WISE COUNTY — Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Jennifer Barrow measures the rear feet of a small, hairless creature laid out on a picnic table.
"The pad is the giveaway," she says.
Barrow has seen feet and claws exactly like this many times; teeth, too. She puts a section of jawbone down next to the animal's head for comparison.
"This tooth right here is this tooth right here," she says. "It matches perfectly."
But she's never seen a critter like this.
It was found dead on the Runaway Bay golf course in Wise County in north Texas last Wednesday morning. Tony Potter picked it up.
"I get out here and I was like, 'What is that? It's not a dog,'" he said. Potter said a local vet didn't know what it was, either.
Potter posted video of the animal on YouTube, and WFAA.com in Dallas reported the story on Monday. All the exposure generated an enormous response; many viewers thought it was a type of hairless dog.
It looked to Potter like a raccoon with no hair.
Jennifer Barrow says Potter is correct. "The feet are raccoon feet. The skull is a raccoon skull. Dental formula matches raccoon dental formula. It's a raccoon," Barrow concluded.
A hairless raccoon.
It is just like another specimen found in Kentucky, caught alive and confirmed through lab tests.
We found other photos on the Internet that match the Wise County specimen.
Researchers suspect the hairlessness is due to a congenital defect, not disease. Game warden Penny Nixon wants to emphasize that point.
"This is just an anomaly of a common species," she said. "We don't want anyone alarmed by it. We don't want people to think we have a mange problem or any kind of problem in our wildlife in Wise County."
So wildlife officials are certain they know what it is, but they also know it will likely perpetuate the myth of a creature called the chupacabra.
"They don't exist," Barrow said. "Most of the chupacabra reports are mangy coyotes. Hairless coyotes."
"I was always told that the chupacabra was a mythical beast that was used to keep children from straying far from home, as in: Don't go out there, because the chupacabra might get you," Nixon said.
The little brownish-gray animal on the table might have been a threat to your garbage can, but not to your children.
Barrow said the raccoon apparently was just an unfortunate trick of nature, with no coat to keep him warm through the winter.
The Center for Animal Research and Education in Bridgeport will take custody of the critter. They hope more tests can be performed.