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What is bigfoot?

This page hosts a series of informative articles I have written on the subject of bigfoot. They are intended to be introductory articles for those new to the bigfoot world.

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What is the North American Great Ape?
Why are we looking?
Origins
Evidence
Behavior



What is the North American Great Ape? 


    “North American Great Ape” is a more formal name for the cryptid known as “bigfoot” or “sasquatch”, which is believed to inhabit the forests of North America. Sasquatch is thought to be a bipedal hominin that stands anywhere from seven to upwards of nine feet tall. Based on footprint casts and comparisons between other living great apes, weight estimates range from three hundred to nine hundred pounds. The animal is often described as a bulky, barrel-chested human-like ape coated in fur. Fur colors range depending upon region, but the majority of colors reported are black, brown and auburn. Occasionally (mostly in cold climates, or high altitudes) white fur is reported. A few of the more noticeable features include arms that hang almost to the knees, the famous big feet, and a very human-like face with a pronounced brow ridge.
 
    Some researchers believe there to be at least two different species of sasquatches, the traditional bigfoot (found in forests and mountains) and the slightly smaller Skunk Ape (found in swamplands). Some even break this down further, citing alleged differences between the Pacific Northwestern bigfoots and the Eastern bigfoots. Other cryptids that may be related to bigfoot include the Alma of the Caucasus mountains and the Yeti of Tibet and Nepal.
 
    Most of the names for bigfoot (there are many) are derived from Native American languages. As the folks over at the BFRO have so elaborately explained:
 
    "Regarding the origins of the words "sasquatch" and "bigfoot": The term "sasquatch" is an anglicized derivative of the word "Sésquac", meaning "wild man". The original word, in the Stó:lõ dialect of the Halkomelem language, is used by the Coast Salish Indians of the Fraser Valley and parts of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Indian tribes across North America have a total of more than sixty different terms for the sasquatch. "Bigfoot" was a journalistic term generated in the middle of the last century during a rash of sightings in Northern California. The word has come to be recognized widely."

    Unfortunately for those who believe in the existence of this animal, the name “bigfoot” has become synonymous with images of a goofy gorilla-man popularized by recent advertising campaigns. This has led to a general discrediting of legitimate bigfoot research. Also injuring the reputation of “bigfooters” ( bigfoot researchers and believers)  is a history of hoaxes. Occasionally, for either attention or profit, individuals have faked bigfoot footprints, photographs, and even entire bodies. This has caused many main stream scientists to avoid the topic of bigfoot for fear their professional reputations may become besmirched.
 
    Currently, main stream science does not have sufficient evidence to declare sasquatch a known animal. However, that has not deterred the many bigfooters who often set out into vast tracts of wilderness in attempts to find conclusive proof of, as many Native Americans say, “Our Brother in the Woods.”
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Why are we looking?

    In an interview by Aaron Sagers from The Examiner, veteran bigfoot researcher Cliff Barackman, was asked: "Is the goal [of looking for bigfoot] to capture it? Mr. Barackman's answer aligns with the goals of this website:    

     "No, of course not. How do you capture an 1100-pound primate with hands that’s as smart as you are? You just don’t do that. I think, as far as Bigfooting goes, everyone has their own personal goal. A lot of people’s goals center around ego, in my opinion, and they hide it under things like, ‘Oh we want to protect the Sasquatch.’ Or, ‘We want to prove it’s real to protect it.’ That’s actually ego in my opinion. They’re doing a dandy job protecting themselves now. They don’t need our help. I personally think discovery is the worst thing to ever happen to the species. They’re doing just fine without us. My personal goal is to learn about them as much as possible. Because when discovery does happen, like I said, it’s going to be pretty bad for them. People are going to go out to the woods.  Fools are going to go out and try to hunt them. My personal goal is to soften the blow of discovery by learning as much about them as I can now, and then hopefully use this platform that I’ve been given by Animal Planet to educate the public. People are going to be thinking, 'These things are covered with hair, so hunt them.' But these things are covered with hair and speak to each other in this weird proto-language that they have. I think like this a lot. You only get one first impression. Do we want that first impression of the general public realizing that Sasquatches are real, do we want that first impression to be a bloody, corpse on a slab -- or an extended video of a female interacting with its young? What would be better for the species? Clearly, the female."  

    nagreatape.blogspot.com is here to educate; to inform. Through education we can help protect this species when it is discovered. 

