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On the Trail of the Chupacabras


Illustration of el chupacabras
Carmen Rizzolo

It attacks in the night, sucking the blood from its helpless victims. Let's follow the bloody trail of the elusive "goat sucker" -- chupacabras -- over the years

Their first known attacks were in March of 1995 in Puerto Rico. Eight sheep were discovered dead, each completely drained of blood. Investigators found three strange puncture wounds in the chests of the animals. Despite the odd circumstances, authorities could only attribute the killings to a known predator - a fox, perhaps. Others, however, recognized the similarities in these deaths to the enigmatic cattle mutilations which had been taking place in the American southwest with increasing regularity. Was there a connection?

Five months later, however, the attacks intensified and became more bizarre than any cattle mutilation. In August, 1995, as many as 150 farm animals and pets were killed by a mysterious predator in and around the Puerto Rican town of Canóvanas. In most cases, like the sheep, the animals were drained of blood through small holes. A definite pattern of unexplained killing had developed. Several of the animal victims were goats, which inspired the locals to christen the killer, el chupacabras - the "goat sucker." To this day, its rampage of gruesome slayings has continued and spread to many parts of the world, including the United States, Mexico, even as far away as Australia.

After hundreds of killings over decades, chupacabras has eluded capture. Several sightings have been claimed, and its description fits no biological classification - and its killing methods puzzle forensic experts. If eyewitnesses can be believed, and until the experts can deliver a plausible explanation for the bizarre deaths, chupacabras remains a real modern mystery.


In Canóvanas, about 30 citizens claimed to have seen the chupacabras, swearing that it had swooped down from the sky and leapt over treetops. It wasn't until November, 19, 1995 that a detailed description of chupacabras came from an eyewitness. On that autumn night in Puerto Rico, the creature struck again. Farmers awoke to a horrifying scene: dozens of turkeys, rabbits, goats, cats, dogs, horses and cows... dead, with no explainable cause. Just the mysterious markings left by the blood-drinking chupacabras.

But in the north-central city of Caguas, a startled homeowner caught the world's first fleeting glimpse of the goat sucker. Described as having huge red eyes and hairy arms, the creature allegedly broke into the bedroom of the house through a window, tore apart a child's stuffed Teddy bear, and left a puddle of slime and a single piece of rancid meat on the windowsill before disappearing.

Through the end of 1995, chupacabras had been blamed for more than 1,000 mysterious animals deaths - all resulting from blood loss through one or more puncture wounds. In that time, several more eyewitnesses came forward, consistently describing the the creature as being monkey-like, but having no tail. They characterized it has having large oval red eyes that sometimes glowed, gray skin, a long snake-like tongue, fangs, and long spinal quills that may double as wings. Those who saw it say chupacabras stands between four and five feet tall, hops like a kangaroo, and leaves a foul, sulfur-like stench. At the site of some deaths, unidentified three-toed tracks were found. Zoologists could think of no known animal that adequately fits this strange portrait.

Was the chupacabras the figment of agitated imaginations? Could the witnesses have mistaken a fox or a panther for this weird creature? Was it, after all, just a superstition? In any case, the killings continued.

In March, 1996, chupacabras struck for the first time in the United States. It had somehow crossed the Caribbean and slain 40 animals in a rural area northwest of Miami, Florida. On May 2, a report came from the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas: a six-year-old pet goat was found dead with the unmistakable puncture wounds of chupacabras. On that same day, the creature appeared further south in Juarez, Mexico, where it preyed on dogs and other small mammals. More witnesses verified chupacabras' description: the row of spikes or feather-like projections running down its spine; the way it stands upright on three-toed feet with its forearms suspended at chest level, not unlike a kangaroo; its large sometimes glowing eyes.

The next day, May 3, in northern Mexico, the village of Calderon is terrorized by a giant "bat-like" creature that feasted on the blood of several goats. Like a scene out of Frankenstein, farmers formed vigilante groups to try and stop the monster, but without success. Throughout May, reports came in from all over Mexico where chupacabras left dead cows, sheep, and rams in its bloody wake.

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