In 1955, cryptozoology — the study of legendary, unknown, or extinct critters — officially became a thing. But interest in mysterious animals stretches back much further to at least the 15th century B.C. The field remains as controversial as it does intriguing. It also comes with plenty of misnomers. Like the notion cryptozoologists spend most of their time scouring “squatchy” woods, hunting down vampires and werewolves, or dealing with sea monsters.
So, what do they do? For starters, they analyze biological data and folkloric and anecdotal information to better understand the world. And when weird critters show up in photos or videos? They often step in to solve cases of mistaken or unknown identity.
Thanks to a bizarre sighting recently caught on tape in Texas, they may soon be working overtime on a new case of unsolved identity. Here’s everything you need to know.
Mystery Animal Makes an Appearance
It all started with a bizarre daylight animal sighting. Tina Kahlig was immediately stumped, so she reached for her camera to get a few pictures for closer examination. But the photos did little to clarify the critter’s identity. Instead, they opened a Pandora’s box of cryptid theories.
All Kahlig knows for sure is that the animal enjoyed chowing down on berries that had fallen from a bush in her Hill Country Village backyard. In an interview with KENS-TV, she later recalled, “I was inside, and I looked out into the yard. And I saw an animal right here and thought, ‘Wow, what is that?’”
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After getting the images, she uploaded them to NextDoor for a little local feedback. But her neighbors proved equally stumped. That’s about the time some rather outlandish theories started. They included everything from a coyote-dog mix to the mystical Chupacabra. Some also evoked the legend of an area mountain lion that people have long sighted but never caught on camera.
Piecing Together the Identity of an Unknown Animal
This isn’t the first time Texas Parks and Wildlife officials have proven stumped by something caught on camera. In April, a wildlife camera in the Rio Grande Valley revealed a never-before-seen animal.
As with the case of Kahlig’s unknown species, people who watched the video had plenty of guesses about what they were seeing. Some declared it a wolverine, while others called it a bush dog or even an optical illusion, the result of two wild hogs passing by one another.
Back on the case of Kahlig’s beast, opinions remain mixed. Rachel Malstaff of the San Antonio Zoo weighed in, theorizing it may be a dog or canine dealing with mange or other skin conditions. Without better photos, getting to the bottom of this case remains a challenge. But also one that has stoked renewed interest in cryptozoology.
By Engrid Barnett, contributor for Ripleys.com