It's been just over a year since a security camera at the Amarillo Zoo recorded a mystery creature standing just outside the fence.
The creature, dubbed the "Unidentified Amarillo Object," quickly spread, claiming stake in national news time and stories. Now, a year later, we've learned very little about the situation -- but it has sparked several conspiracies.
As part of our Weird West Texas series, we explore some of the most odd, eccentric and just plain weird things in our region — from the state's northernmost town of Hitchland down into the Big Country, westward to the Permian Basin and all the way into the Rolling Plains.
This week, we’re exploring the mystery creature outside the Amarillo Zoo.
Unidentified Amarillo Object
The Unidentified Amarillo Object was spotted outside the Amarillo Zoo on May 21, 2022, but it didn't make its news debut until early June when the city published a news release asking for the public's health.
"For now, the strange visitor is a UAO – Unidentified Amarillo Object. However, perhaps Amarillo has a better explanation," the city wrote. "However, perhaps Amarillo has a better explanation. In the spirit of fun if not curiosity, the City of Amarillo is letting the public offer ideas on the identity of the UAO."
Of course, that invited tens of thousands of comments on social media and news stories. The City suggested it could be a "person with a strange hat who likes to walk at night" or "a large coyote on its hind legs." It reassured that there were no signs of attempted entry into the zoo; no animals or individuals were harmed; and there were no signs of criminal activity or vandalism.
Many speculated it was the Chupacabra, which is essentially the southern version of Sasquatch, whose name translates to "goat sucker," because it likes to feast on livestock. (Let's not forget about the recent dead cows found near College Station with their blood drained and tongues and genitalia removed.)
To help get to the bottom of it, Wyze, a Seattle-based company specializing in smart home products and wireless cameras, even offered to donate 80 Wyze Cam v3 cameras to the zoo.
“Like many on social media, we saw the picture of the Unidentified Amarillo Object that was recently near the Amarillo Zoo,” said Dave Crosby, cofounder and chief marketing officer for Wyze. “Was it an alien? An animal? A human with a costume? The world is curious."
But some were a bit more skeptical.
For instance, Rob Breaux with Talk 1340 KKAM theorizes that it was just a hoax intended to shower the city with attention.
"Amarillo has hoaxed the nation," Breaux wrote. "Congratulations on your 15 minutes of fame, Amarillo Zoo. You can't fool me. They just want you to comment on their social media posts."
As he noted, the post reached 20 shares and more than 30 comments within 19 minutes of being published.
"People love aliens and UFOs, why wouldn't they love a UAO? The Chupacabra, jackalope and other animals already prove West Texans like mythical beasts," he added. "Come to think of it, this is brilliant. Kudos, Amarillo. They'll announce the tours to hunt the creature next. Then, they'll create a festival in its honor. The UAO is the new Bigfoot."
Regardless of its origin, there's been little talk about the mystery creature since it went viral last June. Neither the city, nor the zoo, have offered any further comment since the event.
As Amarillo's Director of Parks and Recreation Michael Kashuba said: "It is definitely a strange and interesting image."
Heard a different tale about this topic? Send it our way — we'd love to hear it! Or if you're curious about one of our region's many oddities, submit your question via email to BAddison@gannett.com with "Weird West Texas" in the subject line or via text at 806.496.4073.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Revisiting Amarillo Zoo's mystery creature a year later