Freak Out Over Hairless Mysterious Animals

Weird hairless animals attract morbid attention. Is it a mutant? A monster? Well, it’s most likely an unfortunate local animal who fortunately left remains for us to photograph, gawk over, get grossed out about, and share around the world on social media.

The spring/summer season brings us multiple reports and images of mysterious animals on the beach. They are strange and disgusting, but those who find them and post them on social media are compelled by their disturbing nature. Viewers won’t pass up a chance wildly speculate (usually with little zoological background) about what it is.

Let’s examine some infamous examples of hairless and so-called mysterious animals that have surfaced over the years. It turns out their identity is not much of a mystery if you ask a knowledgeable source.

Tenby, Pembrokeshire, U.K.

The Tenby mystery animal was hairless and photographed at a weird angle. The best guess for this is likely a badger, judging from the size, head, teeth and claws. It may look large and horse-like but note the footprints, it’s not large. It’s about medium-dog sized. Scale is important for these photos. Most people forget about that.

Carcasses on the beach are unpleasant. They are smelly, bloated, and missing important parts. There may be trauma to the body. Decomposition will make the creature look nasty and also makes it difficult to comprehend what they looked like alive, possibly so much so that we can’t relate them to a known animal. Often, as part of the decomposition in water, the hair falls out with just a little bit remaining as clues to what it looked like alive. Covered in seaweed, one of the most interesting was dubbed the San Diego Demonoid due to its overall weirdness and HUGE canine teeth.

San Diego possum demonoid

It looked plastic, baked and dried out in the hot sun, but it really was an animal carcass, not a fake. The teeth were noticeably big (helped by the drying and shrinking of the face), and there was a tuft of white hair that remained along the top of the head. Since the fur and color of an animal are often its most obvious identifying characteristics when alive, the fact that this thing has basically no hair left but odd tufts of fur compounds the confusion over what it actually was – an opossum. No kidding.

The Seal Beach creature was also determined to LIKELY be an opossum.

Seal Beach Thing

In 2022, an Australian carcass was popular on Instagram. It also was labeled “creepy” and “alien” in the headlines. But it wasn’t hard to discern that it was likely a local animal, probably a brushtail opossum.

Brushtail opossum carcass from Queensland, Australia

The Montauk Monster phenomenon

A new hairless mystery beast appears about two or three times a year in the media and circles the globe for months through internet channels, featured on mystery-mongering sites and even “reputable” news outlets, Tweeted, Facebooked, and Googled by the curious public who haven’t a clue about what it is.  The creepy picture is often accompanied by the speculation that it’s a new species unknown to science, a mutant, an alien or a government experiment gone wrong.

The gold standard for mysterious animals found dead on the beach is the Montauk Monster of the summer of 2008. In fact, often when these stories come out in the news, they will reference good ol’ MM. Did you know that it was actually identified? Probably not because that’s not as good of a story.

Montauk Monster (July 2008) was a raccoon.

This bloated body, missing some flesh as well as hair, was discovered on a Long Island, New York beach. Speculation was that it was an escapee from the offshore laboratories of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Amateurs were stumped by the “beak-like” skull, and, of course, the lack of fur that would have made identification more obvious. Paleontologist Dr. Darren Naish provided a direct comparison of skulls to show, definitively, that this poor beastie was a raccoon rendered hairless and deformed by the action of the seawater and natural decay with perhaps some assistance from hungry sea and shore creatures. Ah, nature at work. Mystery solved. Long live the monster. What happened to the carcass is unknown.

Son of Montauk Monster

East River monster (July 2012)

A second “Montauk Monster” appeared near the Brooklyn Bridge in July a few years later. The story originated in a local news outlet with people speculating it was a pig or a dog or something worse. The authorities didn’t help as they just ignored the questions or made up a lame guess (leftover roasted pig?). But it was such a disgusting mystery that the photo went viral and appeared everywhere. Again, this mysterious animal was hairless and bloated – indicative of being dead and in the water for a spell. Actually identifying the creatures is not too hard for experts to do if photos are taken of the feet, skull (especially teeth) and the entire body with a scale to determine the size. Even though it looked quite a bit different from Montauk Monster version 1.0, this 2.0 version was another raccoon.

