Phylis Canion kept the head of an animal that had been killed on Buenger Road outside her ranch in Cuero, Texas on July 14, 2007. It was hideous, sporting fangs, big ears and hairless skin of a grayish-blue. She stored it in her freezer. She is still, as of January 2008, certain it was a Chupacabra. Later revelations call into question the exact identity of this beast.
Canion is no stranger to atypical animals, having been a lifelong hunter who has mounted heads of African animals on her walls.
But those were normal, unlike what she later discovered when she and her neighbors found at different times and places the carcasses of three doglike animals 80 miles southeast of San Antonio. Another had been run over not far from Five Mile Creek — also on July 14. A further one had been found later in July near the San Antonio highway bridge that spans the Guadalupe River.
She saved the head of the 40-pound beast found in front of her ranch – whatever it was — so that it could undergo DNA testing (though it was not what was initially tested).
But before tests could occur, there was much speculation. Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Ryan Schoeneberg and game warden Michael Hoffman were of the opinion that the Cuero Creature was either a disfigured coyote afflicted with mange or a hybrid dog of some sort which included a coyote lineage. The question was whether the beast's behavior was in keeping with this.
During the last few years, Canion had found about 26 of her chickens killed, and suspected a chupacabra in particular because the chickens were drained of blood. ("Chupacabra" is Spanish for "Goat Sucker" — even though the creatures are thought to suck other animals too.)
As of late August 2007, Travis Schaar, of Victoria's Main Street Animal Hospital, thought that what Canion and others were calling a chupacabra was really an unusual breed of dog. The creature might have been a chupacabra, but in his opinion, the chupacabra was a dog. The three oddly configured animals that were found could have been from a mutated litter or were some new variety of mutt. He did not think this canine actually sucked blood, but more likely let its prey animals bleed — and then licked up their blood.
Whatever its real identity, it was ripe for marketing. Canion did so with her discovery, selling by January 2008 more than 15,000 shirts with the message "2007, The Summer of the Chupacabra, Cuero, Texas." Even Schaar mentioned having one.
But by early November, the beast's remains had seemingly been identified as a coyote.
Texas State University biologists had been provided a tissue sample by San Antonio's KENS-TV, whom Canion had contacted when she discovered the carcass. Mike Forstner, a biologist, announced that the DNA sequence was a nearly identical match to a coyote's DNA. Scientists at the Department of Biology at Texas State University used the Beckman-Coulter CEQ 8800 DNA sequencer to arrive at this result, using the sample provided by the TV station (i.e. not from the head kept by Canion).
One person who disagreed with this identification was Canion, who assessed the DNA information as flawed. On her website, Chupacabra Headquarters, she wrote: "The Cryptid is ALMOST a match for a common coyote, but it is actually a greater percentile for a common terrier and a Saint Bernard." And what she found was neither of those. She announced she would go after more testing at the University of California in Davis, and that her website would post the results.
Results were soon forthcoming. In a January 22, 2008 e-mail to Greg Snook of Strange Magazine, Phylis Canion revealed them. After testing hide, tooth and tissue of the beast, UC-Davis's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory worked out that it was coyote (Canis latrans) on its mother's side and Mexican Wolf on its father's side. They were still trying to figure out why it lacked hair. Canion reacted: "They say it is a hybrid — I still say it is a chupacabra."
The mystery of hairlessness was also a concern at Texas State University, where further skin samples had been taken to solve this and presumably other questions.
The Chupacabra may in many cases, as has been indicated, be a crossbreed or mutation (perhaps not always of the same animals). It is not surprising, due to its rather alarming appearance(s), that is taken to be an unknown animal.
Its mysteries have not by any means been solved. In the e-mail, Canion reported that Voyager (the Italian television company) and Discovery Kids Channel had filmed at her ranch.
The telecasts will undoubtedly keep the discussion alive, and interest in the Chupacabra will long continue.
— Douglas Chapman
San Marcos Daily Record, http://www.sanmarcosrecord.com/local/local_story_244174107.html, 9/1/07
MSNBC, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20539085/, 8/31/07
The Cuero Record, http://www.cuerorecord.com/articles/2007/07/25/news/news1.prt, 7/25/07
Earthlink Strange News (from Associated Press), 11/2/07
Chupacabra Headquarters, http://www.cuerochupacabra.com/index.html
DNA Results Bring Controversy, http://www.cuerochupacabra.com/id25.html
E-mail, Phylis B. Canion to Strange Magazine, 1/22/08