Australia’s Outback is one of the wildest and biologically diverse chunks of habitat left on the planet.
It is also a place that has tracts of ground that have felt no human footprints at least in the modern era.
American has its own outback.
It is the Trans-Pecos region of Texas-the far western region of the state.
The Trans-Peco is part of the Chihuauan Desert and features several small mountain ranges and has a county (Brewster) that is larger than the entire state of Connecticut.
It is home to some of the rarest and most elusive reptiles in North America and is home to the largest black bear population in Texas. Scattered bears also roam the eastern third of the state.
This region in my opinion is the most likely place to discover new wildlife in the United States and is also very like to be home to a small population of jaguars.
Jaguars have been proven to be crossing into New Mexico and Arizona frequently due to a concerted game camera study in both states. No such study exists in Texas.
Unlike Arizona and New Mexico most of Trans-Pecos Texas is privately owned. That means any large-scale study would have to be given the green light by landowners there. That could happen and two years ago I spoke with a research group that focuses on the great cats and they expressed interest in the topic but so far nothing is happening.
The truth is unless landowners themselves make reports almost no news gets out of the region.
An interesting report I am investigating is of a Mexican gray wolf sighted in a remote area Alpine.
The person who gave me the report was a fur trapper with more than 50 years experience in killing coyotes for cattle and sheep operations. In other words, he knows the difference between coyote and wolves.
When I interviewed him the animal he described sounded strikingly like a Mexican gray wolf and was in an area far away from any major human population.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the wild population of Mexican gray wolves in 2015 was 48 animals. It is not much a leap of faith to see one or more of these animals wandering into Texas.
In October 2000, a radio collared gray wolf from was shot and killed near Kirksville, MO nearly 600 miles away. A Mexican gray would not have to travel that far to end up near Alpine.
We will be forcing some effort on studies in this region and investigating the wildlife of America’s Outback.
The dim moonlight illuminated the trees just enough to make out the edge of the forest. A strange sense of forebode overcame me as I gazed into the blackness.
As I neared a crossroads, something jumped out of the ditch and made its way through the tall grass. Standing about 20 inches at the shoulder, the creature had large, erect ears and pale, gray skin.
Perhaps, I had finally encountered the legendary “chupacabra”.
I have maintained the “chupacabras” seen on many video clips and photos shared on social media are coyotes or foxes with a very bad case of mange.
However, as I pulled over, grabbed my flashlight and ran to the woods edge, my rational explanation wasn’t resonating. I was alone, without a gun, on a dark, country road and looking for a “chupacabra”.
To top things off my flashlight was dying and so was my cell phone.
Sounds like a good start for a horror movie, doesn’t it?
As I pressed toward the woodline, a nasty growl came my direction. Followed by aggressive barks, I could tell there was a canine not happy with my presence. I inched a little closer and could make out a set of blue eyes illuminated by my dim flashlight. A creepy silhouette of a thin animal with tall ears peaking from a behind the tree looking at me, hit my curiosity factor so I moved closer.
At this point, the animal moved and started barking again. Aggressive barks.
It was time for me to go. I may be curious but I am not stupid.
I returned this morning slowly cruising alone the road as a thin layer of mist on the ground began to dissipate.
And about 50 yards from where I left it the night before was the mysterious animal. I quickly shot a few photos with my cell phone as it stood silhouetted in the forest. I could only make out the shape until it moved into an open patch of light.
I could see that it was a dog (mutt) of some sort with short hair that was coming off in large patches. It even had a tiny collar on.
If coyotes and foxes make up the bulk of “chupacabra” sightings, now the domestic dog can join the ranks.
“Chupacabras” are not monsters. They are simply sick animals and in this case I have feeling it was a sick animal dumped off in the woods so the owners would not have to deal with it. Either that or it escaped from somewhere and made a long haul to this stretch of road.
I doubt that though as it hung around the same spot I saw it last night. That’s a sign of an abandoned dog.
I knew what I was looking at was a canine of some sort all along but how many people would be able to tell during a brief sighting under the moonlight?
In this case the “chupacabra” was more like Frankenstein’s monster than some sort of evil being from beyond as some bloggers claim. It’s circumstance was at least partially man-made and it was just doing what it had to do to stay alive.
In this case I was the like the angry mob that drove the monster to the windmill, only with a flashlight instead of a torch. I did however back off and let nature take its course.
After all, Frankenstein’s monster fought back and I had no desire to end up bitten by a chupacabra-one wearing a collar or not.