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Bigfoot, also commonly referred to as Sasquatch, in Canadian and American folklore, is an ape-like creature that is purported to inhabit the forests of North America. Supposed evidence of the existence of Bigfoot includes a number of anecdotal visual sightings, disputed video and audio recordings, photographs, and casts of large footprints. Some of these are speculated or known to be hoaxes. Bigfoot has become an icon within the fringe subculture of cryptozoology and an enduring element of popular culture.
Folklorists trace the figure of Bigfoot to a combination of factors and sources, including folklore surrounding the European wild man figure, folk belief among Native Americans and loggers, wishful thinking, and a cultural increase in environmental concerns. The majority of mainstream scientists have historically discounted the existence of Bigfoot, considering it to be the result of a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal.
Other creatures of relatively similar descriptions are alleged to inhabit various regions of North America and throughout the world, such as the Skunk ape of the southeastern United States, the Almas, Yeti, and Yeren in Asia, and the Australian Yowie; all of which, like Bigfoot, are engrained in the cultures of their regions.
Thousands of people have claimed to have seen a Bigfoot which is often described as a large, muscular, bipedal ape-like creature, roughly 1.8–2.7 metres (6–9 ft), covered in hair described as black, dark brown, or dark reddish. Some descriptions have the creatures standing as tall as 3.0–4.6 metres (10–15 ft). A pungent, foul smelling odor is sometimes associated with reports of the creatures, commonly described as similar to rotten eggs or skunk.
The face of a Bigfoot is often described as human-like, with a flat nose and visible lips. Common descriptions also include broad shoulders, no visible neck, and long arms. The eyes are commonly described as dark in color and have been alleged to "glow" yellow or red at night. However, eyeshine is not present in humans or any known great ape, and so proposed explanations for observable eyeshine in the forest include perched owls, racoons, or opossums.
The enormous footprints for which the creature is named are claimed to be as large as 610 millimetres (24 in) long and 200 millimetres (8 in) wide. Some footprint casts have also contained claw marks, making it likely that they came from known animals such as bears, which have five toes and claws.
According to anthropologist David Daegling, Bigfoot legends existed before there was a single name for the creature. They differed in their details both regionally and between families in the same community.
On the Tule River Indian Reservation in California, petroglyphs created by a group of Yokuts at a site called Painted Rock are alleged by some to depict a group of Bigfoots called "the Family". The local tribespeople call the largest of the glyphs "Hairy Man" and they are estimated to be between 500 and 1000 years old.
Ecologist Robert Pyle argues that most cultures have accounts of human-like giants in their folk history, expressing a need for "some larger-than-life creature". Each language had its own name for the creature featured in the local version of such legends. Many names meant something along the lines of "wild man" or "hairy man", although other names described common actions that it was said to perform, such as eating clams or shaking trees. Chief Mischelle of the Nlaka'pamux at Lytton, British Columbia told such a story to Charles Hill-Tout in 1898; he named the creature by a Salishan variant meaning "the benign-faced-one".
Members of the Lummi tell tales about Ts'emekwes, the local version of Bigfoot. The stories are similar to each other in the general descriptions of Ts'emekwes, but details differed among various family accounts concerning the creature's diet and activities. Some regional versions tell of more threatening creatures. The stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai were a nocturnal race. Children were warned against saying the names, lest the monsters hear and come to carry off a person—sometimes to be killed. The Iroquois tell of an aggressive, hair covered giant with rock-hard skin known as the Ot ne yar heh or "Stone Giant", more commonly referred to as the Genoskwa. In 1847, Paul Kane reported stories by the natives about skoocooms, a race of cannibalistic wild men living on the peak of Mount St. Helens in southern Washington state. Also related to this area was an alleged incident in 1924 in which a violent encounter between a group of miners and a group of "ape-men" occurred. These allegations were reported in the July 16, 1924, issue of The Oregonian and have become a popular piece of Bigfoot lore and the area is now referred to as Ape Canyon. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, in his 1893 book, The Wilderness Hunter, writes of a story he was told by an elderly mountain man named Bauman in which a foul smelling, bipedal creature ransacked his beaver trapping camp, stalked him, and later became hostile when it fatally broke his companion's neck in the wilderness near the Idaho-Montana border. Roosevelt notes that Bauman appeared fearful while telling the story, but attributed the trapper's folkloric German ancestry to have potentially influenced him.
Less-menacing versions have also been recorded, such as one by Reverend Elkanah Walker from 1840. Walker was a Protestant missionary who recorded stories of giants among the natives living near Spokane, Washington. These giants were said to live on and around the peaks of nearby mountains and stole salmon from the fishermen's nets.
