2004, July: The Elmendorf Beast

Devin McAnally's chickens were disappearing from his ranch in Elmendorf, Texas, USA. At one point, 35 chickens had vanished in a single day.

        So when he saw the unknown animal in July, 2004, under a tree eating mulberries, he shot it on suspicion of being his chicken thief. It wasn't anything he'd seen before.

The Elmendorf Beast

Other side.
A strange creature. [Picture sources here]

        "First thing that came to my mind, is surely everybody's gonna think this is a chupacabra," Macanally told reporters. The good news was that since he shot the creature, his chickens had stopped disappearing.

        The animal only weighed about 20 pounds, and was hairless except for a short mane that ran down its back. Terry DeRosa with the San Antonio Zoo thought it might be a wild Mexican dog.

        Unsure what to do with the odd carcase, McAnally buried it. A few weeks later he was contacted by the Communion Foundation, a group founded by author and UFO abductee Whitley Strieber which is "interested in all things unexplained," planned to do DNA testing on the animal. With that in mind, McAnally went to check on the burial site (and see if he remembered where!) on August 3; a reporter with WOAI in San Antonio -- Jeff Vexler -- was with him when he started to dig.

        After just a couple of shovel fulls, McAnally hit a bone about 4 to 6 inches long. Vexler observed that the bones in the shallow grave didn't appear to be in proper order... which also sounds like not a lot of the flesh of the beast was intact either.

        But Strieber and the Communion Foundation then decided they didn't want media attention when they retrieved the remains; so the previously announced recovery was cancelled, and they were going to work out a private dig with McAnally. McAnally apparently told local news that he was considering storing the remains in a deer locker until the foundation was ready for pick up.

        McAnally must have passed on some of the remains by August 11, when he told WOAI that he was waiting for DNA results that were due back sometime in the next few weeks. It was also reported that some of the bones had been taken to John Gramieri, the Mammal Curator at the San Antonio Zoo. Gramieri was sure the animal was a canid of some sort, speculating at a possible dog/coyote hybrid. He also noted that the jaw appeared to have been poorly formed, adding to the animal's unusual appearance; and that the teeth were also unusual for the canids he knew of. Gramieri attributed the animal's hairlessness and skin color to a very bad skin ailment.

        Both McAnally and Gramieri felt it was likely there were more animals like the beast alive and out there. McAnally said he had received calls from people who claimed to have seen similar animals around their properties.

The Story Grows

        Not much more was reported about the so-called "Elmendorf Beast" in news services... but some more information, and plenty of rumors, cropped up after the last official reports.

        Naomi West, an investigator and contributor to the Fortean Zoology website, visited McAnally in 2009 and got the story on what happened with the DNA testing; which, basically, was nothing helpful.

  • Streiber sent bones to the University of California Davis; Strieber said very little DNA in the bones was retrievable due to exposure to heat or radiation. They could not complete the testing, yet at the same time claimed the sample was unusual and matched nothing else.
  • A bone was sent to a man claiming to be a graduate student at a northern university; he wasn't, and the bone could not be retrieved.
  • McNally contracted with Disney to have a bone tested in a private lab in East Texas. But the lab was overworked with criminal investigation tests, and never finished testing the bone samples.
  • McNally sent a bone via the History Channel to New York University, who claimed the bone had been damaged due to exposure to the elements and heat, and they could only retrieve a partial sample of DNA -- just the mitochondrial DNA fron a cell's plasma, but not nuclear DNA from a cell's nucleus. This was enough to show the beast was not related to coyotes, and the DNA was said to be “identical to the sequences of dozens of breeds of domestic dog.

In light of all these setbacks, when West requested a sample to test for the Fortean Zoology group, McAnally specified that he would provide a bone when they could arrange for a definite plan for the testing that would include both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA testing -- because all previous tests had only managed to look at mitochondrial DNA -- and that after he would have to be the first person informed of the results. Though West agreed to this, at the time of her writing she had not yet received a bone to test. And, since no more on the topic has been posted to the Fortean Zoology website, it would appear that the testing never happened.

        I suspect that Streiber's claim of 'radiation damage' to the DNA might have been a misunderstanding; he may have been told by the University of California that there was no 'nuclear DNA' -- DNA found in the nucleous of a cell -- and accidentally thought there was no DNA due to nuclear action... aka radiation. Since in the two cases where a partial test was accomplished only the mitochondrial DNA was tested, it seems likely that the nuclear DNA was mostly gone. This could have been due to damage incurred while the carcase was buried; and given that only bones were being passed around, it implies the rest of the beast was pretty well on its way to being decomposed when it was dug up for testing.

        In the years since McAnally shot his beast, details have been added to the story by some to connect it more closely to the original reports of a monster called the 'Chupacabras' in Puerto Rico... namely, it has been claimed the Elmendorf Beast had been draining chickens of blood, instead of just stealing the animals. While this is definitely a new, and incorrect, detail, it does bring up a question: what does a 20 pound canid do with 35 chickens in one day? That's more than the animal could have eaten itself, especially since it was described as malnourished by many experts... so was the Elmendorf Beast part of a pack of animals that moved on when their comrade was killed?