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"Mystery animal" caught on camera in Texas state park prompts investigation: "The heck is that?"

An animal caught on camera in the middle of the night in the Rio Grande Valley last week left Texas Parks and Wildlife officials "scratching our heads." The "mystery animal," seen lurking through the area, prompted an investigation into just what it could be – and officials may have figured it out. 

"We're scratching our heads trying to identify this elusive creature," officials said on Facebook last week. "Is it a new species? An escapee from a nearby zoo? Or just a park ranger in disguise? Regardless, it's thrilling to see such an incredible animal in its natural habitat." 

The photo of the animal was donated to park officials by a park visitor, they said.

Captured on game camera - a mystery animal lurking in the Rio Grande Valley! 📷🌲 We're scratching our heads trying to...

Posted by Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park - Texas Parks and Wildlife on Thursday, April 6, 2023

"Man... the heck is that?" one person commented. "It's amazing." 

"Pig bear," another humorously suggested, with one other saying that it's a "creature from the meteor." 

While these suggestions didn't quite hit the mark, many people did offer some guesses that wildlife officials later said could be the case. 

"This is very likely an American Badger (not to be confused with the Honey Badger that lives in Africa and Asia and is rumored to not care very much)," officials said in an update. "...While American Badgers are not commonly seen in the valley (partly due to their nocturnal behavior), this is part of their natural range." 

The American Badger, known for its short legs, wide body and for being an "excellent digging machine," can be found in Texas "except for the farthest eastern edge," according to wildlife officials. It's most often found in the state's prairie and desert areas. 

With the arrival of spring comes the emergence of new badgers in the state. During this time of year, the animals produce litters of anywhere between one to five cubs, which are born "blind and helpless and rely on their mother for protection," according to wildlife officials.

Video shows coyote and badger on a mission together 01:25
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