Fact Check

Montauk Monster / Panama Creature

Photographs show unusual animal carcasses found in Panama and Montauk, New York.

Published Jul 30, 2008

Photographs show unusual animal carcasses found in Montauk (New York) and Panama.

The so-called "Montauk Monster" was a carcass supposedly found and photographed by three women on 13 July 2008 in front of the Surfside restaurant on a beach in Montauk, New York (on the South Shore of Long Island):

People say that this monster washed up ashore in Montauk, NY. Some say it’s real others say it’s just another fake picture.

The image of the "monster" provoked much debate over whether the creature photographed was a concocted hoax or a real animal, and if the latter, exactly what kind of animal it might have been. Various laymen and animal experts tried their hand at examining the photograph and determining what it depicted, but there seemed to be no consensus on the matter.

For example, Newsday reported the opinion of William Wise, director of Stony Brook University's Living Marine Resources Institute:

William Wise, director of Stony Brook University's Living Marine Resources Institute, after looking at the photo and consulting with a fellow biologist (who knows land creatures), disagrees [that it's a dog].

He knows what it isn't.

A raccoon. ("The legs appear to be too long in proportion to the body.")

A sea turtle. ("Sea turtles do not have teeth.")

A rodent. ("Rodents have two huge, curved incisor teeth in front of their mouths.")

He said the general body shape looks like a dog or other canine ("Coyote?"). But that the "prominent eye ridge and the feet" don't match.

He said the feet and face look "somewhat ovine" — that would be like a sheep — but sheep don't have sharp teeth.

Wise's best, educated guess: "A talented someone who got very creative with latex."

But Wise also offered what he called a next-best guess: "A dog or coyote that was diseased and has been in the sea for a while."

Others asserted that the creature was in fact a raccoon, however:

[Montauk local Noel Arikian said,] "In photos there appeared to be a beak. It was just a tricky angle. It's a dead raccoon. That's what it is. It's undoubtedly a raccoon, the same teeth, paws, the right size."

Larry Penny, East Hampton's director of natural resources, agreed and added that when raccoons get old they wander off to marshes to die. High tide might have floated one out of a marsh and into the sea."

"No other animal has a body like that," Mr. Arikian said.

Since the Montauk Monster's supposed remains were never made available for examination (they were said to be rotting in the backyard of a local resident who remained unidentified by the creature's putative finders), no definitive determination about the nature of object depicted the photograph was ever made.

In September 2009, a photograph of another "Montauk Monster" — this one commonly known as the "Panama Creature" — was circulated with the claim that teenagers in Panama had spotted it crawling out of a cave and beat it to death with sticks:

An autopsy of the remains revealed that "Panama Creature" was a hairless sloth that had reached the "bloated" stage of decomposition.


Brown, Joye.   "The Montauk Monster: Legend or Latex?"     [New York] Newsday.   31 July 2008.

Drumm, Russell.   "What on Earth Washed Up in Montauk?"     The East Hampton Star.   30 July 2008.

Valle, Sabrina.   "Panama "Alien" Really a Dead, Bloated Sloth."     National Geographic News.   9 November 2009.

The Telegraph.   "New 'Montauk Monster' Spotted in Panama."     17 September 2009.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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