Denton has been a’buzz recently about foxes and bobcats or even coyotes seen scampering ever closer from the edges of the city limits, which has caused some concern for house pets. We’ve even playfully addressed “Mythical Beings in Denton” when footage of the long-fabled White Stag (sometimes called The Christmas Unicorn) was definitively captured on smartphones. This magical sighting has had several folks now asking us: What other legendary critters are maybe really lurking around out there in the Cross Timbers? I’ll break down some of the top contenders and examine how much fact or fiction is involved.
The Old Alton Bridge Goatman
Denton had a bit of a ruckus when the TV series Ghost Adventures recently spooked some locals with their KKK reenactment at the historic bridge, all for a Halloween episode re-telling the infamous local legend of the Goatman’s Bridge. I’ve been writing about this old Denton haunt for many years now, and research has turned up very little to upgrade these well-known stories beyond folklore. There are also local legends of The Pig Man of Hog Valley or The 1963 Pecan Creek Monster of Prairie Street that still entertain locals, but a vast majority of these stories are heresay at best. Ghost stories can be fun and instructive, for sure, but there are plenty of REAL critters wandering around Denton to be on the lookout for in the wild. Check out our story on the Denton Krampus, for example, cuz that Yuletide monstrosity is the real deal.
The Albino Squirrel of UNT
The infamous UNT Albino Squirrel is indeed a real, living campus institution but it almost met an ugly end. The UNT university mascot may be Scrappy The Eagle but, according to school lore, just sighting the rare and elusive albino squirrel is an omen that the UNT student will be Acing their semester exams. In 2006, however, horrified witnesses saw “Baby” the albino squirrel get swooped-up by a red-tailed hawk just a week before classes started. Miraculously, or suspiciously if you ask the conspiracy theorists, another albino squirrel or two were spotted before the semester’s end. Thanks to smartphone cameras, Albino Squirrel sightings these days are thoroughly documented on Instagram, Flickr, or Facebook. Totes adorbs!
The Kraken Tortoise in the TWU Turtle Pond
On a cute yet dilapidated stone bridge not far from the Little Chapel in the Woods, you can stare into the lilypad-filled pond that teams with turtles and fish. But be warned, there is a Kraken-sized tortoise lurking in those depths whose sudden appearance might make you involuntary scream things that’d make your grandma blush. It’s been known to happen.
Lake Lewisville Alligators
Yep, file this under scary true fact that we wish we could un-see. Rumors have circulated for years – maybe generations – that alligators had been spotted in our North Texas waters and streams, only to be largely dismissed. Proof positive came last year when the DRC confirmed with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that gator sightings were for-sure fact rather than campfire fiction. So stay alert on the lakes, especially in swampy regions around Hickory Creek or Little Elm, and keep in mind that it’s a $500 fine for shooting a gator… but only if they catch you doin’ it. Just sayin’.
Mutant Fish in Pecan Creek
Male fish turning into females, Blue Gill moseying around on Prozac or Zoloft, and other bizarre mutations have indeed been documented in our NTX lakes and streams. It’ll make you think twice about what we’re putting into our tap water then drinking on the daily. Legend status: True and more than a little frightening.
Lewisville Lake Bald Eagle
Most Americans have probably never see our country’s symbolic icon in the wild, but with some patience you could become one of the lucky few! For the past few years, bald eagles have been sighted wintering on Lake Lewisville and bird watchers have scrambled to monitor their nests. Ain’t seen one in flight yet, but that is definitely going on the bucket list because ‘MERICA!
Texas Longhorns and Sharkarosa Ranch
You can most definitely travel up to Pilot Point and eat a wood-fired pizza with real live circus bears. Seriously. The Sharkarosa Ranch, and its pizza oven bistro The Bear’s Den, is a fun outing to see exotic animals a’plenty for a small admission fee. When driving north out of Denton, also keep your eyes peeled for the infamous Texas Longhorns… you can thrill many a visitor by taking them to see these majestic beasts that are an official Texas symbol.
Denton Wooly Mammoths
True story! As explored over at the UNT Libraries blog, 1953 saw several huge paleontological finds around Denton of ginormous mastodon or mammoth bones! Excavated with the help of NTSC students, the parelephas columbi was estimated to be ten feet tall, twenty feet long, and between two to three tons in weight when it died here 10,000 years earlier! In 1957, a third even bigger Denton Mammoth was discovered just barely a mile from the prior site. Below is the photo published in the newsletter of the Tarrant County Archeological Society, proof positive that herds of wild Wooly Mammoths once wandered what we now know as Denton County. That there is as big a Texas tall tale as it gets, pard!
Just north of town on I-35 you can sometimes spy buffalo grazing on pasture to the west, part of the Buffalo Valley Event Center. I’m pretty sure they are actually North American Bison, but maybe that’s splitting hairs when all you wanna do is just watch these onetime Spirits of the Plains amble around. Not sure that’s gonna be as nifty as the housebroken bison named Bullet over in Argyle who like to gaze in his fish tank, but really what could be?
Black Panthers and Mountain Lions
Texas history in this region is rife with stories about big cat encounters (one of Fort Worth’s nicknames is ‘Panther City’, after all). Every now and again, bikers or hikers on the fringes of Denton will report seeing a panther in the wild. Occasionally you’ll hear tell of a Cougar or a Mountain Lion around Lake Ray Roberts or the trails. I know cyclists who always carry a little ziplock bag of Vienna Sausages when they take The Greenbelt Trail… just in case.
Do you have any other creatures that you have questions about? Hit us up in the comments, and be sure to tag your look-abouts on Instagram with #WDDI so we can see what you’re shooting!
Shaun Treat is a former professor at the University of North Texas and founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Doc has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog, and is forever indebted to the great work of our local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s intriguing past. Be sure to check out our local museums curated by the fine folks at the Denton County Office of History & Culture, and follow @Dentonaut on Twitter for local happenings.