    For more of The Examiner's Interview, click here.
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Origins

"Hobbit" by Isaac Mao - Flickr.com
    Many who disagree with the existence of a non-human bipedal hominin living in North America explain away bigfoot sightings as hoaxes and misidentifications of other animals. However, reports of sasquatch begin long before the modern era.

    Currently, no skeletal remains have been found of a modern “bigfoot”, yet throughout the fossil record there is evidence of countless non-human, bipedal hominins that vary drastically in size and shape. Native peoples of the Indonesian islands often told stories of “the old woman of the forest”, a small human who looked like a tiny, old lady, but ran off when approached. The islanders say these “little people” lived on the island up until the arrival of European settlers. Reports of other little peoples have trickled in from the deep jungles of Africa and South America. These stories were commonly discounted as folklore, until a discovery in 2003. On the island of Flores, a team of anthropologists uncovered the remains of what would come to be classified as Homo Floresiensis (or “Hobbit“). H. Floresiensis was not uncommon compared to other early hominins, except that it stood only three to four feet tall and may have lived up until twelve-thousand years ago (but the blink of an eye in evolutionary terms). This date range makes it possible that Hobbit could have existed -- even interacted  -- with modern man.


    Some bigfooters (and I’m inclined to agree with them) believe modern science should take a hint from H. Floresiensis. Native American cultures all across North America tell ancestral stories of  “the forest people”, a race of large, hairy people that live in the wilderness. Rock art dating to prehistoric times even depicts what modern day Native Americans translate as drawings of a “large, hairy, ape-man.” And commonly, tribes in the Pacific Northwest carve faces into totem poles that look eerily like the North American Great Ape. Native American folklore provides many examples of interaction with sasquatches, but the most concrete evidence for this creature’s existence was first discovered over eighty years ago in a Chinese apothecary shop.

G. Blacki - Copyright Russel Ciochon and Bill Munns
    In 1935, the anthropologist Ralph von Koenigswald stumbled upon a huge fossilized molar while browsing a Chinese medicine shop. Fossils such as this are often ground into powder and used in traditional Chinese medicine. The molar Koenigswald rescued turned out to belong to a previously unknown hominin, now classified as Gigantopithecus Blacki. Not much is known about G. Blacki, and in fact, not many other fossils of it have been found. However, the evidence that has been discovered (mostly jaw bones and molars from Southeast Asia) leads anthropologists to conclude that G. Blacki was a massive hominin standing around ten feet tall and weighing over one thousand pounds. This would make the species two to three times heavier than any living gorilla. Today, G. Blacki’s closest living relative is the Orangutan. Other species of massive apes found in Asia include Giagantopithecus bilaspurensis and Giagantopiethecus giganteus. Both were smaller than G. Blacki but were still believed to stand around five to six feet tall. Bigfooters argue that G. Blacki could be an ancestor of the modern sasquatch. Due to the largely incomplete nature of the fossil record, there is a good chance that this is indeed the case.

