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Chupacabra or Vampire Bat?
by Renee Lara

Puerto Rico, 1993, in a town named Canovanas, about a dozen goats were found dead at a small farm. Their owner found them without blood in their bodies. Similar cases started to be made public in other areas of Puerto Rico, later in California, Texas, and even in Northern parts of Mexico. The general public did not know who or what to blame for the attacks so they started referring to the attacker as the Chupacabra. The Chupacabra, or Goat-sucker as it would be said in English, obtained its name because some of the first victims found were goats. There are many assumptions on what this ‘being’ is; they range from tales on extraterrestrials to wild dogs. However, the logic of these theories do not fit the common characteristics of the Chupacabra.

Since the beginnings of time, many animals have developed new ways to survive. Some have become larger or smaller, and others have acquired brightly designed furs. All these in order to accommodate to the new habitats that man is constantly changing due to innovations in technology. So, perhaps the Chupacabra is a new form of evolution of a parasitic mammal that lives in the areas where the Chupacabra has attacked. This mammal is from the family Desmodontidae and its appearance, feeding style, and attacking mode matches the Chupacabra’s almost to a one hundred percent; the mammal is commonly known as the Vampire bat.

The Chupacabra is described as being of medium size, from two and a half feet to three feet in height. The people that claim to have seen it say that it is of a grayish to brown color, and that the hair on its back ‘sticks up.’ The eyes of the Chupacabra are one of the most striking features; according to the witnesses, the eyes are big and elongated upward with a dark-red to wine coloration. It has been said that the Chupacabra has protruding fangs and a skin-like membrane that joins the arms with the Chupacabra’s sides of the body. The membrane was also seen between the Chupacabra’s long fingers, and apparently the Chupacabra can fly with the aid of this membrane. By trying to put a picture together of all these features, anyone would deduct that the Chupacabra is an alien; however, if all the characteristics are carefully analyzed, any individual can see that the Chupacabra and Vampire bats are very similar.

There are three types of Vampire bats: Desmodus rotundus, Diaemus youngi, and Diphylla ecaudata, which can be found throughout the areas of Northern Mexico, extending into Central and South America (Walker 324-326). Vampire bats all have basic similarities among each other, and also with the Chupacabra. In Vampire bats, the fur is colored in different tones of gray, and the bats’ back have darker tones of gray that go into a dull brown. Since these bats are found in areas of warm climate, their fur is short and each hair is spaced out from the other hairs. This gives the bats’ hairs an appearance of being raised and in disarray (Brown 21), or ‘sticking up,’ as in the case of the Chupacabra. Vampire bats have very specialized teeth. The most notorious are the front incisors and the canines, which are sharply pointed in order to cut into a victim’s skin. Vampire bats have large eyes that are very dark in color, and in some areas of Sonora, Mexico, these bats have been found to have pink to red eyes (Brown 22). Bats are flying mammals; therefore, they have wings which are attached from their arms and long fingers to the sides of their bodies. These wings have a leathery appearance, just like the membranes seen on the Chupacabra. Vampire bats are not very large in size;

however, a new evolution of a Vampire bat could very well reach the size of a small toddler. This could happen since "the Largest or the Great Ternate Bat, is, in general, about a foot long, with an extent of wings about four feet; but sometimes it is found far larger, and it has been said that specimens have been seen of six feet in extent" (Brown 20). This makes it very possible that anyone, who might have seen a new Vampire bat of larger size than it is commonly known, could have , because of fright and ignorance, exaggerated its size and appearance and mistaken it as a monster from outer space.
To see a picture of a vampire bat go directly to Discovery Channel Online

Many of the Chupacabra believers would like for it to be a being from another world; they would like to tell skeptics that they had been wrong to think that the Chupacabra was a dog. According to veterinarians and other officers of the Department of Agriculture in Puerto Rico, wild dogs are the ones that have committed the attacks ("El Chupacabras"). However, dogs could not have been the ones to have committed most of the attacks on the animals. Many of the attacked sites were located next to the houses of the owners, who claimed that they did not hear anything. If dogs had been the ones responsible for the deaths, the owners would have heard the barking and howling of the dog or dogs attacking, and eventually the barking of all the other neighborhood dogs. Whenever a dog attacks an animal, it usually does it in a very vicious way (dog attacks leave recognizable traces). Some of the traces would be the damaged cages of some of the animals, scattered feathers in the case of chickens, ducks and geese, missing animals that could have been eaten, smashed plants and dug holes at the sides of the cages, and the wounds found on the animals. A dog’s bite can scar the entire area of skin where the bite was given, plus it can tear a victim’s muscles. In the Chupacabra’s victims none of these traces are noticeable; the skin and muscles do not have any trauma internally or externally other than the punctures through which the blood was extracted. These killings were made clean and efficient, just the way a Vampire bat would do it, and dogs definitely are not clean hunters.

