‘Mystery animal’ caught on camera has Texas park officials stumped

Photo of an unidentified animal walking through the Rio Grande Valley at night, posted by Texas Park and Wildlife officials in an April 6, 2023 post. Facebook/Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

An unidentified animal was captured on camera as it lumbered through the Rio Grande Valley last week, said Texas Park and Wildlife officials.

The photo of the stout, four-legged creature has left park officials “scratching our heads” ever since it was donated by a visitor, whose trail camera picked up the “mystery animal lurking” in the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.

Officials wrote in an April 6 Facebook post that they are investigating what the animal could be.

“Is it a new species? An escapee from a nearby zoo? Or just a park ranger in disguise? Regardless, it’s thrilling to see such an incredible animal in its natural habitat,” the post reads.

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Within days, the post racked up over a thousand comments as curious community members weighed in with their guesses about the animal’s identity.

“Pig bear,” one commenter put forward.

“A good ol’ Texas size rat,” another joked.

Other commenters wagered the animal could be a beaver, wolverine, capybara and even an otter.

One theory about the animal’s identity gained traction in the comments of the post before long, and even drew the attention of the state park officials.

“Wow, this photo has got a lot of attention,” reads an update to the park’s initial post. “We agree with most of the comments that this is very likely an American Badger.”

“While American Badgers are not commonly seen in the valley (partly due to their nocturnal behavior), this is part of their natural range,” officials added.

American badgers can be found across the continental U.S. from California to Texas except for the far eastern portions of the state, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. The Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, where the photo was taken, is just within the eastern boundary of the American badgers’ range.

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American badgers can also be found in southern B.C., all the Prairie provinces and Ontario.

The species is a “short-legged, wide-bodied, shaggy-furred member of the weasel family,” Texas officials write, which appears to be pretty spot-on for the animal in the photo.

One commenter posited the animal could be a pregnant badger given its size.

While we may never know definitively what the creature is, it seems the Rio Grande parks community has a good network of Internet detectives ready to tackle the next mystery if the opportunity arises.

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