A Prince George's County animal control officer said the strange-looking animal spotted behind Prince George's Hospital Center is simply a fox that has lost its hair, but hospital workers who've seen the animal are not convinced.
We've had a flood of responses to the mysterious animal spotted -- and temporarily captured -- near Prince George's Hospital Center.
Is it the chupacabra of legend? Well, probably not.
Many viewers think it's a red fox suffering from mange, and Prince George's County Animal Control has finally let us know that they agree.
Rodney Taylor, chief animal control manager, said that if you see it or a similar creature, contact Animal Control so they can set a humane trap. They'll then turn the fox over to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Taylor stresses this is "not a death sentence" and they want to get the animal rehabbed. They dealt with a similar incident two years ago.
He advises that you not try to catch the animal yourself due to its disease.
One viewer forwarded us some images (including the one above) of a similar creature, which he'd also sent to the Baltimore County Department of Health.
The department responded:
"That is a fox with mange -- very common, but alarming to see. We are not the experts, but he doesn't create an immediate threat. When they are sick like that, with itching and sores, they can't hunt very well, so they linger around homes, hoping to get food. First, call the Nuisance Wildlife Hotline toll-free at 877-463-6497. They are the first call in these situations, because wildlife is under their authority and they are the experts. When it comes to rabies, Animal Control would take the lead -- we can likely rule that out -- here."
Todd Garrett told us, "I saw one of these in Lorton Saturday morning. It was driving past the Fairfax County dump heading towards Route 1."
Wait one second -- the animal was driving? That truly is a legendary creature!
Keta Montgomery writes, "I had the same creature in my yard last summer. See [below]. WHAT IS IT???"
Jeanne Wheeler of Beltsville has also seen "an unusual animal, too tall for a fox... but nearly hairless, long tail.... [photo below] I called the Maryland department of Natural Resources to let them know what I saw, and they confirmed to me that coyotes live in every county in Maryland, and that the reason it is hairless is because it most likely has mange and will probably die."
Whatever it is, Lynn Leavitt has a playful one on her hands. "We have the same type animal in our neighborhood.... It has just been hanging out here for the past month. First there were spotty sightings' now it rolls on the grass and seems right at home."
John Pafford tells us, "Two animals looking much like the one you reported appeared in my backyard a couple of years ago. I made photos [including the one below] and sent them to the National Zoo and the Baltimore Zoo and asked for their help in identifying the animals. Both replied that they were foxes with severe cases of mange."
Bettie tells us, "My home backs to protected land in Prince William County, Va. Several yrs ago, I saw a similar animal in the meadow, viewed it many times via binoculars and saw it close range close to our backyard once. Spoke to expert in wildlife, researched online, and what we think it was is an old, scraggly coyote that has lost most of its hair. If this animal carries its long tail down and still has a little bit of hair at the end of its tail, it matches [the] description of what I was told was a coyote. All coyotes do not look like the ones we see on TV that resemble fuzzy wolves. The big ears also look like those of a coyote."
NO, IT'S A DOG
Several readers thought it could be some kind of dog. "I believe the mystery creature near the hospital which was aired this evening is a Mexican hairless dog," writes Heather Morgan. "The true name is called xoloitzcuintle (pronounced sholo-eentz-lee)…."
Billie Jeffery thinks it could be a hairless khala dog. "Looks under-nourished so trapping again and getting treatment may be most humane thing for now. Possible adoption later if owner not located."
Steve Himes thinks it's a pharaoh hound. "Some I believe are hairless. Due to the dog living wild, it is probably malnourished and has other issues that make it harder to identify."
NO, IT'S AN AARDVARK... WALLABY... WAIT, WHAT?
David Rathbun was divided on whether the creature could be an aardvark (if you click no other link, please click that one) or a fox with mange. Aardvarks "are native to Africa, so I don't know how it would be found in Maryland, but that is what it appears to be. It also resembles a red fox with a severe case of mange, which would account for the hair loss. Aardvarks eat termites and ants, so it seems odd that it could be trapped with fried chicken."
Speaking of creatures in the wrong region: "I'm pretty sure it's some type of wallaby... Pretty similar, except it has more hair. The one in Maryland could have some kind of skin disease," writes Ann in Springfield.
George Aneiro thinks it's a species of bandicoot (a what?), "an Australian marsupial. If so, it may be an escaped exotic pet or zoo specimen. Suggest you check with an expert from the National Zoo for positive identification to confirm or refute my guess."
OR IT'S A…
Robert Russell may have it, though. "Sorry folks, every single one of you is wrong. It's not a fox, nor a dog, nor a kangaroo, nor a wallaby, nor a rat, nor a deer. THIS is what happens when you feed a congressman after midnight!"