Two of A kind

By Stan Swofford, Staff Writer

03/18/05 - News & Record

ASHEBORO It's b-a-a-a-a-a-ck.

And this time it might have a boyfriend.

That's what Bill Kurdian is thinking and kind of hoping.

Eastern Randolph County resident Cynthia Pell snapped this photo of the creature through her kitchen window.
(Photo courtesy of Cynthia Pell)

It was Kurdian who almost a year ago photographed what became known far and wide as the Randolph County "creature," an animal that he thought probably was female. He has seen that same creature within the past month.

Cynthia Pell, who lives near Kurdian in eastern Randolph County, thinks there could be a suitor slinking around. She snapped a picture through her kitchen window about three weeks ago of what she thought was Kurdian's creature, but now believes, like Kurdian, that it wasn't the same one.

But it was the same type of creature, she and Kurdian think, and it just might be a male.

Some of the boys at Bennie Needham's Southside Barber Shop, where Needham has an enlarged copy of Pell's picture, think she got a shot of a "coydog."

Yes, that's "coy," as in coyote, and not "boy," although it could be a boy, they said.

Kurdian, whose hobby is wildlife photography, first saw his creature one night last winter as it nibbled shelled corn that he and his wife, Gayle, regularly throw out for the animals. He and his wife have seen it numerous times since then.

Kurdian, an avid outdoorsman, reckons that he's seen just about every critter North Carolina has to offer. Lots of them deer, foxes, raccoons, possums, even skunks show up behind his house for the corn.

He has seen bobcats in the area and hears coyotes, which have spread throughout the state, howling in woods near his house.

But he said that he had never seen anything like the animal that showed up in his back yard for the first time last winter.

It was about the size of a fox, but it wasn't a fox, he said. It was reddish-brown with short hair. It had a long, fox-like snout and large, pointed ears, like a cat's, and a long, almost hairless, cat-like tail. It also had a full and heavy-looking midsection, prompting him to think it was female and perhaps pregnant or nursing, he said.

Kurdian declined to say where he lives, except that it is in rural eastern Randolph County. "I don't want people coming out there. I'd hate for someone to injure it or kill it."

Kurdian talked about the strange animal to just about everyone who would listen. People laughed and said he was just getting excited about a dog or maybe a fox. "They thought I was crazy," he said.

Kurdian captured the creature on film last May, and the News & Record published the picture and a story in June.

Randolph County resident Bill Kurdian photographed this unidentified animal in his back yard May 20. Kurdian took the photo with a motion-sensing camera. (Photo courtesy of Bill Kurdian)


Several animal experts, including animal curators at the North Carolina Zoo and elsewhere, examined Kurdian's photo, but were unable to conclusively identify the creature.

Dozens of readers called or messaged the News & Record to give their opinion. Some thought it was a red fox that wandered down from the north woods of Canada; others believed it was a common gray fox that had lost most of its hair; and some were convinced that it was something more exotic, perhaps an Australian Dingo, or an African wild dog, or a maned wolf from South America.

And some believed that Kurdian was trying to pull the wool, or maybe the fox hair, over their eyes. They thought it was a hoax that Kurdian had altered his photo by splicing together the head of a fox, body of a deer and the tail of a cat.

Not true, Kurdian said. He has set out humane traps to try to catch the animal so he can get a sample of its DNA. So far, the wily creature has avoided them. Kurdian sounded hurt that anyone would suggest he committed a hoax.

He was pleased when Pell, whose home is about a quarter-mile from his, told him that she had taken a picture of the creature.

When he saw it, however, he did not think it was the animal he had photographed. The creature in Pell's picture looks larger, though thinner, has more hair and is grayer, he said.

But it has the same long stout neck and pointed ears. He thinks it could be a male of the same species as the creature he photographed in his back yard. "I don't believe it's a fox," he said.

Pell's husband, Steve Pell, took her picture to Montgomery Tech where he studies taxidermy. "They didn't know what it was," she said.

Neither do the guys at Bennie Needham's barber shop. Needham said one of the most plausible possibilities came from Charles Langley, a customer who showed the picture to people in South Carolina. "They told him it was a 'coydog,' a cross between a coyote and a dog. They said they've got 'em down there."

Pell said she didn't know what the creature she saw could be, but that "he had a cute little gait." Wouldn't it be wonderful, she said, if he and Kurdian's creature had puppies and they trotted into the lens of his camera some night?

Kurdian grinned. "Now that would make a great picture."

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