Hairless animals freak us out

Hairless animals (that we conventionally think of as having hair) are weird-looking.  Hairless dead animals freak people the hell out. You can easily tell if it is a mammal (cat, rat, groundhog, dog, seal, whale) compared to, say, a fish, but without a close-up examination, it’s very difficult to determine exactly what species it might be. Regardless, there is no sense in jumping to monstrous conclusions like “alien” or “sea monster”. It’s more likely NOT a new species, but a dead thing we aren’t used to seeing so… dead.

How do land animals end up on the beach? A reasonable explanation is that they died near the inland rivers or streams, fell in or were dumped in, and then washed downstream into the ocean. After bobbing around for a bit, they lose their hair through water action, bloat from the gasses of decay, and get picked at by other animals before washing up on shore quite the worse for wear.

Not a chupacabra

Away from water-based hair removal techniques, hairless coyotes, foxes, dogs, raccoons or pretty much anything that is not immediately recognizable is now automatically referred to as a chupacabra. Originally described as a goat-sucking vampire beast native to Latin America, it now is a catch-all for any weird or mysterious carcass with teeth.

There are perfectly natural reasons why these pathetic animals are follicularly impaired.  It’s not unnatural or mysterious and it’s not a reason to shoot them on site or assume they sucked the blood out of your livestock (not true by the way, only a select few animals can actually suck blood). Why do the hairless dead trigger morbid fascination and disgust? Other than those who work with animals, we are not familiar with the many ways that hair follicles can be damaged or destroyed – bacterial and other skin diseases, burns, parasites, poisoning, nutritional deficiencies, hormone problems, allergies, and friction. Perhaps hairlessness provokes strong imagery associated with the effects of nuclear radiation or chemical burns. It’s unnatural and disturbing, leaving a mammal vulnerable and sick. We are pretty clueless about what lives just outside our door and comes out only at night. We avoid bodies left to decay or remove them quickly from sight, unaware of how nature reclaims them. We live sheltered lives. Nature is weird.

Parade of mysterious animals

Here is a parade of repulsive remains that became postmortem media stars:

Cerro Azul Creature / Blue Hill Monster (September 2009)

A group of kids in Cerro Azul, Panama reported that they observed this animal crawling out of a cave near the shore. Fearing it, they killed it. (Note: their stories changed over a few days.) Hairless, bloated and pale, it did look like Gollum. Yet, at my first glance of the thing sprawled on the rocks, it was rather easily identifiable as a sloth because of the distinctive hands. This pathetic thing was very dead when it washed up on shore and likely lost its hair due to being submerged for a while. The kids most certainly didn’t have to “beat it to death” as they reported.  The National Environmental Authority of Panama necropsied the body and confirmed it as a brown-throated sloth. Sloths are native to South America and should have been quickly recognized. But not to the rest of the world. That version didn’t make such an interesting story.

“Omajinaakoos” (May 2010)

Two women with a dog discovered this bald, snarling-faced animal along the waterfront of the Big Trout lake in the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug reserve in Northern Ontario, Canada.  They took pictures and later returned to collect the carcass but it was gone. Locals told the story of the legendary creature called ‘oomajinakoos’  or “the ugly one”. They said the finding was a bad omen.  A professor from the University of Toronto was quoted in the news saying, “It is silly. This is a dead carcass that has fallen in the water.” He identified the animal from pictures as a mink, common to the area, and sounded a bit peeved at the idea it was anything more mysterious.

Minnesota Mystery Roadkill (August 2011)

A white body with remnant tufts of hair and long front claws lay along an Alexandria, Minnesota road looking awful.  It didn’t look quite dog-like enough to be a dog so people labeled it all sorts of things, including chupacabra.   The media reported that local wildlife officials were “baffled”.  I’m skeptical that they were all that confused. Pretty quickly, they pointed out it looked like a really messed up badger left lying in the summer sun, a bit contorted due to being hit by a car. Badgers aren’t commonly seen, being mostly nocturnal and living underground, but are native to American prairie lands. This photo never included scale so it was difficult to judge size. Several people went with the explanation that it was a R.O.U.S. (Rodent of Unusual Size like those from The Princess Bride). Let’s not get crazy, here.  Tests confirmed badger.