In the 1920s, Indian Affairs Agent J. W. Burns compiled local stories and published them in a series of Canadian newspaper articles. They were accounts told to him by the Sts'Ailes people of Chehalis and others. The Sts'Ailes and other regional tribes maintained that the creatures were real and they were offended by people telling them that the figures were legendary. According to Sts'Ailes accounts, the creatures preferred to avoid white men and spoke the Lillooet language of the people at Port Douglas, British Columbia at the head of Harrison Lake. These accounts were published again in 1940. Burns borrowed the term Sasquatch from the Halkomelem sásq'ec (IPA: [ˈsæsqʼəts]) and used it in his articles to describe a hypothetical single type of creature portrayed in the local stories.
Origin of the "Bigfoot" name
In 1958, Jerry Crew, a logging company bulldozer operator in Humboldt County, California, discovered a set of large, 410 millimetres (16 in) human-like footprints sunk deep within the mud in the Six Rivers National Forest. Upon informing his coworkers, many claimed to have seen similar tracks on previous job sites as well as telling of odd incidents such as an oil drum weighing 450 pounds (200 kg) having been moved without explanation. The logging company men soon began utilizing the term "Big Foot" to describe the mysterious culprit who had apparently left the prints and moved their equipment; causing a sense of paranoia among the workers. Crew, who initially believed someone was playing a prank on them, once again observed more of these numerous, massive footprints and contacted reporter Andrew Genzoli of the Humboldt Times newspaper (today called the Times-Standard) in nearby Eureka. Genzoli interviewed lumber workers and wrote articles about the mysterious footprints, coining the term "Bigfoot" in relation to the tracks and the local tales of large, hairy wild men. A plaster cast was made of the footprints and Crew appeared, holding one of the casts, on the front page of the newspaper on October 6, 1958. The story spread rapidly as Genzoli began to receive correspondence from major media outlets including the New York and Los Angeles Times. As a result, the term "Bigfoot" became widespread as a reference to an apparently large, unknown creature leaving massive footprints in Northern California. In 2002, the family of Crew's deceased coworker Ray Wallace claimed that their father had been secretly making the large footprints with carved, wooden feet and that he was responsible for the tracks. Despite the Wallace family's claim, Willow Creek and Humboldt County are considered by some to be the "Bigfoot Capital of the World".
In the 1830s, a Wyandot chief was nicknamed "Big foot" due to significant size, strength and large feet. Potawatomi Chief Maumksuck, known as Chief "Big Foot", is today synonymous with the area of Walworth County, Wisconsin and has a state park and school named for him. William A. A. Wallace, a famous 19th century Texas Ranger, was nicknamed "Bigfoot" due to his large feet and today has a town named for him, Bigfoot, Texas. Lakota leader Spotted Elk was also called "Chief Big Foot". In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at least two enormous marauding grizzly bears were widely noted in the press and each nicknamed "Bigfoot". The first grizzly bear called "Bigfoot" was reportedly killed near Fresno, California in 1895 after killing sheep for 15 years; his weight was estimated at 2,000 pounds (900 kg). The second one was active in Idaho in the 1890s and 1900s between the Snake and Salmon rivers, and supernatural powers were attributed to it.
About one-third of all claims of Bigfoot sightings are located in the Pacific Northwest, with the remaining reports spread throughout the rest of North America. Most reports are considered mistakes or hoaxes, even by those researchers who claim Bigfoot exists.
Sightings predominantly occur in the northwestern region of Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and British Columbia. Other prominent areas of supposed sightings include the rural areas of the Great Lakes region and the southeastern United States. According to data collected from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization's (BFRO) Bigfoot sightings database in 2019, Washington has over 2,000 reported sightings, California over 1,600, Pennsylvania over 1,300, New York and Oregon over 1,000, and Texas has just over 800. The debate over the legitimacy of Bigfoot sightings reached a peak in the 1970s, and Bigfoot has been regarded as the first widely popularized example of pseudoscience in American culture.
Regional and other names
Many regions have differentiating names for the creatures. In Canada, the name Sasquatch is widely used although often interchangeably with the name Bigfoot. The United States uses both of these names but also has numerous names and descriptions of the creatures depending on the region and area in which they are allegedly sighted. These include the Skunk ape in Florida and other southern states, Grassman in Ohio, Fouke Monster in Arkansas, Wood Booger in Virginia, the Monster of Whitehall in Whitehall, New York, Momo in Missouri, Honey Island Swamp Monster in Louisiana, Dewey Lake Monster in Michigan, Mogollon Monster in Arizona, and the Big Muddy Monster in southern Illinois. The term Wood Ape is also used by some as a means to deviate from the perceived mythical connotation of the name "Bigfoot". Other names include Bushman, Treeman, and Wildman.
Additionally, structures of broken and twisted foliage seemingly placed in specific areas have been attributed by some to Bigfoot behavior. In some reports, lodgepole pine and other small trees have been observed bent, uprooted, or stacked in patterns such as weaved and crisscrossed, leading some to theorize that they are potential territorial markings. Some instances have also included entire deer skeletons being suspended high in trees. In Washington state, a team of amateur Bigfoot researchers called the Olympic Project claimed to have discovered a collection of nests and had primatologists study them who concluded that they appear to have been created by a primate.
