But the government of this U.S. territory of 3.6 million people insists the animals died of natural causes and is urging residents not to fall into mass hysteria over local media reports.
The beast, known in Spanish as "Chupacabras" or Goat Sucker, is blamed in the deaths of dozens of turkeys, rabbits, goats, cats, dogs and even horses and cows, according to police.
"People here are frightened," said Mayor Jose Soto of Canovanas, a city of 40,000 people near San Juan. "It sucks the blood from dogs, cats and horses. It opens the skin of rabbits and goats and steals their organs."
Goat Sucker attacks are reported daily on morning news radio reports and in El Vocero, the island's largest circulation newspaper, which is known for its gruesome crime photos,
blood-red headlines and tales of UFO landings.
In the latest report of a Goat Sucker attack, the beast was said to rip open the bedroom window of a house in the north-central city of Caguas, destroy a stuffed teddy bear, and leave a puddle of slime and a piece of rancid white meat on the window sill.
The home owner, Santa Ramos Reyes, told police the Goat Sucker had hairy arms and huge red eyes. According to El Vocero, Caguas police dusted the window sill for prints but could not get an impression.
In another attack in Caguas, the Goat Sucker purportedly swooped into a junkyard early one morning and killed five sheep, four geese and a turkey. "It came about seven o'clock in the morning," Junker Correa employee Carlos de Jesus told Reuters. "It just showed up and -- poof -- it vanished."
In Canovanas, the Goat Sucker has struck 35 times in the past three months, Mayor Soto claimed. Every Sunday afternoon, the mayor dons military-style fatigues and leads a patrol of Canovanas residents on a hunt for the Goat Sucker. "This is a very serious problem," the mayor said. "We must catch this beast."
Police have declined to participate in the hunt, but do investigate each reported animal slaying. "As soon as the beast attacks a person, we will get involved," said a Canovanas police spokeswoman.
Skeptics blame the attacks on wild monkeys. A colony of aggressive monkeys has been attacking livestock and raiding crops for years in Puerto Rico. But Mayor Soto doesn't buy that explanation. "Monkeys don't suck blood. They don't steal organs," Soto said.
The Puerto Rico Agriculture Department dispatched a veterinarian to investigate, then announced that the animals had all died under normal circumstances. Further, none of the animals had been bled dry, agriculture department officials said in a statement released to the media.
"Citizens are urged to not fall into collective hysteria... about the alleged Goat Sucker," the statement said.
Canovanas resident Jose Resto said he saw the Goat Sucker one afternoon in his back yard when it came out of the brush and attacked and bit the family dog. "I think it belongs to the monkey family, but it isn't a monkey exactly," Resto said. "It ran like a monkey and was about four feet tall, but it didn't have a tail."
Interest in the purported sightings of the beast is so high that a major San Juan television station, WKAQ-TV, planned to broadcast an hour-long news program about the Goat Sucker.
Original file name: .CNI - Goat Sucker in PR?
This file was converted with TextToHTML - (c) Logic n.v.