Science (What Else?) Reveals the Secret of the Montauk Monster
by Boonsri Dickinson
August 11th, 2008
Tags: Hampton, Montauk monster, raccoon
Just for the record, DISCOVER’s official stance on the Montauk monster is that it’s a raccoon.
When the mysterious, decaying animal washed up on Montauk shore in Long Island in July, the rumors started. After the East Hampton newspaper The Independent first ran pictures of the dead animal and Gawker posted them online, interest in the creature, dubbed the “Montauk Monster” reached a fever pitch. As curious readers across the country speculated as to what exactly the “dog with a beak” was, several experts took a stab at figuring out the animal’s true origin.
The bloated carcass wasn’t in perfect shape— it was missing some teeth, had long legs, and had quickly turned to bones. Upon closer look at the photos, the animal appeared to be a raccoon. “We thought it could be a raccoon that was skinned and has its upper jaw missing,” says Larry Penny, director of Natural Resources for the Town of East Hampton.
Nonetheless, paleontologist Darren Naish wrote a pretty convincing argument that the monster is a Raccoon Procyon lotor. “It was the digits of the hands that gave this away for me: the Montauk carcass has very strange, elongate, almost human-like fingers with short claws,” Naish says. “Raccoons are well known for having particularly dextrous fingers that lack the sort of interdigital webbing normally present in carnivorans. If you’re surprised by the length of the Montauk animal’s limbs, note that raccoons are actually surprisingly leggy.”
The case for its raccoon origins is bolstered by the fact that raccoons are home to East End’s coastal marshes and often run through residential neighborhoods. Perhaps this raccoon got swept away like the handful of unfortunate people who freakishly died around the same time from the strong rip currents in the area.
We would ask scientists to step up and do some experiments already, though unfortunately it seems the body of the animal has disappeared. As such, the monster may well be following Big Foot’s footsteps, going down in history as suburban legend.