BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Dog or coyote? That’s the question Alabama neighbors have been debating since a picture of a canine wandering around their neck of the woods surfaced Wednesday in a local Facebook group.

Mountain Brook resident Sumita Caplash Gray published several photos of the animal on the “What’s Happening in Mountain Brook” Facebook page. The pictures are of a hairless gray canine with long, upright ears.

“Can anyone help identify this animal…is it a wild dog or a coyote and what is wrong with it?” Gray wrote in the post. “Also how can I get rid of it….he keeps coming around at all hours of the day and I’m afraid he will get my little puppy.”

As of Thursday morning, the post had received nearly 500 responses from people attempting to identify the creature. While opinions varied on the animal’s species, many commenters made the observation that the animal was suffering from mange. Mange is a skin disease caused by mites that burrow into the animal’s skin, leading to extreme itching and subsequent hair loss.

Here are a few of the responses:

  • “That is a very sick coyote and will take your little dog or someone else’s in the neighborhood if left to Run free. You need to call animal control so they can come get him. If they can save him they will. But if he to sick he need to be put down and not running around suffering.”
  • “It does look like a coyote, especially the large ears. I really hope that whomever catches it doesn’t kill it.”
  • “Chupacabra”
  • “I saw him eating a dead raccoon on old Leeds the other day!!”
  • “Dog with mange. It needs a meal and medical attention.”
  • “Looks like a coyote with a serious case of mange.”
  • “My dog has ears like this and is not a coyote. Please call the humane society so they can help get.” this poor pup back to health. Do not shoot it.”
  • “It looks like a German Shepherd with severe mange. Can we help you with contacting someone to try and catch him? He obviously needs medical treatment asap.”
  • “I think that is a dog with severe mange from a heinous case of neglect.”

CBS 42‘s Landon Wexler asked Marianne Hudson, a conservation outreach specialist at the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, to put the debate to rest. The animal expert says the creature observed in the Mountain Brook community is incontestably a coyote.

“That is a classic look of a coyote with a severe case of mange,” Hudson said. “Mange causes a lot of problems. It’s caused by mites. Those mites are itchy. They cause the thickening and crusting of skin. This can lead to secondary infections of the skin and fur loss.”

“We get photos sent to us like this pretty regularly,” Hudson said about the concerns Alabamians have passed along to the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“People are often surprised to find these animals so close to their human habitation. So they’ll perhaps assume it’s a dog. But coyotes, unfortunately, feel very comfortable around people. We can kind of help prevent that by taking steps to make sure we don’t encourage them to enter our property: not leaving trash out, pet food or outdoor pets out at night—those all attract coyotes.”

As far as health concerns related to a mange-infected coyote living nearby, Hudson said parents don’t have to worry about the disease infecting their children.

“The mites that cause mange on foxes or coyotes cannot reproduce on people. If a mange may work to get on you, they would wash away. It wouldn’t be able to repopulate on you. They are host specific.”

But mange can spread to other dogs.

“When a mangey coyote is interacting with pets or passing through your yard, it could possibly transmit mange to a domestic dog,” said Hudson.

Anyone who sees stray or wild animals wandering around is encouraged to call their local animal control.