Last week, my husband called me at work, reporting there was a dead body in the backyard. When asked to describe it, he said it was sort of like a glob with hair — small, with no discernible features. I shuddered, assuming my dog discovered a baby rabbit, but upon examination of the body when I got home, I understood my husband’s inability to accurately describe the mass –- it truly was a furry glob. Without proper scientific examination, this finding will be eternally up for debate — and there was to be no proper scientific examination because it was simply grossing me out.
This brings up a subject I have always found fascinating: the pseudo-science of crypto-zoology. Literally meaning “the study of hidden animals”, this topic relates to those creatures such as Big Foot or my personal favorite, the Loch Ness Monster, whose existence has not been proved through hard science. This topic also covers animals once thought to be extinct, such as the coelacanth, a big ugly fish thought to have died out millions of years ago, only to be re-discovered in 1938 near South Africa. How cool is that?
Admittedly, the subject of crypto-zoology walks a fine line between coolness and geek-dom, since one may be searching for the Yeti (cool) but also the unicorn (geek). If you ever find yourself searching for a Yeti and then winding up talking about unicorns, simply ask yourself if you want your name on a peer-reviewed journal article describing Yetis or unicorns. Your answer may surprise you.
My work, obviously, does not involve studying “hidden animals,” which is probably a good thing, since there was not a single word said in vet school about how to administer penicillin to a sick chupacabra (a beast reported in Latin America and the southwest U.S.). However, vet school did prepare me to deal with severely parasitized animals, such as the mange-ridden, emaciated coyotes that the University of Michigan deduced as the explanation of the chupacabra sightings. At least I’ll be able to treat the de-bunked “cryptids,” as crypto-zoologists call the animals they study.
On long drives in the middle of the night coming from a remote farm after pulling a calf or stitching up a horse, sometimes I’ll see eyes on the side of the road reflecting back my truck’s high beams and I think: is this the Frederick Fiend, Thurmont Thrasher, or the elusive Emmitsburg Elk? Or am I just making things up to keep myself awake? Probably the latter, which I suppose is a good thing judging by my reaction to the mysterious creature in our backyard. If I ever found a “cryptid”, I’d probably just freak out and vomit. And I definitely would not want that reported in a peer-reviewed journal article.
The author above is a vet, but not a specialist in cryptids. We’re pretty clear on that, since she has classified Yetis as cool and unicorns as geeky. Anyone who has spent any length of time with a Yeti and its boorish excuse for table manners would not classify it as “cool”, except in reference to its body temperature.
Unicorns as geeky? Geeky-chic is more like it.