Friday, October 29, 2010

Chupacabra Is Not a Halloween Monster

University of Michigan scientists recently concluded that the legendary beast know as goatsucker in English and chupacabra in Spanish is a coyote with an extreme case of the mange, a skin condition caused by mites. The mite responsible for the extreme hair loss seen in "chupacabras syndrome" is Sarcoptes scabiei, which also causes the itchy rash known as scabies in people. Domestic dogs, like humans, have played host to the mites long enough to evolve the ability to fight off mange, but the condition is much more damaging to wild members of the dog family. The infected coyote is more likey to go after livestock or pets because they are too weak to hunt wild animals.

The city has a coyote trapping program. The city and county have received hundreds of calls to 311, the city's nonemergency help line, from people complaining about coyotes in Austin areas that include greenbelts, creeks and canyons. Those areas include Southwest Austin near the Travis Country subdivision, West Austin including Camp Mabry, and Northwest Austin.

Coyote tips
* Don't leave pet food outside.
* If you see a coyote, yell at it and throw sticks and rocks to scare it away.
* Call 311 to report coyote sightings or sounds of coyotes howling.
Source: Randy Farrar, Texas AgriLife Extension Service-Wildlife Services

The Library has two recent books about coyotes in urban areas:

Urban carnivores: Ecology, Conflict, and Conservation
599.71756 Ur

Coyote at the Kitchen Door: Living with Wildlife in Suburbia
591.756 De

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