Many alleged sightings are reported to occur at night leading to some speculations that the creatures may possess nocturnal tendencies. However, mainstream science largely disputes this claim as all known apes, including humans, are diurnal with only lesser primates possessing nocturnality. Most anecdotal sightings of Bigfoot indicate the creatures being observed as solitary, although some reports have described groups being allegedly observed together.
Alleged vocalizations such as howls, moans, grunts, whistles, and even a form of supposed language have been reported. Some of these alleged vocalization recordings have been analyzed by individuals such as retired U.S. Navy cryptologic linguist Scott Nelson. He analyzed audio recordings from the early 1970s said to be recorded in the Sierra Nevada mountains dubbed the "Sierra Sounds" and stated, "It is definitely a language, it is definitely not human in origin, and it could not have been faked". Les Stroud has spoken of a strange vocalization he heard in the wilderness while filming Survivorman that he stated sounded primate in origin. Others argue that the source of the sounds attributed to Bigfoot are either hoaxes, anthropomorphization, or likely misidentified and produced by known animals such as owl, wolf, coyote, and fox.
The concept of what Bigfoot would consume for sustenance is a debated issue. Most mainstream scientists maintain that it is unlikely that a breeding population of hominid megafauna would be able to sustain themselves in North American forests as great apes historically thrive only in the tropics of Africa and Asia. In addition, they would face competition with bears and other large predators and would be leaving behind feces and other identifiable evidence. Others argue that like bears, the creatures likely have an omnivorous diet and are opportunistic much like humans. Anecdotal accounts indicate that the creatures consume roots, berries, nuts, fruit, fungi, salmon and other fish, small mammals like rabbit and squirrel, birds, and hooved ungulates including deer and elk. There have also been alleged reports of Bigfoots consuming carrion and killing or stealing livestock. In 2016, Centralia College anthropology professor and "Bigfoot enthusiast" Mitchel Townsend presented forensic research at the 69th Annual Anthropology Research Conference in Tacoma, Washington that he and his team completed after studying three different prey bones recovered near Mount St. Helens. They claim that the bite marks found on the bones provide evidence of a large, unknown hominid having made them based on their characteristics.
Alleged interactions with humans have been reported. Many Native American cultures traditionally fear and respect these creatures. An incident in 1924, often referred to as the "Battle of Ape Canyon", tells of miners being attacked by large, hairy "ape-men" that hurdled rocks onto their cabin roof from a nearby cliff after one of the miners allegedly shot one with a rifle. A miner was supposedly knocked unconscious by a rock which crashed through the roof, and the creatures slammed into the cabin walls, causing the entire structure to shake. Canadian prospector Albert Ostman reported that he was abducted by a Bigfoot and held captive with its family for six days near Toba Inlet, British Columbia in 1924. He reported that they did not cause him harm, but were instead amused by his presence. In Fouke, Arkansas in 1971, a family reported that a large, hair-covered creature startled a woman after reaching through a window. This alleged incident caused panic in the area. According to the BFRO, there have been no credible modern reports of any humans being killed by a Bigfoot, but harassment and stalking-like behaviors toward people have been reported. The 2021 Hulu documentary film entitled Sasquatch describes marijuana farmers telling stories of Bigfoots harassing and killing people within the Emerald Triangle region in the 1970s through the 1990s; and specifically the alleged murder of three migrant workers in 1993. Investigative journalist David Holthouse attributes the stories to illegal drug operations using the local Bigfoot lore to scare away competition, specifically superstitious Mexican immigrants, and that the high rate of murder and missing persons in the area is attributed to human actions.
There have also been reports of dogs allegedly being killed by a Bigfoot. In the early 1990s, 9-1-1 audio recordings were made public in which a homeowner in Kitsap County, Washington called law enforcement for assistance with a large subject, described by him as being "all in black", having entered his backyard. He previously reported to law enforcement that his dog was killed recently when it was thrown over his fence. Anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum notes that any large predatory animal is potentially dangerous to humans, specifically if provoked, but indicates that most anecdotal accounts of Bigfoot encounters result in the creatures hiding or fleeing from people. Some amateur researchers have reported the creatures moving or taking possession of intentional "gifts" left by humans such as food and jewelry, and leaving items in their place such as rocks and twigs. Skeptics argue that many of these alleged human interactions are easily hoaxed, the result of misidentification, or are outright fabrications.
