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The Abominable Chupacabra
The Himalayas have their Yeti, Britain has its crop circles, New Jersey has its legendary Jersey Devil—and Puerto Rico has its Chupacabra. This "goat sucker" (as its name translates) has been credited with strange attacks on goats, sheep, rabbits, horses, and chickens since the mid-1970s. The attacks happen mostly at night, leaving the animals devoid of blood, with oddly vampire-like punctures in their necks.
Though the first references to these attacks were in the 1970s, the biggest surge of reports dates to the mid-1990s, when the mayor of Canóvanas received international attention and support from local police for his weekly search parties equipped with a caged goat as bait. The police stopped short of fulfilling the mayor's request for a special unit devoted to the creature's capture.
Sightings offer widely differing versions of the Chupacabra; it has gray, scraggly hair and resembles a kangaroo or wolf, or walks upright on three-toed feet. Some swear it hops from tree branch to tree branch and even flies, leaving behind, in the tradition of old Lucifer, the acrid stench of sulphur. It peers through large, oval, sometimes red eyes and "smells like a wet dog" as its reptilian tongue flicks the night air. It has, according to some, attacked humans, ripped through window screens, and jumped family dogs at picnics.
According to a 1995 article in the San Juan Star, island lore abounds with monsters predating the Chupacabra. The comecogollo was a version of Bigfoot—but smaller and a vegetarian. It was particularly sweet on cogollo, a baby plantain that springs up near its parent plant. In the early 1970s the Moca vampire also attacked small animals, but opinion differed on whether it was alien, animal, or really a vampire. The garadiablo, a swamp creature that emerged from the ooze at night to wreak havoc on the populace, also struck fear in the early 1970s. This "sea demon" was described as having the face of a bat, the skin of a shark, and the body of a human.
The Chupacabra has also been active in other spots with large Hispanic communities—Mexico, southern Texas, and Miami—and its scope is pretty wide. The list of reported sightings at www.elchupacabra.com includes such unlikely locales as Maine and Missouri. And the Chupa's coverage on the Web isn't limited to sci-fi fan sites: Princeton University maintains a Web site meant to be a clearinghouse for Chupa information.
What to make of Chupa? Above the clamor of the fringe elements, one hears the more skeptical voice of reason. Zoologists have suggested that the alleged condition of some Chupacabra victims may actually be the result of exaggerated retelling of the work of less mysterious animals, such as a tropical species of bat known to feed on the blood of small mammals. Even some bird species are known to eat warm-blooded animals. Skeletal remains of an alleged Chupacabra found in Chile were determined to be those of a wild dog. This, however, doesn't explain the sightings of the hairy, ravenous beast. Then again, there's no accounting for the Loch Ness monster either.
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