"Early Hominins" by Ryan Somma - Flickr.com
    Art and folklore from prehistoric cultures tell of a large race of hairy ape-men who lived in the forest, and the fossil record proves that during man’s evolutionary history Earth was populated by many widely spread and biologically diverse hominins. Sounds to me like the perfect ingredients for another H. Floresiensis type discovery.
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Evidence


    “But where is the evidence?” “We need DNA!” “We need a body to prove it’s real.” Common rallying cries of those who don’t believe sasquatch is a real creature. And honestly, who can blame them? I entirely agree. The burden of proof lies with bigfooters the world over. It is our job to prove bigfoot exists. Some bigfooters complain that main stream science is bent against accepting bigfoot as a known species, but I would argue that we have not yet gathered enough evidence for it to be accepted as one. Most of the evidence for bigfoot (however convincing it may be) is not concrete evidence. Footprint casts are a good place to start. Audio recordings, photos, and videos are another. However, all of these have the potential to be faked and no matter how great your foot casting or video recording is, until science has hard evidence that it can analyze, bigfoot will remain a cryptid.
Photo by JohnGoode - Flickr.com

    So what is the purpose of showing this non-concrete evidence? In my opinion, the most effective use of photo and video evidence is attracting attention to bigfoot. Raising awareness that bigfoot is more than just a funny advertising campaign for beef jerky, or a boogeyman to scare children, is the first step towards furthering interest in research.

    The recent Animal Planet hit television show Finding Bigfoot has done wonders for raising awareness. Aside from attracting a huge fan base, it spurred many offshoot television shows and acquainted many people with the bigfoot world. Given, I don’t agree with all of the tactics they use to research (you know, like having an entire camera crew follow the researchers around on nighttime searches making extra noise and probably scaring off any nearby animals) the show has done a good job of advertising the research techniques bigfooters are using today (sound blasting, infrared camera spotting, baiting, etc).  It also provides advertisement for the BFRO, a research organization that has been in existence since 1995. And besides, turning on the t.v. for a Finding Bigfoot marathon makes for a very relaxing, squatchy evening.  
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Finding Bigfoot - Copyright Animal Planet


      














Behavior


   Nearly all reported encounters with a bigfoot record the witness as feeling frightened, but rarely is this because of the animal’s behavior so much as its size. Naturally, coming face to face with a bipedal ape weighing upwards of four hundred pounds can be a frightening experience. However, the vast majority of reports confirm that the bigfoot was shy, acting as if it did not want to be seen. Most of the time the animal is spotted quickly retreating from the witness. This, along with very few reports ever describing aggressive behavior, has led researchers to conclude that bigfoots are naturally shy and do not seek interaction with humans. Considering how long the species has remained hidden from mankind, this seems to make sense. Most interactions between bigfoots and humans occur in one of three ways: 

1.) The witness is out in the woods, or near a rural area, and notices the animal watching them. After being spotted, it flees. (It seems some human activities attract curious sasquatches. Games, campfires, and parties generally draw the curious observers. A common way bigfoots observe an area stealthily is through "tree peeking", where the animal hides behind a tree, and just leans the top of its head and eyes out to watch. Once spotted, they almost always hastily leave the area. Also worth noting is the bigfoots' characteristic gait. BFRO describes this eloquently.) 

"Valley of the Bigfoot" Sam Beebe, Ecotrust - Flickr.com
2.) The witness is driving through a rural area and spots the animal crossing the road in front of them. (This was illustrated in a recent police car camera that captured a blurry, dark silhouette crossing in front of a police officer at night. The silhouette is very inconclusive. However, the fact that the figure manages to cross a two lane highway  (23 feet wide) in three steps reveals a very long stride. Some would say, an inhuman stride. Video.)

3.) The bigfoot is aware of the witness and tries to deter the witness from approaching any closer. A well reported way that sasquatches do this is by throwing rocks. (Note: this is not believed to be an aggressive behavior so much as a way of making a person leave an area.) Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot has recorded several instances of rock throwing during their night investigations. None of the clips are posted online last I checked, but they are in the full episodes. 