The History Channel television series MonsterQuest investigated a 2002 incident in which a remote wilderness fishing cabin on Snelgrove Lake in Ontario, accessible only by float plane, was broken into and ransacked sometime during the winter months. Entire kitchen appliances had been ripped from the walls and shelves were torn down, but nothing appeared to have been stolen. Initial blame was placed on a bear as they are occasionally the culprits of home invasions and property damage in their search for food. Wildlife biologist Lynn Rogers of the North American Bear Center, after reviewing the insurance video of the cabin's damage, believes it was unlikely to have been caused by a bear due to hibernation patterns and because the refrigerator insulation, which would smell like an ant colony to a bear due to the presence of formic acid, was not ripped out and no claw or bite marks appeared present. Some have attributed the damage to have been caused by a Bigfoot as well as other strange incidents allegedly occurring near this cabin, while others maintain it was likely the result of human vandals or a bear. Other alleged incidents of vehicles being damaged with rocks has been attributed to Bigfoot behavior but skeptics argue it is likely the result of human actions such as pranks, or simply misidentification.
Various explanations have been suggested for sightings and to offer conjecture on what type of creature Bigfoot might be. Scientists typically attribute sightings either to hoaxes or to misidentification of known animals and their tracks, particularly black bears.
American black bears, the animal most often attributed to being mistakenly identified as Bigfoot, have been observed and recorded walking upright, often as the result of an injury. Others argue that a bear's anatomy does not coincide with the anecdotal reports of Bigfoot sightings, which often describe the creatures as walking more human-like. In 2007, the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization put forward some photos which they claimed showed a juvenile Bigfoot. The Pennsylvania Game Commission, however, said that the photos were of a bear with mange. Anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum, and Ohio scientist Jason Jarvis on the other hand, said that the limb proportions of the creature were not bear-like, they were "more like a chimpanzee." While upright, adult black bear stand roughly 1.5–2.1 metres (5–7 ft), and grizzly bear roughly 2.4–2.7 metres (8–9 ft), both within the range of anecdotal Bigfoot reports.
Some have proposed that sightings of Bigfoot may simply be people observing and misidentifying known great apes such as chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan that have escaped from captivity such as zoos, circuses, and private owners. This explanation is often proposed in relation to the Bigfoot-like Skunk ape, as some argue the humid subtropical climate of the southeastern United States could potentially support a population of escaped apes.
Humans have been mistaken for Bigfoot, with some incidents leading to injuries. In 2013, a 21-year-old man in Oklahoma was arrested after he told law enforcement he accidentally shot his friend in the back while their group was allegedly hunting for Bigfoot. In 2017, a shamanist wearing clothing made of animal furs was vacationing in a North Carolina forest when local reports of alleged Bigfoot sightings flooded in. The Greenville Police Department issued a public notice not to shoot Bigfoot in fear of someone in a fur suit mistakenly being injured or killed. In 2018, a person was shot at multiple times by a hunter near Helena, Montana who claimed he mistook him for a Bigfoot.
Additionally, some have attributed feral humans or hermits living in the wilderness as being another explanation for alleged Bigfoot sightings. One famous story, the Wild Man of the Navidad, tells of a wild ape-man who roamed the wilderness of eastern Texas in the mid-19th century, stealing food and goods from local residents. A search party allegedly captured an escaped African slave who was attributed to the story. During the 1980s, thousands of emotionally damaged American Vietnam veterans were discovered living in remote forests across North America, living off the land and wearing animal hides as clothing. As of 2020, many of these survivalist veterans continue to call the forests of the Pacific Northwest home.
Some have proposed that pareidolia may explain Bigfoot sightings, specifically the tendency to observe human-like faces and figures within the natural environment. Photos and videos of poor quality alleged to depict Bigfoots are often attributed to this phenomenon and commonly referred to as "Blobsquatch".
Both Bigfoot believers and non-believers agree that many of the reported sightings are hoaxes or misidentified animals. Author Jerome Clark argues that the Jacko Affair was a hoax, involving an 1884 newspaper report of an ape-like creature captured in British Columbia. He cites research by John Green, who found that several contemporaneous British Columbia newspapers regarded the alleged capture as highly dubious, and notes that the Mainland Guardian of New Westminster, British Columbia wrote, "Absurdity is written on the face of it."
In 1968, the frozen corpse of a supposed hair covered hominid measuring 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 m) was paraded around the United States as part of a travelling exhibition. Many stories surfaced as to its origin such as it having been killed by hunters in Minnesota or killed by American soldiers near Da Nang during the Vietnam War. It was attributed by some to be proof of Bigfoot-like creatures. Primatologist John R. Napier studied the subject and concluded it was a hoax made of latex. Others disputed this, claiming Napier did not study the original subject. As of 2013, the subject, dubbed the Minnesota Iceman, is on display at the "Museum of the Weird" in Austin, Texas.
Tom Biscardi, long-time Bigfoot enthusiast and CEO of "Searching for Bigfoot, Inc.", appeared on the Coast to Coast AM paranormal radio show on July 14, 2005, and said that he was "98% sure that his group will be able to capture a Bigfoot which they had been tracking in the Happy Camp, California area." A month later, he announced on the same radio show that he had access to a captured Bigfoot and was arranging a pay-per-view event for people to see it. He appeared on Coast to Coast AM again a few days later to announce that there was no captive Bigfoot. He blamed an unnamed woman for misleading him, and said that the show's audience was gullible.
