For decades, politicians and law enforcement officials have expressed concern that South Texas is under constant attack.
None of them, however, suspected the invaders would be spaceships.Two weeks after a series of UFO sightings over the Eagle Ford Shale, more weird stuff is going on in the sky between San Antonio and the Rio Grande.
Three digital images taken Dec. 29 by an unattended wildlife camera on a deer lease near Nixon appear to show a series of anomalies in the sky and near the ground, says Fletcher Gray, deputy investigator with the Strike Team Area Research (STAR) unit of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).
The privately run group released the photos this week. Game cameras sit dormant and are only activated by a motion sensor, which means some form of wildlife - typically a deer - is in the camera's vicinity.
The first photo, time stamped 6:31 a.m., shows no deer in sight, but a triangle of lights can be seen in the night sky beyond the trees.
There's also a suspicious mist trail at ground level in the foreground of the photo.
In the second photo, taken at 6:47 a.m., a deer haunch appears in the lower left of the photo. The sky is black, but the mist trail still is there.
The last photo shows a deer in the center of the photo. The mist trail remains and a bright orb is seen in the sky near the location of the light triangle of the first photo.
Stills from video from a deer cam, taken near Nixon Dec. 29, 2012. Mutual UFO Network says the triangular lights might be signs of a UFO.
In each image, Gray says, the mist trail appears to begin or end with a clump of the mist - which he describes as "a plasma ball" - in front of the camera.
"What makes this case so interesting," he says, "is the vapor trails in the photos. At this time, we have no idea what that ball of light may be.
"We do know that the photos have not been tampered with. MUFON has been receiving a lot of plasma-type UFOs over the past year. This is one of few that has been caught on camera here in Texas."
The person reporting the incident - whose name is kept private per MUFON rules - says the camera didn't shut off for 38 minutes.
© YouTube Photo, Mutual UFO Network
This image that appeared on YouTube and was posted to the Mutual UFO Network website purportedly shows a UFO.
Shutting off would be a sign of inactivity. That time span rules out aircraft, the camera's owner told MUFON, which would have come in and out of frame much quicker.
MUFON hasn't come to any conclusions.
"We're not saying it's a UFO," Gray said, "but we're definitely interested in it."
This comes on the heels of three reports out of La Salle County.
Roughnecks near Artesia Wells saw orange lights dancing and streaking across the night sky last fall and posted a jittery video of it to YouTube. A rancher in the vicinity reported seeing the same lights in the same part of the sky. Those reports aren't on MUFON's investigative radar.
Another report out of LaSalle County, however, has been debunked by continuing MUFON analysis. The group's conclusion is that lights seen near an oil well probably were from a lowboy trailer, which is a semi-trailer used to haul vehicles or large containers.
This screen grab of lights in the sky was taken from a cellphone video made in La Salle County by oil worker Xavier Garza.
In that case, the July 5 a black-and-white photo appeared to show a disc with an array of lights hovering above the ground and about 70 feet from the camera. The well's owners, Gray said, had installed security cameras because of previous oil thefts.
That photo taken at the well site hadn't been altered either, Gray said, but a third analysis showed telltale white lines stretching from light to light.
In the opinion of MUFON experts, that indicated a trailer was moving quickly across the camera's field of vision. As the camera snapped a slow shutter-speed image, the trailer's safety lights were captured multiple times streaking across the photo.
In addition, MUFON hasn't been able to reach the original witness or to see the original photos.
"They haven't responded to emails, nor to phone calls," Gray said. "We don't know exactly what it is, but it's definitely not a flying saucer."
While the debunked photo went viral, it wasn't that big of deal in Cotulla, which, despite its booming energy economy, still is a small town at heart.
"None of our customers have mentioned it," said Brenda House, whose sons own LaSalle County Steakhouse. "Someone mentioned it to me the other night. It was salesman from New Braunfels."