Family groups:

    Gorillas and Chimpanzees are well documented living in roving family groups. Members of the group often search for food individually, but regroup afterwards, relying on each other for protection and social interaction. Sasquatches as well are believed to live in family groups. However, due to the illusiveness of these animals, very little information is known as to the size of these groups or how they operate (hierarchy determination, etc). Although other species of apes have been reported to do this, the idea has very little evidence to support it. The only aspect of these alleged family groups that is consistently reported is the presence of so called “daywatchers”. Some bigfooters believe that bigfoot family groups post lookouts around the main group to alert the others if something comes too close (generally, inquisitive humans). The day watcher theory is supported by the idea that sasquatches are nocturnal. Most researchers believe these animals to be active at night, foraging and hunting, then resting during the day. This belief leads to a lot of bigfoot searching being conducted at night, such as the famous “nighttime investigations” seen on Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot. 

Communication: 
    
    Bigfoots are reported as having many ways in which they communicate with each other. One of these ways is through vocalizations. The most common of these vocalizations are “howls” and “whoops”. Other reported sounds, though less common, are whistles and knocks. The majority of these are used for long range communication between bigfoots. There is a clear distinction between “whoops”, “howls” and other calls, but researchers are still unsure as to what message each is supposed to relay. (A common research strategy is “sound blasting” where researchers play previously recorded calls through a loud speaker into a forest at night. Often, this results in returned calls. I will write more on this in the article “Research Methods”.) The Audio page on this site contains links to three recorded vocalizations and a series of knocks. “Knocks”, is an abbreviation for another method of communication that bigfoots are reported to use, known as “tree knocking.” Tree knocking is thought to be caused by a bigfoot swinging a large stick against a tree. However, a recent theory proposes that knocks are actually created through a form of clapping. It has been observed that gorillas will clap to communicate with each other, making it likely that bigfoots can do this as well. Another lesser seen form of communication between bigfoots is tree snapping. Researchers have reported broken saplings and large branches (too big for a human to break, and too healthy to just snap and fall over) in many areas where bigfoots are suspected to be nearby. 

Diet: 

    Not much is known about what sasquatches eat, but researchers suspect they are omnivorous (as are all apes) and will eat vritually anything they can find. Another theory proposes that these animals are hunters and will regularly supplement their diet with deer or other game. Many reports claim that sasquatches enjoy apples and other fruit found in the wild. This is a reasonable deduction considering other great apes are known to be lovers of sweet, juicy fruits. 

Range:

    Sasquatch sightings are reported yearly in nearly every corner of North America. The map below and to the left shows a statistical graphing of their range. (Personally I believe that the southern Skunk Ape does not range so far north as generally they are found in swamplands, but as previously mentioned, we really have no idea.) To gain a better understanding of where sasquatches can be found, I suggest using the BFRO.net sighting database. It is the world’s largest collection of sightings and encounters and each report is followed up by a BFRO investigator who personally interviews the witness and visit’s the reported sighting spot. The sightings are listed by country, state and county.  
"Bigfoot Range" by www.Bucknell.edu


Movement:

    Do bigfoots migrate? This question is hotly debated in bigfoot circles. Due to the elusiveness of these animals, tracking their movements is virtually impossible. Some efforts have been made to track their movement based on statistics showing reported sightings by time of year. From these studies, two theories have emerged. One proposes that sasquatches migrate away from colder climates in the winter. Another, supported by the famous Dr. Jeff Meldrum, proposes they migrate to follow the yearly rains, preferring to stay in a wetter climate. And yet, still some researchers believe that the animals do not migrate, but roam the land continuously, similar to hunter-gatherer tribes.
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1 comment:

  1. I had a large male and a smaller sasquatch of unknown sex follow me home .The distance between the interaction are and my home is around a mile to a mile and a half.I have had repeated interaction(knocks,tree breaking,tree and stick signs, watching through my window. ) Everything has been positive no rock throwing or shadowing etc.It seems that when i go to their "home " they respond by coming to mine.I am trying to forge a friendship with the sasquatch who i believe are not animals but another race or relative of humans.

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