On July 9, 2008, Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton posted a video to YouTube, claiming that they had discovered the body of a dead Bigfoot in a forest in northern Georgia. Tom Biscardi was contacted to investigate. Dyer and Whitton received $50,000 from "Searching for Bigfoot, Inc." as a good faith gesture. The story was covered by many major news networks, including BBC, CNN, ABC News, and Fox News. Soon after a press conference, the alleged Bigfoot body was delivered in a block of ice in a freezer with the Searching for Bigfoot team. When the contents were thawed, observers found that the hair was not real, the head was hollow, and the feet were rubber. Dyer and Whitton admitted that it was a hoax after being confronted by Steve Kulls, executive director of SquatchDetective.com.
In January 2014, Rick Dyer, perpetrator of a previous Bigfoot hoax, said that he had killed a Bigfoot in September 2012 outside San Antonio. He claimed to have had scientific tests conducted on the body, "from DNA tests to 3D optical scans to body scans. It is the real deal. It's Bigfoot, and Bigfoot's here, and I shot it, and now I'm proving it to the world." He said that he had kept the body in a hidden location, and he intended to take it on tour across North America in 2014. He released photos of the body and a video showing a few individuals' reactions to seeing it, but never released any of the tests or scans. He refused to disclose the test results or to provide biological samples. He said that the DNA results were done by an undisclosed lab and could not be matched to identify any known animal. Dyer said that he would reveal the body and tests on February 9, 2014 at a news conference at Washington University, but he never made the test results available. After the Phoenix tour, the Bigfoot body was taken to Houston. On March 28, 2014, Dyer admitted on his Facebook page that his "Bigfoot corpse" was another hoax. He had paid Chris Russel of "Twisted Toybox" to manufacture the prop from latex, foam, and camel hair, which he nicknamed "Hank". Dyer earned approximately US$60,000 from the tour of this second fake Bigfoot corpse. He stated that he did kill a Bigfoot, but did not take the real body on tour for fear that it would be stolen.
Bigfoot proponents Grover Krantz and Geoffrey H. Bourne believed that Bigfoot could be a relict population of Gigantopithecus. All Gigantopithecus fossils were found in Asia, but according to Bourne, many species of animals migrated across the Bering land bridge and he suggested that Gigantopithecus might have done so, as well. Gigantopithecus fossils have not been found in the Americas. The only recovered fossils are of mandibles and teeth, leaving uncertainty about Gigantopithecus's locomotion. Krantz has argued that Gigantopithecus blacki could have been bipedal, based on his extrapolation of the shape of its mandible. However, the relevant part of the mandible is not present in any fossils. An alternative view is that Gigantopithecus was quadrupedal. The Gigantopithecus's enormous mass would have made it difficult for it to adopt a bipedal gait.
Matt Cartmill criticizes the Gigantopithecus hypothesis:
The trouble with this account is that Gigantopithecus was not a hominin and maybe not even a crown group hominoid; yet the physical evidence implies that Bigfoot is an upright biped with buttocks and a long, stout, permanently adducted hallux. These are hominin autapomorphies, not found in other mammals or other bipeds. It seems unlikely that Gigantopithecus would have evolved these uniquely hominin traits in parallel.
Bernard G. Campbell writes: "That Gigantopithecus is in fact extinct has been questioned by those who believe it survives as the Yeti of the Himalayas and the Sasquatch of the north-west American coast. But the evidence for these creatures is not convincing."
Primatologist John R. Napier and anthropologist Gordon Strasenburg have suggested a species of Paranthropus as a possible candidate for Bigfoot's identity, such as Paranthropus robustus, with its gorilla-like crested skull and bipedal gait —despite the fact that fossils of Paranthropus are found only in Africa.
Michael Rugg of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum presented a comparison between human, Gigantopithecus, and Meganthropus skulls (reconstructions made by Grover Krantz) in episodes 131 and 132 of the Bigfoot Discovery Museum Show. He favorably compares a modern tooth suspected of coming from a Bigfoot to the Meganthropus fossil teeth, noting the worn enamel on the occlusal surface. The Meganthropus fossils originated from Asia, and the tooth was found near Santa Cruz, California.
In 2013, ZooBank, the non-governmental organization that is generally accepted by Zoologists to assign species names, approved the registration request for the species name Homo sapiens cognatus to be used for the reputed hominid more familiarly known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch. "Cognatus" is a Latin term meaning "related by blood."
