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Sun Journal: Creature Looks Like A Canine

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 26th, 2006

Maine Mystery Beast

Click on image for full-size version

Photograph by Michelle O’Donnell. Used by permission.

The body of the dead animal found in Turner, Maine, according to DNA tests conducted on behalf of and paid for by the Lewiston newspaper, the Sun Journal, belonged to a member of the genus Canis, not a Tasmanian devil, not a rodent, not a Chupacabras, not a hyena, not a werewolf, not an Eastern Bigfoot, and/or not from any wild species speculations that were heard over the last ten days. Nevertheless, it is important to understand, the real Mystery Beast is still out there!

Readers of the print newspaper (front page, above the fold) and the online edition (requires subscription) will find more details in the Saturday, August 26, 2006, issue of the Lewiston Sun Journal. Reporter Mark LaFlamme’s article “‘Creature’ Looks Like A Canine,” discusses what the Sun Journal discovered through the tests run on the paw and parts of the limb that I took off the carcass and handled over to the newspaper. I will summarize (in italics) his article, in the Sun Journal’s first revealing of the DNA results.

Maine Mystery Beast

Click on image for full-size version

Photograph by Michelle O’Donnell. Used by permission.

Investigative journalist and a regular on the crime beat desk, Mark LaFlamme writes:

Turner – If the Maine woods are haunted by a creature of unknown species, that beast remains out there alive and running wild.

A dead animal found last week in Turner was stripped of its “mystery creature” title after results of DNA tests Friday revealed that the carcass was that of a dog.

A boy dog, to be precise. Early results of the testing at the University of Maine molecular forensics lab showed that the controversial animal had a dog for a mother and most likely a canine father as well. “Not surprisingly, it has all the indicators to link it to being from Canis, a dog,” said Dr. Irv Kornfield of the UMaine lab. “We only have a signature of who the mother of this animal is. We do not know who the father is. We can make no assertions about who fathered this animal. Parenthetically, the animal is male.”

Forensics Crew

Pictured on the left, Professor of Zoology Irv Kornfield directs the Molecular Forensics Laboratory at the University of Maine, located in Orono. His lab supports forensics investigations by Maine law enforcement and wildlife agencies throughout the state. Photograph: Courtesy UM.

Kornfield and another forensics specialist from Toronto agree that the animal that drew media attention from around the world has the basic foundation of dog DNA. However, both said more testing would need to be done to determine if the dead animal had genetic material from wolf or any other species.

The results were obtained Friday after the Sun Journal sent tissue from the dead animal last week. The newspaper wanted DNA testing done to settle a debate that raged through Maine and other parts of the country: was the dead animal a mere dog or some exotic species that did not belong here?…Dr. Yuri Melekhovets at HealthGene Corp. in Toronto plans to run more tests, the odds of finding anything exotic in the DNA mix seemed remote.

In one of those quirks of fate, although I’m known around the world for my cryptozoology work, via my books and Cryptomundo, I happen to live in Maine. The reporter sought me out for my opinion of what the body could be early on in this drama. Mark LaFlamme and I cooperated throughout the course of this investigation, in a free exchange of information and discussions about the event and the probable results. On Friday, August 26th, we talked again, and LaFlamme included part of our conversation, with permission, in his article:

“I’m not startled or shocked by this news, and have tried to prepare the principals involved in this from the beginning,” said Maine cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. “I thought there was a dog in the mix here, and that is visually what I saw and the verdict I was expecting.”

Maine Mystery Beast

The untrimmed dew claws of the animal killed by a car, and discovered alongside Route 4, Turner, Maine. Sun Journal photograph by Douglas Van Reeth. Used by permission.

The Sun Journal role was pivotal in finding a concise answer to the “dead body” question, while I concurrently told the story here at Cryptomundo. LaFlamme writes:

The once mysterious animal was found dead Aug. 12 in the backyard of Debi Bodwell. Her neighbor, Michelle O’Donnell took photos of the carcass before it began to decompose. O’Donnell, who saw the animal alive a week before it was struck by a car and killed, insisted from the start that the creature did not look like a dog. Her photographs, obtained by the Sun Journal, eventually appeared on television news broadcasts, cryptozoology Web sites, and news pages around the country.

Maine Mystery Beast

Please click on image for full-size version

Photograph by Michelle O’Donnell. Used by permission.

LaFlamme continued later in the article:

One part of the mystery that remains is the exact breed of dog that caused the uproar. Kornfield said the profile of the DNA is common to many American Kennel Club recognized breeds. However, he was unable to determine if the dog was a Chow, as many suspected, a German Shepherd or some other breed. “The sample was really degraded,” Kornfield said. “We were lucky.”

The Sun Journal captured the flavor of the historical and yet continuing mystery that was not solved with this body, at the end of the article:

For more than a week, many people clung to the belief that the animal would ultimately prove to be the mystery creature that has hounded the area for more than a decade. For years, consistent reports have arisen of an unidentified animal with glowing eyes, a chilling cry and the features of a wolverine, a hyena and a Tasmanian Devil.

The mystery beast has been blamed for killing a Doberman Pinscher in Wales and mauling a Rottweiler in Greene. It has also been suggested as the cause of missing cats around the region.

Since the turn of the century, the Sun Journal has carried stories about strange creatures emerging from the woods. In 1906, a brief story appeared about a mystery creature then known as “the Injun Devil,” a “strange, dun brown thing with lolling chops and tasseled ears” that roamed the woods of West Gardiner, scaring berry pickers. The creature was also known as the “Lucifee,” or “Indian Devil.”

Two years ago, 72-year-old Leo Doyon was sitting on his deck outside his Perkins Ridge Road home in Auburn when a strange animal came up over the bank. Doyon, who has been hunting the Maine woods for 50 years, said the beast was like nothing he had seen before. “I said, ‘what the hell is this?’ It was no wolf. It sure as hell wasn’t a fisher and it wasn’t a coy dog,” Doyon said at the time. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know what it was.”

