Orange County Register (April 1, 1989) Knight-Ridder Newspapers
Hairless varmints in Kentucky keep wildlife experts stumped


Mystery creature: A hairless animal has wildlife experts around Ashland, Ky., stymied as to its identity. Thought by some to be from the raccoon family, "Godiva" is being studied at Kentucky Wildlife-Line Inc./A6

ASHLAND, Ky. — Hairless animals have taken up residence in a hillside sawdust dump in Ashland, and wildlife experts are trying to decide just what kind of animals they are.

Some naturalists think the animals are nothing more exotic than raccoons.

That might be true, but it doesn't settle the question of why only some raccoons in the region have lost their fur.

"Every theory we come up with, you can blow holes right through it," said Barbara Rosenman of Kentucky Wildlife-Line Inc., a northern Kentucky company that treats injured wildlife.

The animals were first seen about three months ago near a wooded neighborhood on the east side of Ashland, on the Ohio River near where the Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia borders meet.

At first, none of Bobby Hale's neighbors believed her tales about cute animals that roamed her yard at night. Hale, who leaves scraps of food for the timid animals, said they bark like dogs and eat almost anything.

When she borrowed a trap from a neighbor and caught one of the things, even the wildlife experts remained skeptical.

"I thought it was a prank," said Rosenman, who first saw one of the animals when it was delivered to her a week ago. "I thought someone had taken a straight razor and shaved her."

The animals, which have whiskers and tufts of hair on their feet, look like a cross between a raccoon and an opossum, Hale said, although it is impossible for those animals to cross-breed.

Wildlife biologists think the animals are raccoons because of their shape and the way they behave, said Tom Edwards, a specialist in fur-bearing animals with the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department.

But several people who have seen snapshots of the animals say the critters look more like bandicoots, small marsupials of Australia and New Guinea, Hale said.