The request was made by Melba S. Ketchum, D.V.M. Moody Scholar and lead scientist of The Sasquatch Genome Project following publication of "Novel North American Hominins, Next Generation Sequencing of Three Whole Genomes and Associated Studies, "Ketchum, M. S., et al, in the DeNovo: Journal of Science, 13 Feb 2013. The article examined 111 samples of blood, tissue, hair, and other specimens "characterized and hypothesized" to have been "obtained from elusive hominins in North America commonly referred to as Sasquatch." Zoobank is an adjunct to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature or ICZN. The Sasquatch Genome Project is a collaboration of an interdisciplinary team of scientists from independent, public, and academic laboratories. DeNovo is a multi-disciplinary scientific journal providing three levels of peer review.
This is only the first official step in scientific recognition of the species. The following step would be to secure the recognition and inclusion of a DNA sample from Homo sapiens cognatus by GenBank a DNA repository whose catalogue, though incomplete, is well recognized by the scientific community. GenBank provides standardized accepted procedures for the collection and analysis of DNA samples.
According to a statement by an ICZN associate scientist, "ZooBank and the ICZN do not review evidence for the legitimacy of organisms to which names are applied – that is outside our mandate, and is really the job of the relevant taxonomic/biological community (in this case, primatologists) to do that. When H. s. cognatus was first registered, needless to say we received a lot of inquiry about it. We scrutinized the original description and registration of this name as best as we could, and as far as we can determine, all the requirements for establishing the new name were fulfilled. Thus, at the moment, we have no grounds to reject the scientific name. This says nothing about the legitimacy of the taxon concept – it's just about whether the name was established according to the rules." There is no single organization of primatologists imbued to provide recognition of evidence for the legitimacy. Opinions of individual primatologists are disparate but generally antagonistic.
The evidence advanced supporting the existence of such a large, ape-like creature has often been attributed to hoaxes or delusion rather than to sightings of a genuine creature. In a 1996 USA Today article, Washington State zoologist John Crane said, "There is no such thing as Bigfoot. No data other than material that's clearly been fabricated has ever been presented." In addition, scientists cite the fact that Bigfoot is alleged to live in regions unusual for a large, nonhuman primate, i.e., temperate latitudes in the northern hemisphere; all recognized apes are found in the tropics of Africa and Asia.
Primatologist Jane Goodall was asked for her personal opinion of Bigfoot in a 2002 interview on National Public Radio's "Science Friday". She said, "Well now you will be amazed when I tell you that I'm sure that they exist." She later added, chuckling, "Well, I'm a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist", and finally, "You know, why isn't there a body? I can't answer that, and maybe they don't exist, but I want them to." In 2012, when asked again by the Huffington Post, Goodall said "I'm fascinated and would actually love them to exist," adding, "Of course, it's strange that there has never been a single authentic hide or hair of the Bigfoot, but I've read all the accounts."
Dmitri Bayanov, Chairman of the Smolin Seminar on Questions of Hominology at the Darwin Museum, Moscow, Russia tells us, "All researchers versed in this science do know that Bigfoot is a mammal, not myth, because of the females' conspicuous mammae. All know that Bigfoot is a primate because of the dermal ridges on its soles, a diagnostic characteristic of primates. All hominologists, respectful of logic and the current classification of primates, know that Bigfoot is a non-sapiens hominid because of its nonhuman way of life and bipedalism. ... I think that one of the great scientific results of the 20th century was the discovery of relict hominids (homins, for short), popularly known as Abominable Snowman, Yeti, Yeren, Almas, Almasty, Bigfoot, Sasquatch, etc. Actually, it was a re-discovery by hominologists of what had been known to western naturalists from antiquity to the middle of the 18th century, when wild bipedal primates were classified by Carl Linnaeus as Homo troglodytes (i.e., caveman) or Homo sylvestris (i.e., woodman, forestman). As for eastern scholars and rural population in many parts of the world, they have always been aware of wild hairy bipeds, known under diverse popular names."
Yet many other mainstream scientists do not consider the subject of Bigfoot to be a fertile area for credible science and there have been a limited number of formal scientific studies of Bigfoot.
As with other similar beings, climate and food supply issues would make such a creature's survival in reported habitats unlikely. Great apes have not been found in the fossil record in the Americas, and no Bigfoot remains are known to have been found. Phillips Stevens, a cultural anthropologist at the University at Buffalo, summarized the scientific consensus as follows:
It defies all logic that there is a population of these things sufficient to keep them going. What it takes to maintain any species, especially a long-lived species, is you gotta have a breeding population. That requires a substantial number, spread out over a fairly wide area where they can find sufficient food and shelter to keep hidden from all the investigators.
In the 1970s, when Bigfoot "experts" were frequently given high-profile media coverage, Mcleod writes that the scientific community generally avoided lending credence to the theories by debating them.
The discovery of an unknown great ape or hominid species calling North America home would have a drastic societal impact. Paleontologist and author Darren Naish states, "It is, after all, great fun to wonder what the existence of Bigfoot would mean for field biology and ecology in North America, for conservation and wildlife management, for our understanding of primate evolution and diversity, and for the relationship we have with the rest of the natural world".
