Carolina Mystery Beast Is a Rare Abnormal Fox, Experts Say

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A photograph of the Tyco Animal was also sent to state wildlife experts.

Perry Sumner, a biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said it's likely a red fox with a rare genetic condition known as Sampson, an abnormality in which the animal lacks a layer of fur called guard hair.

Without this thick outer coat for protection, the normally nocturnal fox would be forced to hunt during the day when it's warm and sleep under heated buildings at night.

In recent years, Sumner said, other Sampson foxes have been spotted in urban areas around the state.

Colorado and Alaska have also had sightings.

Sumner saw his first Sampson fox about 20 years ago after a trapper caught and killed one.

Sumner suspects the genetic disorder affects less than one percent of the fox population.

Let It Be

State wildlife biologist Brad Gunn also believes it's a Sampson fox. But he doesn't rule out the possibility that it's an animal with mange—a hair-loss disease—or that it's someone's escaped exotic pet.

"There's always an outside chance that something like this is an exotic that was brought in from Africa or Asia," he said.

But without seeing the animal up close or conducting a DNA test, Gunn said, it's hard to tell from just photographs what it really is.

The biologists said they have no plans to capture the animal, since the Sampson abnormality can't be treated, and the creature isn't posing a threat to people or wildlife.

"Frankly, the animal would be put through a lot more stress and suffering just to be caught and handled," Gunn said.

Back at Tyco, the employees are divided on what to do.

"Half the people want to hunt it and study it postmortem," Durazo said. "The other half says it looks skinny and we need to feed it."

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