Coleman, the cryptozoologist, does not believe the animal found in Turner is connected to earlier sightings of Maine’s true mystery beast. Like others, he believes that in this case, a lot of people simply wanted to believe it was.

“Sometimes people are so emotionally involved in trying to ‘solve’ the mystery, there’s a rush to explain the bigger picture with what I call random coincidental events,” Coleman said. “I think there still is a mystery beast out there in the woods around Turner.”

Mark LaFlamme’s Sun Journal article is balanced, clear, and covers the explained and the unexplained. It will be interesting to see if the wire services and other media boil this all down to “Maine Mystery Beast = It’s A Dog” or “Real Mystery Beast = It’s Still Out There.”

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


15 Responses to “Sun Journal: Creature Looks Like A Canine”

  1. crypto_randz responds:

    Thank you for the update Loren, keep the stories and the information coming. I guess the real beast still on the loose, maybe someone will get it on videotape, hopefully a hunter will set a trap to capture it.

  2. twblack responds:

    Thanks for the update. This was a no brainer to begin with anyway. I hope no one paid for some of the pics.

  3. Sky King responds:

    This story dragged on seemingly forever, just because a couple folks refused to believe it was a dog carcass. It was SO obvious. Thank goodness it’s over!

  4. LaFlamme responds:

    To give credit where credit is due, several of my jaded colleagues have been calling the animal “Patches” from the beginning. They never wavered in their belief that this animal was a pooch. I’m sure my desk will be littered with household dog pics, a leash or two, and probably some dog food, when I get to work on Monday.

  5. crypto_randz responds:

    I guess some people including myself were hoping to be a cryptid but it wasn’t. So this case comes to a close, but the other beast the people are seeing is still out there.

  6. illovich responds:

    For years, consistent reports have arisen of an unidentified animal with glowing eyes, a chilling cry and the features of a wolverine, a hyena and a Tasmanian Devil.

    I wouldn’t rule out that there’s a family group of wild dogs that has a high degree of one of the ancient breed DNA in them.

    For example, as others have suggested (here I think) dogs like the Shiba Inu are usually depicted as cute and friendly looking, but they make bizarre sometimes-otherworldly vocalizations (something betwen a shrill whislte, a howl, a bark and talking) and in the right light can look sort of terrifying, especially if they’re feling aggressive.

    I understand that this has varying degrees of truth for other ancient breeds, but I’m not sure about Chows (this dog looks like it has a lot of Chow in it to me).

    And in truth, Chows have an average lifespan of 10-15 years, so if the “beast” has been around for “about” a decade, this dog could be the mysterious “beast.”

    It seems a bit true-believerish to assume that because the animal found was “just a dog” that it wasn’t the beast that everyone was looking for. After all, if there was an unknown species of predator in the area, wouldn’t it have been causing trouble for longer than 10 years?

  7. CASReaves responds:

    I figured this animal for a Chow mix once I got a good look at a photo that showed more than just its head. Just what breeds went together to make it will probably never be known. It’s a safe bet that it has offspring.

    As for “chilling cries” and “bloodcurdling screams,” those can come from a variety of sources, including dogs, raccoons, coyotes, foxes and even stray cats that are “courting.” Has anyone out there ever heard the screech of a screech owl? It WILL freeze the marrow in your bones. It’s not a sound I want to hear again, but at least if I do, it won’t scare the bejezus out of me like it did the first time I ever heard it.

  8. Tamarack responds:

    The media boiling pot so far.

    Loren, did FOX news interview you directly, or is this 3rd or 4th hand journalism?

    Just thinking about it, FOX news reports that “Mystery Monster” is a K9. Oh, the irony of it all. Would fox dna tests come back as a dog?

  9. youcantryreachingme responds:

    May I propose a new title for this critter? The Maine Muttant.

    Chris.

  10. MojoHotep responds:

    Ah,,Humhuah, (clearing my throat),,,you know???,,well,,,nevermind,,
    I see a hundred road kills a day on the road while working. I bet I can take many more exotic pics than this one. I have even seen many road kills on top of road kills, vulture is eating possum, which was eating dead armadillo, which was too slow and all three became road kill in the same pile. They look to me like they are some sort of mutant hybrid, I am sure of it. There is a mad scientist/geneticist living in the hills of Tennessee. They make for some “UNBELIEVABLE” photographs. AND I will sell mine for a dollar a piece if anyone is interested. I need to raise my buy-in for the world series of poker circuit event in september in Tunica, Mississippi. At least at the poker table, everyone realizes that everyone else is full of bull.

    It is, was and has always been, A Dog. I think I will go bang my head against the wall now.

  11. Loren Coleman responds:

    Tamarack – The Fox News report is merely the AP story recycled, which is based on Mark LaFlamme’s original article in the Lewiston Sun Journal.

  12. Carlfoot responds:

    Like woof, woof, already!

  13. pipdog responds:

    its a dingo for sure. what planet do these guys come from, no dogs there!

  14. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    “I’m sure my desk will be littered with household dog pics, a leash or two, and probably some dog food, when I get to work on Monday.”

    Ah… a quote to remember when I start missing the newsroom!

    Thanks for your work on this story Mr. LaFlamme (and you too Loren, seeing as how I don’t get any Maine newspapers.)

  15. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    “In the end, wildlife officials got a DNA analysis that showed the animal was a rare wolf-dog hybrid, he said.”–Fox news site

    Hmmmm, so according to Fox News it was a wolf-dog hybrid… that’s a leap from a dog mother and an “unknown” but likely canid father…
    Yay Fox News! Fair and balanced my big toe.



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