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Wait! It's a ... : Unidentified creature stumps experts

6-3-04
By Mark Brumley Staff Writer
News & Record

ASHEBORO, NC -- First of all, this is a real newspaper, not a grocery-store tabloid.

So, the story you're about to read is true.

Randolph County resident Bill Kurdian photographed this unidentified animal in his back yard May 20. Kurdian took the photo with a motion-sensing camera. (Photo courtesy of Bill Kurdian)

It starts with Bill and Gayle Kurdian throwing out dried corn for the wildlife in their neck of the woods in eastern Randolph County, and an odd-looking creature taking them up on their hospitality early last winter.

"What in the world?" Bill Kurdian asked himself when he saw the animal for the first time.

About the size of a fox, but with short brown hair and a long cat-like tail, it looked more like an animal in a National Geographic spread out of Africa than any critter native to the woods of central North Carolina.

He's seen the creature off and on since about Christmas, with it wandering up several nights in a row, then disappearing for awhile.

Though Gayle Kurdian could vouch for her husband, when Bill Kurdian talked about the animal, people scoffed that it was just a dog.

"Everybody thought I was crazy," said Kurdian, the vice president of Matlab in Asheboro.

But Kurdian, an avid outdoorsman, got proof.

He captured the animal on two frames of film on May 20, using a motion-sensing camera that his wife gave him for Christmas.

In one frame, the animal was photographed from the front as it approached. The second frame caught a side view of the animal facing the camera.

Kurdian called Guy Lichty, a curator of mammals at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. But Lichty couldn't help based on just the description. So, as soon as he got his film developed, he couldn't wait to show it to Lichty. But Lichty and other curators were still unable to conclusively identify the animal.

Lorraine Smith, another curator of mammals who looked at the photo, said it might be a grey fox that has lost much of its fur, possibly because of parasites. But, she stopped short of total certainty.

"You learn with animals that you don't provide an absolute," Smith said.

There's speculation that it might be an exotic animal that got away from its private owner or was set free. It could also be a hybrid, Kurdian was told.

It's the second time this year that zoo curators have been called on to identify a strange animal sighted in the area.

In January, some people reported seeing an unidentifiable creature in southern Asheboro. Someone later trapped a large feral cat in the vicinity.

Zoo spokesman Rod Hackney joked that he wished North Carolina could put Randolph County's talent to work finding bizarre creatures for the zoo.

"Maybe we could increase attendance," Hackney quipped.

Kurdian still hopes that someone can identify his mystery animal. He's trying to catch it alive so the zoo or the N.C. State vet school can run blood tests.

"I'm not going to kill it," Kurdian assured folks.

"I don't think it's a vicious animal," he said. "It's just interesting."
 
 

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