Ivan T. Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans, founders of the subculture and pseudoscience cryptozoology, have spent parts of their career searching for Bigfoot. Later scientists who researched the topic included Jason Jarvis, Carleton S. Coon, George Allen Agogino and William Charles Osman Hill, although they came to no definite conclusions and later drifted from this research.
Anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum has said that the fossil remains of an ancient giant ape called Gigantopithecus could turn out to be ancestors of today's commonly known Bigfoot. Meldrum, who specializes in the study of bipedalism, possesses over 300 footprint casts that he attributes to having been made by a large, non-human primate that he maintains could not be made by wood carvings or human feet based on their anatomy.
John Napier asserts that the scientific community's attitude towards Bigfoot stems primarily from insufficient evidence. Other scientists who have shown varying degrees of interest in the creature are David J. Daegling, George Schaller, Russell Mittermeier, Daris Swindler, Esteban Sarmiento, and Carleton S. Coon.
The first scientific study of available evidence was conducted by John Napier and published in his book Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality in 1973. Napier wrote that if a conclusion is to be reached based on scant extant "'hard' evidence," science must declare "Bigfoot does not exist." However, he found it difficult to entirely reject thousands of alleged tracks, "scattered over 125,000 square miles" (325,000 km2) or to dismiss all "the many hundreds" of eyewitness accounts. Napier concluded, "I am convinced that Sasquatch exists, but whether it is all it is cracked up to be is another matter altogether. There must be something in north-west America that needs explaining, and that something leaves man-like footprints."
Beginning in the late 1970s, physical anthropologist Grover Krantz published several articles and four book-length treatments of Sasquatch. However, his work was found to contain multiple scientific failings including falling for hoaxes.
A study published in the Journal of Biogeography in 2009 by J.D. Lozier et al. used ecological niche modeling on reported sightings of Bigfoot, using their locations to infer preferred ecological parameters. They found a very close match with the ecological parameters of the American black bear, Ursus americanus. They also note that an upright bear looks much like a Bigfoot's purported appearance and consider it highly improbable that two species should have very similar ecological preferences, concluding that Bigfoot sightings are likely misidentified sightings of black bears.
In the first systematic genetic analysis of 30 hair samples that were suspected to be from Bigfoot-like creatures, only one was found to be primate in origin, and that was identified as human. A joint study by the University of Oxford and Lausanne's Cantonal Museum of Zoology and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B in 2014, the team used a previously published cleaning method to remove all surface contamination and the ribosomal mitochondrial DNA 12S fragment of the sample. The sample was sequenced and then compared to GenBank to identify the species origin. The samples submitted were from different parts of the world, including the United States, Russia, the Himalayas, and Sumatra. Other than one sample of human origin, all but two are from common animals. Black and brown bears accounted for most of the samples, other animals include cow, horse, dog/wolf/coyote, sheep, goat, raccoon, porcupine, deer and tapir. The last two samples were thought to match a fossilized genetic sample of a 40,000 year old polar bear of the Pleistocene epoch; a second test identified the hairs as being from a rare type of brown bear.
In 2019, the FBI declassified an analysis it conducted on alleged Bigfoot hairs in 1976. Amateur Bigfoot researcher Peter Byrnes sent the FBI 15 hairs attached to a small skin fragment and asked if the bureau could assist him in identifying it. Jay Cochran, Jr., assistant director of the FBI's Scientific and Technical Services division responded in 1977 that the hairs were of deer family origin.
After what The Huffington Post described as "a five-year study of purported Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) DNA samples", but prior to peer review of the work, DNA Diagnostics, a veterinary laboratory headed by veterinarian Melba Ketchum, issued a press release on November 24, 2012, claiming that they had found proof that the Sasquatch "is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago as a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens with an unknown primate species." Ketchum called for this to be recognized officially, saying that "Government at all levels must recognize them as an indigenous people and immediately protect their human and Constitutional rights against those who would see in their physical and cultural differences a 'license' to hunt, trap, or kill them."
Failing to find a scientific journal that would publish their results, Ketchum announced on February 13, 2013, that their research had been published in the DeNovo Journal of Science. The Huffington Post discovered that the journal's domain had been registered anonymously only nine days before the announcement. This was the only edition of DeNovo and was listed as Volume 1, Issue 1, with its only content being the Ketchum paper.
Shortly after publication, the paper was analyzed and outlined by Sharon Hill of Doubtful News for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Hill reported on the questionable journal, mismanaged DNA testing and poor quality paper, stating that "The few experienced geneticists who viewed the paper reported a dismal opinion of it noting it made little sense."
