Puerto Rico ‘Vampire’ Feeds Fear and Satire : Mystery: Rising number of blood-drained animals are found. As newspapers ridicule incidents, search parties are formed.

<i> from Associated Press</i>

Bloodsucking killer leaves trail of dead farm animals throughout the island! Frightened residents wearing fatigues beat bushes in search of mysterious killer!

Whatever it may be, the creature responsible for a string of animal deaths this year has generated both fear and satire in this U.S. commonwealth.

Goats, hens, rabbits and geese all have fallen prey to the nocturnal killer that reputedly sucks their blood, leaving them lifeless. No one can explain why.


Angela Lajes found her dog and her sister’s two cats dead in the southern city of Ponce earlier this month.

“It sucked out the animals’ blood and took out their guts and ate them,” she said.

The daily tabloid El Vocero reported that Puerto Rico’s Dracula had a field night on Halloween with a toll of five goats and 20 parakeets “sucked dead.” It depicted the killer as a pointy-tailed devil.

Mayor Jose Soto of the northeastern town of Canovanas has led two search parties, some of the vigilantes wearing fatigues and carrying guns, to find the culprit since Oct. 29.

Soto plans yet another search soon. He says he knows the creature is close because he can smell it--like a pig farm, only stronger.

“It has killed more than 40 animals in this town. The farmers are worried,” said Soto, who is seeking reelection next year.

Residents of this Spanish-speaking commonwealth have dubbed the creature “chupacabras,” which translates as “goatsucker.”

The San Juan Star newspaper dedicated a humor column to the mystery, headlined “Hunting for the Goatsucker.” The searchers, it said, found a political party was killing the animals to divert attention while it registered voters for next year’s San Juan mayoral election.

But Police Chief Pedro Toledo wasn’t amused. Fearing an accident, he warned people without proper training against arming themselves and searching for the unknown killer.

The only case examined by the government’s veterinary services office indicated that the killers were stray dogs, office director Hector Garcia said. His veterinarians studied a pack of sheep in the central town of Orocovis, including about 10 that died and two that had marks in their necks but had survived.

“It could be a human being who belongs to a religious sect, even another animal,” said Angel Luis Santana of the private Gardenville Veterinary Clinic in San Juan. “It could be someone who wants to make fun of the Puerto Rican people.”

Similar reports of animals dying inexplicably in Puerto Rico have surfaced periodically since the 1970s. No culprit has ever been found--and rarely has the mystery so penetrated everyday life.

These days, the term “chupacabras” has become common coinage on radio talk shows, in offices, at the carwash and at Winter League baseball.

German Negroni, managing editor of El Vocero, has his own explanation for the obsession among islanders troubled by overpopulation and high rates of drug use and crime. “People are probably looking for something to relieve stress,” he said.