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Monsters, Mutants and Other Animal Mysteries

They are materializing in the most unlikely places - like your backyard

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Mysterious animals seem to be popping up all over the place. And not just in remote jungles or seldom-traveled tropical waters. They are allegedly appearing in such unlikely places as Harford County, Maryland and San Antonio, Texas. Rural villages of Chile also continue to be harassed by strange creatures, some of which fit the description and modus operandi of the dreaded Chupacabras.

Scientists are routinely discovering new species of animals. An exploration of a large ice-covered pool in the Yukon Territory of the Canada Basin is finding several new species in what is believed to be the world's oldest seawater. In May, 2004, a new species of orange-colored, mouse-like mammal was discovered in the mountains of the Philippines. A bird that researchers believe is new to science was recently found on the Indonesian island of Wangi Wangi. In August, 2004, a new kind of animal was found in Australia that an expert with the National Parks and Wildlife Service said resembled a rock wallaby, but wasn't.

It's quite another thing, however, when an unknown creature wanders into your backyard. But we must be cautious about jumping to the conclusion that an unidentified animal is truly unidentifiable. Such is the case with the so-called Glyndon Mystery Monster that made news in July, 2004. A strange-looking dog-like creature was spotted by several residents around Glyndon, Maryland. Jay Wroe even managed to photograph the animal in his backyard. Animal experts were unable to identify it, some saying it looked like a cross between a dog and a hyena. So they set a trap for the creature in Wroe's yard - and actually caught the poor animal, which turned out to be a red fox with a bad case of mange.

Likewise, reports of dinosaur-like creatures reported by people driving near Arica, Chile turned out to be misidentified ostriches.

So if a fox can be labeled a monster and an ostrich can be seen as a dinosaur, we must be open-mindedly skeptical when we read about some of the other interesting sightings taking place around the globe. Maybe they are bizarre new creatures, maybe not:

• The Asheboro panther. In January, 2004 in Asheboro, North Carolina, Denise Williams was dressing her kids to go outside and play in the snow when she glanced out her window and saw a large, black, cat-like creature. She managed to videotape what she described as a panther-like animal, and representatives of the North Carolina zoo estimated that the tracks in the snow they found were made by a feline weighing 35 to 40 pounds. The videotape was too fuzzy to provide definitive identification. It was rumored that the animal might have been responsible for the death of a pet dog in the area. There were no reports of an escaped panther from any zoo, and the mystery animal was never captured.

• The Lancashire blobster. There is a rich history in the annals of Forteana of mysterious "things" washing up on shores around the world. They are often unidentifiable because they are in various stages of decomposition or have provided lunch for other sea creatures. One such unidentified "blobster" was stumbled upon by a cameraman on the Lancashire, U.K. coast while he was walking his dog in late July, 2004. The rotting carcass, which featured a long beak, puzzled park rangers, zoologists, marine and other wildlife experts. Finally, as if to get the mystery over with, the manager of an aquarium declared he was 99 percent certain it was a squid. Other "experts" weren't so sure and offered such other possibilities as a walrus pup, a dolphin, a penguin, seal or even a platypus.

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