Finally, this pathetic guy lived another day.

Prince Chupa (August 2011)

Hairless but not mysterious fox

It’s a deer! It’s a kangaroo-fox-rat thing! It’s (you guessed it) a chupacabra!  Hospital workers on a smoke break at a Maryland hospital noticed this frail, dark grey, hairless critter skulking in the nearby woods months earlier and bestowing a most embarrassing name upon him.  Chicken and some Chinese leftovers served to entice the skinny, long-tailed guy into a cage trap. The workers took photos and video before releasing it back into the woods (without calling animal control?) The local media picked up the story and ignorantly promoted it. The most frightening aspects of this story were, one, people who work in a hospital thought that nature would produce a 3-species hybrid and, two, they couldn’t use Google to figure out they had trapped a fox with mange.

In all these sad cases of animal alopecia, the witnesses went by their gut reaction, ran through their memory bank (no match), and assumed something fantastical. Why do people move to an extreme explanation instead of the more obvious explanation that it’s a variation of a native animal? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s related to our almost entire disconnect from the natural world around us or the simple need to make a story even better.

Poke the dead thing with a stick (No, really, don’t do that*)

Today’s media feeds us these stories in an uninformed way. They often fail to fact-check and find a qualified consultant to comment. Instead, they quote a confused witness and embrace the bizarre and scary, thus creating or justifying community concerns.  “Weird news” stories are picked up from other outlets and allowed to propagate with information from unqualified “experts” and eyewitnesses who spout their otherworldly ideas about what it is. That’s not news. That’s sensationalism and it’s irresponsible. It spreads misinformation and unsubstantiated fear.

Far fewer news outlets follow up when the real identification of the animal is revealed.  By that time, most people embraced the drama and ran with it, leaving the real answer to languish behind, decaying, forgotten, and eventually lost. Even though the most famous of these mystery beasts, the Montauk Monster, was rather quickly revealed to be a raccoon, that part of the story was ignored and people STILL refer to it as a “monster” or “mutant”. It’s not that. For a while, it’s a mystery. It’s nature.

*It may explode.

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Did zoo animals predict the Virginia earthquake? Look closer.

A day after the east coast earthquake (now forever to be remembered by me as “the best birthday present ever!”), the Smithsonian issued a press release about the behavior of animals at the National Zoo, more than 80 miles from the epicenter of the quake. Some media outlets reported on the news as “animals go wild”, “animals went berserk”. Many said “how animals predicted the quake”.

All of those are wrong.

What really happened?Read More »

Bigfoot “facts” for kids?

Bigfoot Evidence has posted a link to a website called “Is Bigfoot Real” [refrain from clicking unless absolutely necessary] which contains a page called “Bigfoot Facts for Kids”.

The so called “facts” given are as follows:

  • Where Has Bigfoot Been Seen? Bigfoot has been spotted all over the world. People often see Bigfoot in wooded areas or high in the mountains.
  • What Does Bigfoot Eat? Bigfoot is an omnivore. This means he eats both plants and animals. Researchers say Bigfoot eats nuts, berries, fish and deer.
  • How Does Bigfoot Act? Bigfoot is shy. He likes to live with others of his own kind but doesn’t like being around people. He doesn’t like to have his picture taken so it’s hard to get him on film. Bigfoot talks to each other by making loud calls across long distances.
  • Does Bigfoot Hurt People? No, Bigfoot doesn’t try to hurt people on purpose. Sometimes though, when people accidentally wander into his territory, he’s been known to throw rocks at them to frighten them away. Bigfoot isn’t trying to be mean. He’s just trying to protect his home and family.Read More »

Bigfoot researchers making big leaps

A few behaviors really irk me: acting like an authority to the public when you don’t deserve to be authoritative and making shit up to give a good story. The scientist in me would like experience, credentials and an exhibition of expertise. I also need evidence for wild claims. Because, well, you know… I doubt it.

One group in particular is very fond of putting these behaviors together – self-styled Bigfoot researchers.

