'Chupacabra' sightings hint at rise in disease

Posted at 5:25 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 20:58:34-05

EL CAJON, Calif. - A sight that has spooked some residents in an El Cajon neighborhood may point to a rising problem that could impact pets.

Some neighbors have dubbed him "chupacabra" after the legendary creature.

"I'm talking with my friend and all of a sudden this thing walks right past us. I'm like, 'Oh, my God, what is that?'" said resident Marie Chelette.

That creature -- without much fur or energy -- was recorded by Janien Orris' surveillance cameras outside her home on Sterling Drive.

Last April, surveillance video showed the coyote missing a small patch of fur.

Six months ago, video showed him missing much of his fur, clearly suffering from mange, a parasitic skin disease often deadly in coyotes.

10News learned the coyote is in Orris' driveway just about every day. The animal sits down, scratches itself and bites itself for 45 minutes, just looking miserable.

He's hardly alone.

On the Facebook page East County Brush Fire Partyline, neighbors have posted about a rash of recent, similar sightings in the Lakeside area, including a dead coyote.

Researchers have found a possible connection to a rise in mange to rat poisons.

Coyotes eat the sick rodents, becoming ill and more susceptible to the mites that cause mange.

Mange is contagious, and dogs can contract it just like getting fleas. Dogs can get it if they're close to the coyotes or if they hang out in areas where the coyotes have been.

Local veterinarians haven't seen a spike in mange in pets.

Experts say dogs can prevent mange with flea medication that includes mites.

If your dog does get mange, it is treatable.