The Chupacabra

It's Puerto Rico's version of

a blood-sucking Big Foot

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Pronounced ýchew-pah-kahb-rahţ and meaning goat sucker, hysteria about this Puerto Rican version of Bigfoot comes and goes. The phenomenon is worth knowing about since the creature is said to hide/live in remote mountain caves and perhaps even in the forests of El Yunque. Not that any tourist has ever encountered it when traveling around the countryside.

The Chupacabra first came to life in 1994 when numerous goats and other livestock were found dead, drained of blood. The vampire-like killings started in Canovanas, where about 30 residents swore they saw a creature described variously as having red eyes, gray skin, fangs, a long darting tongue, powerful hind legs and spinal quills.

Witnesses claimed it stood between 4 and 5 feet tall and weighed between 18 to 50 pounds.

In other words, it resembled a small dinosaur from the film Jurassic Park.

Within weeks of the first deaths a flurry of reports of dead animals started coming in from all parts of the countryˇand then from Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and even Russia.

After an intensive two-year period of goat sucking, the creature seemed to disappear from Puerto Rico and everywhere else.

Some believed that UFOs had captured the creature that wasn't meant to be here in the first place. Others claimed the military had finally gotten its genetic experiments back under lock and key.

Authorities in the various localities attributed the thousands of animal deaths to large stray dogs. The Chupacabra, they said, was also born of mass hysteria.

It turns out, according to anthropologists and Hispanic historians, there are other legends of bloodsucking animals in several South and Latin American cultures and in the Caribbean but only on

the Spanish speaking islands.

Goatsuckers actually do exist. Goatsucker is the name given to a family of nocturnal birds such as night jars and whippoorwills whose eyes reflect light at night. The birds are found in the Mediterranean where goats like to graze.

Despite the name, animal blood is not part of the birds' diet. These avian goatsuckers feed almost exclusively on insects.

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