I’m fed up with Bigfoot proponents pulling “facts” out of thin air and telling me what Bigfoot likes and doesn’t like, where he sleeps at night, how he avoids detection, how he communicates. They tell the public that wood knocking and nighttime howls are from Bigfoot. They find locations where one passed through or slept. They even apparently know about their “culture”. How can you, Bigfoot researcher, justify these fantastic claims? I’d like to know.

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Chupacabra gets a necropsy: Ben Radford’s new book does the dirty work

We were given a teaser of the stunning new findings about the chupacabra in Ben Radford’s preceding book Scientific Paranormal Investigation, which I reviewed here. I was excited to dig into the entire story in Tracking The Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction and Folklore.

The book has high praise and positive reviews already. Of course, I loved it – not because I love every monster book. I don’t. Most popular ones are quite terrible since they rehash the same old stories without references or critical thought. I loved it because this was a unique and comprehensive look a very “pop culture” monster. There was a ton of new stuff in here.Read More »

Everyone panic. Or not.

A few weeks ago, I moved my desk next to an upstairs window overlooking a Bradford pear tree. For the past 3 weeks, when I sat at the desk during the day, periodically, a flock of about 50 starlings would swoop in and land on the tree,  devouring the shriveled fruits up like grapes. Then, in a whoosh, they would be off. Sometimes I would hear them clamor on the roof. This has happened no less than a dozen times. They seemed hungry. 

On my way home from work over the past month, I noticed crows arcing across the sky across the interstate from as far as I can see from left to right. This happened for several consecutive days in the same place.

This is the behavior of birds. It seems remarkable but not too unusual.

On December 26, we were on the beach in South Carolina near Charleston. It was snowing. There were starfish embedded in the sand. The south was experiencing record cold. It happens. I felt bad for the alligators in the swamps.

Suddenly, we experience such a Fortean start to 2011!  A massive and suspicious bird die-off in Arkansas on New Years Eve triggers a wave of mystery, speculation and imaginative explanations fed by more accounts of animal mortality events.  The current media sensation of reporting mass mortality events is very interesting in many ways. Shall we count the ways? Yes, we shall, because it’s fun – fun like outrageous speculation about the end of the world! (Well, if you have a hot-air filled balloon of speculative belief about these things, you won’t think this is fun.)

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Animals hearing the earth whispers again

Earthquake in Illinois! Is this the end times?

Hot-underground-fictional-place-for-sinners, no!

And, I’ll go on record to say End Times stories are totally silly. The world has been going downhill since we humans got here in (more-or-less) present form a million years ago. Enough of that tangent. It was just to get attention anyway.

It’s pretty darn cool to experience an earthquake but, putting things into earthly perspective, this is no big deal. No one was hurt. If there were no buildings, liquor stores and knick-knacks, no damage would have been done. When natural events like this happen, one would hope that interest would be generated in the science and explanations behind it. No, we get a lot of rampant speculation. People make correlations that have no basis in reality because our brains are designed to find patterns and connections. Thus, it must be the end of the world. Folks, stranger things happen all the time. Let’s not be scared of them, let’s embrace the challenge of discovery!

I did notice my favorite anecdotal earthquake precursor stories crop up once again in the midwest – animals sensing the earthquake. It appears from all the stories that people’s pet cats, dogs and birds were riled up hours, minutes and seconds prior to the event. Seconds before, animals can perceive something amiss with the usual sounds or vibration before us humans perceive these waves. Hours and minutes prior, could they be sensing the emissions of builtup stress in the rock, electromagnetic waves, infra- or ultrasound, gas release, air ionization, etc.? Most certainly they can. Not everyone’s dog or cat showed concern. I read reports from the local news that some pets slept right through. Others were shaken after the event just like their humans.

From our understanding of earthquakes, we know that the strain builds over time. Those conditions modify the immediate environment. See my article on Whispers from the Earth. I have been compelled by the evidence and theories of plausible mechanisms to explain the occurrences, that some animals, even people, are able to perceive precursors of earthquakes. It’s not unreasonable; it’s not kooky; it’s not even paranormal. It’s factual that animals perceive the world differently than we do. I think a lot more folks understand that now.