Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More on the Conestoga Capybara

From the Lancaster New Era (March 16, 2009):
Maybe it's TJ, who is still on the lam.

But it's not the roadkill on Route 472.

Theories are emerging about the mysterious creature that a mother and son spotted in Pequea Township within the past six weeks.

Tessa Barnett and her son, Austen, who live in Conestoga, saw the reddish, barrel-shaped creature at Cherry Hill Orchards on two separate occasions. They both said it was large, about 200 pounds, had coarse hair and moved in an odd, slithery, scampering way.

Heather Conver, of Conestoga, wonders if it's her escaped goat.

She and her family got the male goat, which they named TJ, back in October.

Sadly, TJ never made it into a fenced pen at their home on Conestoga Boulevard, which is less than a mile from where the Barnetts spotted the creature.

"He overpowered my dad and my husband when they got him out of the trailer," she said. "He just took off."

The family always has an eye out for the reddish-colored goat, which Conver estimated weighs more than 100 pounds and stands waist-high to her.

Neighbors told her they saw him in a nearby farmer's field about a month after he escaped, but no one has reported seeing him since then.JoAnn Thomas, of Manheim, wondered if the creature wandered southeast and was hit by a vehicle along Route 472, in Colerain Township, across from the entrance to Black Rock Retreat.

While on her way to Maryland Saturday, Thomas passed an unusual-looking animal lying dead on the side of the road. It was so strange, she turned her car around to take a second look at it, she said.

The animal had hooves and "an ugly-looking face," she said. "It was not something I had ever seen before."

Thomas said she did not think it was a deer, because she did not see any white on it. Nor was it a goat or a pig, she said.

Troy Groff, a member of the Colerain Township road crew, also saw the animal and said it was a deer, though he agreed it was hard to tell what it was.

"It really got plastered," he said.

So what is the mysterious creature?

Neither police nor state game commission officials have received any reports of unusual animal sightings. Game officials wondered last week if the animal was an escaped pig.

Patrons at the Conestoga Wagon Restaurant in Conestoga, a local gathering place, are wondering what the animal is, said waitress Lisa Thompson. The topic has created some local buzz.

"They were saying, 'How'd you like to run into one of those?' " she said.

Mrs. Barnett still is puzzling over what she and her son saw.

The Barnetts have a German shepherd, which weighs about 120 pounds, she said, so she knows what that size animal looks like.

"This is much bigger than my dog," said Mrs. Barnett, who works during the week in New York as an executive administrator for a Manhattan accounting firm.

She saw the animal as she was on the way to pick up her son, who works nights for the Executive Coach bus company near Willow Street. Austen, 20, saw it while on his way home from that job. Both spotted it between 2 and 4 a.m.

"I really would like to know what it is," Mrs. Barnett said of the animal, which had a long, straight tail. "I am convinced it could be a big beaver — that's what it looked like the most — but it would be too big."

As for TJ, Mrs. Barnett said, "It didn't look like a goat."

But Conver thinks it could be TJ.

Conver's father, Steve Ebersole, saw the story about the the creature in last week's New Era and told her about it.

"He said, 'I think somebody saw your goat.' I said, 'Shut up!' " she said, laughing. "My neighbor said, 'You oughta go out at 2 a.m. and sit there and wait.' "

"I grew up on a farm and animals would get out from time to time," Convers said. "I thought we'd catch him.

"I'm always on the lookout for that reddish-brown animal standing out in the weeds."

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