chicken vampire animal
(representational image)Thegreenj/CC

A mystery bloodsucking predator has killed over 200 chickens and ducks in a village in China, with the only clue to its identity a four-toed webbed footprint about the size of a young child's hand. Police and locals in Pudong, near Shanghai, have been hunting for the predator since the attacks began and have started night patrols to protect the livestock.

South China Morning Post reports that the predator had left large bite marks in the birds but had not eaten the flesh. Instead, it had sucked out the blood of its prey. Attacks have been occurring over the last few weeks and while people have tried to set up traps with live chickens as bait, they have been unsuccessful.

Villages had thought the creature might have come from Shanghai Wild Animal Park, which is about 2km away, but officials said no animals have escaped or gone missing recently. Other than the muddy footprint left behind, the only other indication of its size was a football-sized hole torn in a wire fence.

Officials from the Pudong Forestry Station said the footprints and bite marks indicate the predator is a racoon or a badger. However, locals said the bites bigger than that of a dog, leaving widespread speculation as to what the predator could be.

Vampire animals

There are a number of animals that feast on blood. Aside from mosquitos and other insects, larger vampire animals include the aptly named vampire bat, vampire finch and vampire squid. One particularly infamous blood-drinking fish is the candirú, which lives in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers. The parasitic catfish attacks other fish by swimming into their gills and feeding on the blood. In one documented case, it swam up a man's urethra and tried to feed on blood and tissue before dying.

More recently, a vampire squirrel was caught on camera for the first time ever, with researchers seeing it hopping around a forest in Borneo. The Bornean tufted ground squirrel (Rheithrosciurus macrotis) and its vampire tendencies has long been known in folklore. Hunters told researchers in 2014 that they wait on low branches for a deer to pass. They then jump on their back and bites their jugular vein. After the deer bleeds to death they disembowel the creature and eat the stomach contents.

Another mythical creature often blamed for killing animals is the chupacabra – meaning goat sucker in Spanish. There have been reported sightings of the chupacabra all over the world, with tales telling of a reptile-like creature draining its prey of blood. However, autopsies of its victims soon showed they had not been drained of blood. Furthermore scientists normally attribute any suspected attacks to dogs and coyotes, both of which are known not to eat their prey following a kill.

In Pudong, the simplest and straightforward answer to the bird-killing beast is likely to be the correct one.