The Scientist magazine also analyzed the paper, reporting that:
Geneticists who have seen the paper are not impressed. "To state the obvious, no data or analyses are presented that in any way support the claim that their samples come from a new primate or human-primate hybrid," Leonid Kruglyak of Princeton University told the Houston Chronicle. "Instead, analyses either come back as 100 percent human, or fail in ways that suggest technical artifacts." The website for the DeNovo Journal of Science was setup [sic] on February 4, and there is no indication that Ketchum's work, the only study it has published, was peer reviewed.
Numerous plaster casts of alleged Bigfoot footprints exist and some have been studied by individuals such as retired police fingerprint technician Jimmy Chilcutt. He examined multiple casts of alleged Bigfoot footprints and using his experience in both human and primate dermatoglyphics, believes that some of these casts contain unique dermal ridges and even evidence of healed scars. In 2005, a man named Matt Crowley obtained a copy of a cast Chilcutt studied called the "Onion Mountain Cast", and was able to painstakingly recreate the dermal ridges. Michael Dennett of the Skeptical Inquirer spoke to Chilcutt in 2006 for comment on the replica and he stated, "Matt has shown artifacts can be created, at least under laboratory conditions, and field researchers need to take precautions".
A body print taken in the year 2000 from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state dubbed the Skookum cast is also believed by some to have made by a Bigfoot that sat down in the mud to eat fruit left out by researchers during the filming of an episode of the Animal X television show. Skeptics believe the cast to have been made by a known animal such as an elk.
Claims about the origins and characteristics of Bigfoot have also crossed over with other paranormal claims, including that Bigfoot, extraterrestrials, and UFOs are related or that Bigfoot creatures are psychic, can cross into different dimensions, or are completely supernatural in origin.
The most well-known video of an alleged Bigfoot, the Patterson-Gimlin film, was recorded on October 20, 1967, by Roger Patterson and Robert "Bob" Gimlin in an area called Bluff Creek, in Northern California. The 59.5-second-long video has become an iconic piece of Bigfoot lore, and continues to be a highly scrutinized, analyzed, and debated subject.
Some argue that the film has provided "no supportive data of any scientific value", while others believe that the subject in the film is proof of an unrecognized hominid living in North America.
Organizations and events
There are several organizations dedicated to the research and investigation of Bigfoot sightings in the United States. The oldest and largest is the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO). The BFRO also provides a free database to individuals and other organizations. Their website includes reports from across North America that have been investigated by researchers to determine credibility. Another includes the North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC), a nonprofit organization. Other similar organizations exist throughout many U.S. states and their members come from a variety of backgrounds.
Some organizations, as well as private researchers and enthusiasts own and operate Bigfoot Museums. Additionally, Bigfoot conferences and festivals are attended by thousands of people. These events commonly include guest speakers, research and lore presentations, and even live music, vendors, food trucks, and other activities such as costume contests and "Bigfoot howl" competitions. The Chamber of Commerce in Willow Creek, California has hosted the "Bigfoot Daze" festival annually since the 1960s, drawing on the popularity of the local lore.
In popular culture
Bigfoot has a demonstrable impact in popular culture, and has been compared to Michael Jordan as a cultural icon. In 2018, Smithsonian magazine declared "Interest in the existence of the creature is at an all-time high". According to a poll taken in May 2020, about 1 in 10 American adults believe that Bigfoot is a real animal. The creature has inspired the naming of a medical company, music festival, sports mascot, amusement park ride, monster truck and more. In 2021, Rep. Justin Humphrey, in an effort to bolster tourism, proposed an official Bigfoot hunting season in Oklahoma, indicating that the Wildlife Conservation Commission would regulate permits and the state would offer a $3 million dollar bounty if such a creature was captured alive and unharmed.
In 2019, World Champion taxidermist Ken Walker created what he believes to be a life-like Bigfoot model based on the subject in the Patterson–Gimlin film. He entered it into the 2019 World Taxidermy Championship and became the subject of the 2020 documentary Big Fur.
Some have been critical of Bigfoot's rise to fame, arguing that the appearance of the creatures in cartoons, reality shows, and advertisements further reduces the potential validity of serious scientific research. Others propose that society's fascination with the concept of Bigfoot stems from human interest in mystery, the paranormal, and loneliness.
In the podcast Wild Thing, creator and journalist Laura Krantz argues that the concept of Bigfoot can be an important part of environmental interest and protection, stating, "If you look at it from the angle that Bigfoot is a creature that has eluded capture or hasn't left any concrete evidence behind, then you just have a group of people who are curious about the environment and want to know more about it, which isn't that far off from what naturalists have done for centuries". Bigfoot has been used in official government environmental protection campaigns, albeit comedically, by entities such as the U.S. Forest Service in 2015.
The act of searching for or researching the creatures is often referred to as "Squatching" or "Squatch'n", popularized by the Animal Planet reality series, Finding Bigfoot. Bigfoot researchers and believers are often called "Squatchers".
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bigfoot became a part of many North American social distancing promotion campaigns, with the creature being referred to as the "Social Distancing Champion" and as the subject of various internet memes related to the pandemic.
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