Toronto lab tests mystery 'beast'

From: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2006/08/25/beast-tests.html?ref=rss

Last Updated: Friday, August 25, 2006 | 2:18 PM ET CBC News

s a mystery beast that frightened Maine residents and preyed on pets a dog-wolf hybrid or something alien?

A lab in Toronto is doing DNA tests to try to find out.

For 15 years, residents in Androscoggin County in Maine have reported seeing and hearing an animal with glowing eyes and a chilling cry that was blamed for killing pet dogs.

The animal looked "half rodent, half dog," said Mike O'Donnell, of Turner, Maine, adding it looked like "something out of a Stephen King story."

The roaming creature weighed about 20 kilograms and had a bushy tail, a short snout, short ears and curled fangs hanging over its lips.

Questions remain

When a mysterious animal of similar weight with charcoal-coloured fur, blue eyes and blue lips was apparently hit by a car while chasing a cat two weeks ago, the Sun Journal newspaper in Lewiston, Maine, was inundated with calls from residents wanting to know if it was the same beast.

Loren Coleman, a Portland author and cryptozoologist who studies animals that are rumoured to exist, examined the creature and concluded it was likely a feral dog, but questions lingered.

The newspaper sent a piece of the beast's leg to HealthGene Corp. in Toronto, a laboratory specializing in veterinary DNA testing, for a conclusive answer.

"We are testing for potential DNA in this animal, like dog, wolf, fox, human," Yuri Melekhovets, laboratory director of HealthGen, said with a laugh.

"I don't know, it seems like nobody knows," he told CBC News Online. "So it's a beast."

Hybrid search

Scientists use different probes to identify known DNA, but it's only on TV shows that "aliens" can be tested, Melekhovets said.

"If it's a real beast, we don't have any probes, unfortunately." In that case, it will remain of "unknown origin."

He likened the probes to using night vision goggles to see inside a dark room. Without a probe tool for an animal, the DNA cannot be identified.

For example, dog-wolf hybrids are common, but if the dog is a mix of breeds such as Shar-Pei, German shepherd and Huskie crossed with a wolf, then the results can be "strange," he said.

So far, the lab has extracted DNA. The results are expected next week and will be sent to the Sun Journal.

The findings can suggest whether dog or wolf genes are present, but percentages cannot be determined.

With files from the Associated Press