Show-Me Freaks of Nature
This Halloween, we're digging into our field guide for the facts about Missouri’s wild things, both real and imagined.
The bare truth about chupacabras
Every year we receive reports of the mysterious chupacabra, along with photos of emaciated, nearly hairless creatures. These miserable beasts look like visitors from another realm, but they're not chupacabras.
According to south-of-the-border lore, the chupacabra is a seldom-seen, goat-sucking animal about the size of a small bear, with a row of spines bristling from neck to tail. Eyewitness claims have been reported from Mexico to Maine, but no wildlife biologist has ever confirmed the existence of one.
Biologists do agree, however, that the "sighting" photos we receive show ordinary coyotes suffering from severe cases of mange, a common disease that can afflict all kinds of canines (including your dog). The sarcoptic mite, a blood-sucking relative of ticks and chiggers, is the true monster in this horror story. The mites' burrowing and feeding on the coyote’s skin can cause it to scratch itself hairless.
Rest easy, though. The sarcoptic mange mite can’t survive on humans, and, while it’s highly contagious among dogs, it’s easily treated and controlled.
Show-Me the Momo
Another mysterious animal reported to appear in Missouri is Momo, which is short for “Missouri monster.” Also known as swamp ape, this creature is described as having a large, pumpkin-shaped head, furry body, and hair covering the eyes. It is also alleged to eat dead dogs (maybe chupacabras, too?) and emit a foul odor. The first report came from Louisiana, Mo., in 1971. Since then, several Momo sightings have been reported along the Mississippi River. Some people think Momo is a large black bear. Again, no Missouri wildlife biologist has confirmed Momo’s existence, and Internet sources report that Momo tracks were confirmed a hoax.
Where to look for cryptids
Both the chupacabra and Momo are species of cryptids, creatures whose existence has been suggested but not proven. If you’d like to search for more evidence of chupacabras or Momo (or just do a little fishing, hunting or nature viewing), check out our online Conservation Areas Atlas. Browse more than 1,000 areas, including stream accesses, natural areas and wildlife management areas. You'll find lots of places to view Missouri cryptids—or to camp, hunt, fish, float, hike, ride your horse, bird, gather mushrooms, photograph