So far, the Chupacabra has not actually been seen in action. Apparently the Chupacabra attacks only during the night and does it in an extremely careful manner. The way punctures have been made indicate that the Chupacabra climbs on the victim’s back in order to bite it. Non-skeptics speculate that the Chupacabra’s bite is not painful since it does not awaken the animals (including hens, which are known to be extremely scandalous). How can something bite into an animal’s skin without being noticed by the victim itself? This is quite a simple task performed by Vampire bats. Vampire bats land on top of the animals very gently, or sometimes the "Vampires advance on their targets as circumspectly as possible, on foot" (Leen 139). Their teeth are so thin and sharp that it is quite easy for them to bite into the skin and cut a small piece of it. "This operation is practically painless and usually does not disturb the sleeping or quiet animal or human being" (Walker 322). Vampire bats then proceed to lick the wound with their long tongue in order to add an anti-coagulant so that the blood will not clot. After this is done, the flowing blood is then lapped with the tongue. All of the procedure is done very cautiously in order not to awaken the victim. Even if the victim is to wake up, there is no much that it can do in order to get rid of the Vampire bat, unless of course, the victim is a human; in this case the person would probably try to hit it and then call for help. However, neither the Chupacabra nor Vampire bats get near people that often; apparently both prefer the blood of "cattle, mules, horses, and goats" (Allen 96).

Another characteristic that intrigues the owners of attacked animals is the apparent lack of blood in the victims. Almost every person that has analyzed the deaths, claim that they were not able to find any blood in the bodies of the animals. Nevertheless, when the veterinarians of the Department of Agriculture in Puerto Rico made autopsies to about twenty of the animals, they found the correct amount of blood that was expected (Navarro). The animals were not completely drained after all. Vampire bats are able to drink blood up to sixty percent of their weight and sometimes a Vampire bat can "drink its own weight or more, and starving individuals have been known to draw up to two ounces of blood from a victim" (Brown 48). Two ounces do not sound like a lot of blood; however, when a significant amount of blood is extracted, any victim becomes weak and runs the risk of dying. In chickens the extraction of two ounces of blood can be fatal, since "in nine out of ten the feathered victim dies" (Allen 96). If a small one ounce Vampire bat can do this to a chicken, then a larger developed bat of nearly three feet in height could definitely weaken a goat or cow to death.

Other characteristics of the Chupacabra that can also be related to those of the Vampire bats are the hind legs and the odor the Chupacabra emits. According to the people that have seen the Chupacabra, it is able to stand on its two hind legs. One of the witnesses said that the Chupacabra "jumped like a kangaroo down a Canovanas street and... it exuded such a sulfurlike stench that her 1 1/2-year-old son, who was in the car with her during the second sighting, was still coughing from it" (Navarro). Vampire bats, besides flying and walking almost straight on their feet, can also leap and jump. Vampire bats’ hind legs are very strong and on the bottom of their feet they may have pads that help them move silently while they jump from one place to another. Jumping is extremely necessary for Vampire bats and apparently for the Chupacabra also. Being able to jump
allows for a quick escape or swift dodge whenever they might feel attacked if sensed by the victim. As it was said before, the Chupacabra is able to emit a strong, disgusting odor whenever it is seen. This might be done in order to warn a possible aggressor not to get near. A Vampire bat can do this through a "spitting hiss from two large cup-shaped glands in the rear of its mouth" (Brown 25). As if that was not enough, Vampire bats themselves smell strongly, since their fur is impregnated by a smell of ammonia. The caves where the bats have been found have pools of bat excrement deposited all over the floor. The droppings smell of ammonia because several beetles that feed on the Vampire bats’ guano produce ammonia gas. "The amount of ammonia in the cave air was found to be three times the level that would be considered safe for humans to breathe" (Turner 55). The stench perceived by some of the Chupacabra witnesses is very similar to the one that commonly surrounds Vampire bats; however, since that particular smell is often related to the devil, demons, and other obscure beings, the witnesses could have failed to see that the animal was actually a bigger-than-usual Vampire bat.

Since Vampire bats can "become established in southern Florida, Cuba, or even the lower Rio Grande Valley" (Brown 35), it might be possible that the Chupacabra sightings in these areas were actually the apparitions of an evolution of Vampire bats. Vampire bats can be found in fairly large groups, which would explain why the Chupacabra was seen in so many different places of the southern United States and other areas of Latin America in almost consecutive days. For many Chupacabra believers, the thought of having larger Vampire bats living in these areas sounds strange; nevertheless, it can
Go directly to Discovery Channel Online to learn more about vampire bats.
happen. Any simple and permanent change in a gene or chromosome of an animal can cause an evolutionary change. The change would then be passed onto the offspring and so on. These small mutations have happened since the beginnings of time, and they eventually lead the animals, insects, and even humans to physically look the way they do now. Vampire bats have also undergone several changes. Studies and research on Vampire bats showed that maybe "vampires first fed on the blood-feeding ectoparasites of wild hosts and later directly on the mammalian blood" (Turner, Dennis 66); the electroparasites were moths and mosquitoes. It is known that the majority, if not all of the animals on earth have evolved from an earlier ancestor, so perhaps the Chupacabra has only evolved from what is commonly known as the Vampire bat.

Works Cited
Allen, Glover Morril.  Bats.  New York:  Dover, 1939.

Brown, David E.  Vampiro: The Vampire Bat in Fact and Fantasy.  Silver 
	City, NM: High-Lonesome Books, 1994.

"El Chupacabras: La Hora de la Verdad."  Ocurrio Asi de Noche.  Narr. 	Enrique
	Gratas.  Telemundo.  21 June 1996.

Leen, Nina.  The World of Bats.  New York:  Holt, 1969.

Navarro, Mireya.  "El Chupacabra."  New York Times News Service 
	26 Jan. 1996: n.p.

Turner, Dennis C.  The Vampire Bat.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1975.

Turner, Edward, and Clive Turner.  Bats.  Sussex, Great Britain:  Priority 
	Press Limited, 1975.

Walker, Ernest P., et al.  Mammals of the World.  3rd ed.  Vol. 1.  
	Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1975.

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