the green and into the bushes by one of the younger members of the pack. They are very adaptable creatures and excellent urban hunters.
William Parkyn, Calgary. Canada

I've seen plenty of coyotes, even around my city's downtown area at night, but never any bald ones. I'm not sure if the chupacabra exists, but I know people who claimed to have seen it before.
Michael, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Obviously Mr. Russell has never been to the San Joaquin Valley, you see a lot of road kill coyotes up and down the valley... and I have even had one pace my car on the pavement during a valley dust storm... at night. The animal in the chupacabra photo does not look like a coyote though. The ears are too small, and the fangs protrude too much. Perhaps that can be explained away as dessication from the sun... but the jaws and musculature look more like a dog than a canis latrans.
beatrice, bakersfield, ca

I was raised on a sheep & cattleranch in Southeast Idaho. We had about 1,500 sheep. During the summer they were pastured in the forested mountains. One summer in the mid 1960's during one particular night, coyotes attacked our sheep, killing 120 that one night (the older coyotes were obviously teaching the young ones how to kill, because hardly none of the carcasses had had any meat eaten from them). The very next year the same thing happened, killing 80. I therefore grew up with no love for coyotes.
carlin, gilbert, arizona, usa

There are indeed bald coyotes, for whatever physiological reason. I saw my first one this summer and it was colored much like the dessicated creature in the photo above. A pitiful creature, it hovered at the edge of our hayfield as we baled and we often came within 30 feet of it before it would glide away to a safe distance and watch us as we worked. We see coyotes and their pups on a regular basis while we bale hay 6 months of the year, so I'm quite familiar with the difference between a mangy dog and a strangely bald grey-brown coyote.
Caryn, Texas, USA

I have dairy goats, and a goat milk soap business, but have never heard of this chupacabra goat-sucker myth. I have seen a good many coyotes, especially around kidding time, and our Great Pyr easily runs them off. But I have never seen one that even faintly resembled this poor creature, with or without hair. I have seen many very scrappy looking coyotes - I think that's just the way coyotes are, but absolutely nothing like this. This looks more like some weird dog trying to imitate a javelina, but the ravages of death do make carcasses look a little strange. DNA tests are not exact, but sheesh, this in no way resembles any coyote I have ever seen.
Susan, Dripping Springs, Texas, USA

I have seen coyotes in central Texas that were nearly the size of German Shepard dogs. Most of the ones I have seen in East Texas were quite a bit smaller. I accidently walked to within 25 feet of a pair of coyotes that were eating wild persimmons that had fallen off a tree. I saw them before they saw me. When they ran off, I went and ate the persimmons that were still on the tree! Never seen a bald coyote, though. One chased my parents cat up in the yard in broad daylight- almost got the cat before dad shot it with birdshot.(or maybe number 6 shot, not birdshot) They ate a lot of my dads watermelons last year. Dug right under the fence.
Jon Baker, Jacksonville, Texas, USA

Southern Arizona, where I have grown up, is frequented by coyotes and they are seen in suburban areas year-round. Commonly, they do not have thick fur, but almost look like a sort of short-haired fox. I have seen ones that were almost bald, though this was due to a lack of health/diet that leaves them mangy. I haven't seen an entirely bald coyote, though I have seen some that come close. I would suppose that either a skin disorder or genetic disorder could very well leave one without hair, though I must say the coyote pictured does not look like the dozens of coyotes I see in southern Arizona.
James, Tucson, Arizona, USA

My dog brought home a bald coyote and I had a heck of a time getting it away from him. Eventually we got it before he could eat much. He came down with mange after so I presume this to be the cause of the baldness. I frequently see coyotes with hairless tails, this is what loses fur first. The rest of their coats are poor. Other coyotes chase these weak ones away from food in the winter and I expect most die. Some fights I have seen suggest they get killed and eaten as well. Luckily for them, as the animal rights folks tell us: 'they feel no pain if they die in the wild only if people kill them' This must be of considerable comfort to them. Yeah right.
Warren Clayton, near Calgary Alberta

I grew up in the desert, where sometimes small kids were tempting prey for coyotes. So when we'd hear the yips, we'd go inside. Nowdays, I worry about my pets, keeping them inside from dusk to dawn. In the woods in winter, I've seen handsome furry coyotes sauntering across the road. Mostly I see them in chapparel areas, plain ones, dead along the highway.
Lena, CA, USA

Our town is in the Coconino National Forest and it's common to see coyotes trotting up and down the streets, trawling for housecats. Most of the coyotes here look like well-kept dogs. I've never seen a bald one, even when I lived in Oklahoma, where coyotes are more shy of humans.
Lucia, Sedona, Arizona, USA

In the coastal mountain range of the peninsula south of San Francisco, I have seen many coyotes. One was very scraggly with patches of hair, it looked malnourished and probably had mange. My neighbours dog had mange recently, so I am wondering if dogs can pick up mange from coyotes living nearby that nestle in leaves that domestic dogs may also lay down in.. And in Sacramento I saw 2 adorable coyote pups this past summer, grooming each other with their tongues, with ears as large as a lamppost! Baby Coyotes are now my favourite animal...
Lisa Bryant, Los Altos, CA USA

The chupacabra myth probably came from a rabid coyote or dog which attacked farm animals at night. Coyotes are increasingly common in the US and it's believed that their populations bred with wolves in Canada some years ago and then spread east and then south back into the United States. The result is a slightly bigger, braver animal than the coyote of the old west which were unknown in the eastern US until a few decades ago. They're wily, tough and farmers will tell you they're omnivorous... They're known to go after cats and small dogs to eat. Adults are human-shy but the young ones have been known to get nearer to people when exploring. When I was in the army in the American desert southwest, a soldier sleeping in camp was awakened one morning by a coyote pup licking his hand.
Jeremy Mason, Houston, Texas

Hasn't anybody heard of coydogs? We used to talk about them in northern NY all the time. They were assumed to be half-dog, half-coyote, and were ubiquitous in the Adirondack mountains area of NY. It's not a far stretch to think that these hybrids could be bald.
Will H, Taichung, Taiwan

I live in a semi-rural area of Southern Arizona. Coyotes are a common occurrence. I have often seen coyotes virtually hairless, gross and sick-looking. The pictures of "chupacabras" I have seen look just like the horribly mangy coyotes that are seen during seemingly cyclical periods. You may see quite a few afflicted animals during a short period of time, then not see any for a couple of years.
BT, Tucson, Az

I grew up in the Missouri-Kansas border country and as a child often went coyote-hunting with my father. People who never see coyotes in the US simply don't know how to look for them, because they're very common and very successful predators. We have them up here in Alaska, too.

As has been stated, the fur can be patchy and can be a number of different colours, though the dun color you see in photos is the most common.

Coyotes can breed with domestic dogs, though I've never heard of wild coyotes willingly doing that: it's generally captive animals being cross-bred with dogs by their human owners.

But bald coyotes, whether they got that way through disease or genetic mutation, are entirely within the realm of possibility.
Wade Hampton Miller, Chugiak, Alaska, USA

Coyotes can suffer from mange both demodectic and sarcoptic plus I am sure any number of normal domestic dog maladies such as thyroid problems which would all account for the hair loss along with any number of other skin and hormonal issues.
Anne, USA

I have seen quite a few coyotes while travelling in the area, but never close-up, and never bald. These creatures like to keep mankind at a respectable distance. I've never managed to get closer (not that I'd want to), than 50 yards or so. I understand that Timberwolves from NE Ontario area, affected by mange or another disease have been losing fur. These die over the winter, as they need the fur for warmth. Animal welfare people have been capturing these wolves and keeping them in a vet's care over the winter and releasing them again in spring. Perhaps these hairless coyotes were just diseased.
Jimmy, Fort Frances, Canada

Living in Texas, I've seen plenty of coyotes, never a bald one! The chupacabra myth - people see things where there is nothing to see. It's all campy good fun!
Renan, Edinburg, TX

I grew up in Apple Valley California, and lived in the desert for most of my life. I've seen coyotes up close, this is either the ugliest coyote on record, or they're not being truthful. Coyotes are shy and wouldn't have been caught and killed like this one, they're way too smart for that. You never see them run over in the highway! (Skunks, that's another story) and they have much more delicate and petite features...
Roger Russell, United States

We have lots of coyotes around the city and in the country. Never seen a bald one. They are usually mangy-looking as if their coats are not sure if it's spring or fall. The face of that animal in the picture looks too wide at the front for it to be a pure coyote.
Alan Gow, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Never seen a bald one but have been chased by several while trail running, not a fun experience as they start howling long before you see them, you just know they are coming. Each time I was unhurt and feel they were just keeping me out of their territory.
Richard Evans, York, Maine, USA

There are plenty of coyotes here and as I work in countryside most of year I see around one per week. I have never seen a bald one but a simple skin parasite such as lice, fleas and also mange can cause hair loss and the leather type thickening of the skin. Probably just a mangy old coyote!
Paul Bunker, San Antonio, Texas

It's called mange, it's contracted from their environment and other animals like feral dogs. What Texan in this day and age would believe in a chupacabra? Think unicorns just went the way of the dodo then?
S Klinefelter, Toledo, OH, USA

I hear the howls of coyotes every night where I live. Normally, you don't see these animals unless you are trying to look for them. I am not at all surprised to have found out that this so-called discovery of the mythical goat-sucker was in fact a coyote. I say this because on the chances I have had to see this animal out in the wild, occasionally one will have patchy fur. Very rare, of course. I have never seen a fully bald one, but surely there is one somewhere in my area!
Trevor, DT, Colorado, USA

I live just a few blocks off of Hollywood Blvd in an area called Los Feliz. Every evening the coyotes come down from Griffith Park to find food - from trash to kittens. While I have never seen a completely bald [one], I have seen many with various forms of balding around the backside, probably caused by mange. Either way, these little scavengers are hideous, mythological-looking creatures.
Stefano Bloch, Los Angeles, USA

We have lots of coyotes with various coat colours and fur lengths but never a hairless one.
Sandi, Canby, Oregon USA

I grew up in the Texas panhandle and I've never seen a bald coyote, nor have I ever seen one with protruding canines. The head looks more like a dog's than a coyote's so I'm also surprised with the DNA results. I guess they all look that way without their hair.
Leslie, Oklahoma, USA

I've seen coyotes early in the morning, in Connecticut where I live. Coyotes are very common throughout all US states now, I heard the CT state DEP estimated the coyotes population in this state to be approx 400 individuals. Never heard of a bald one, but hey why not. Probably white ones, too!
David Roe, Terryville, USA



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