Bigfoot. As soon as you heard that word, you probably thought one of two things—either you believe they exist, or you don’t. In this episode of Wildlife Matters, the Masked Biologist delves into the world of cryptozoology and the ceaseless hunt for sasquatch.
My boys were lounging in front of the television one hot summer day watching a marathon of episodes of shows about self-professed bigfoot experts doing their best to capture one in a cage or at least on video or audio. The type and quality of these reality shows vary widely, from more realistic to comically outrageous. Of course, the inevitable question comes to me—is there such a thing as bigfoot?
First, some terminology. Bigfoot was a name created by a newspaper reporter over fifty years ago because of some mysterious prints left in the mud on a logging job in northern California. Sasquatch is another term for the same creature, poorly translated from a word that in First Nations language basically means something like wild man. So, if I use bigfoot or sasquatch interchangeably, it is because it is.
Who are “they?” Cryptozoologists. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, cryptozoology is the study of and search for animals and especially legendary animals (such as Sasquatch) usually in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence. So cryptozoologists pursue creatures of myth and legend, including man-apes, the loch ness monster, mermaids, even leprechauns. They take their pursuits very seriously and apply significant knowledge and effort to their craft.
Generally scientists agree sasquatch is a large ape-like creature that walks more or less upright on two feet; when standing erect it is described as being 7-8 feet tall. its body is covered with long hair, usually reddish or brownish. It usually inhabits densely forested areas, and is active at night. It is generally solitary, although the young travel with their mother. It stacks long sticks or poles in a leaning “X” or tee-pee shape, possibly to help it remember important locations (food, water, cover) or mark territory. It communicates through knocking on trees or by clacking stones together, as well as using some howling or whooping vocalizations. It is generally omnivorous, eating plants, nuts, berries, insects, small animals, fish, mollusks, crayfish, and the like. It does not hibernate in the winter, although it does alter its activity somewhat.
That is extensive life history information for a creature whose existence is unproven. It has been compiled from several sources, from first-hand eyewitness accounts to exhaustive investigations by cryptozoologists and scientists. Yet, no one has ever been able to provide conclusive scientific evidence of the creature. Plaster casts of footprints are most common, maybe hair samples or blurry photos or videos, but these can often be dismissed or debunked, which weakens credibility and makes some eyewitnesses afraid to come forward.
There are some challenges to the notion of the existence of this creature, at least in Wisconsin. For example, most of our forested areas are routinely travelled by people; you would think someone would have come across a portion of a skeleton or remains. First hand accounts of encounters or observations are very rare, yet many people believe this creature exists, here in Wisconsin, and roams the Northwoods at night. when you consider how many digital infrared trail cameras are in the woods, and most people now have cameras on them at all times, clear digital photos should be readily available.
One could refute these challenges easily too. Think about all the creatures we have in Wisconsin that you have never personally seen. Carcasses? I can tell you from first-hand experience that our effective scavengers can dismantle and spread every last bit of a bear carcass in less than two weeks. And photos? I routinely view photos from people that have ordinary creatures in extraordinary poses that make them difficult to identify.
So, do we have sasquatch in Wisconsin? I am not going to answer that one for you; my opinion is my own to hold. I have seen and heard things I cannot explain, especially in the woods at night. But I have never seen a sasquatch. I leave you to examine known facts, and challenge your imagination, to decide for yourself.
Striving to make new things familiar and familiar things new, this is the Masked Biologist bringing you Wildlife Matters from the heart of Wisconsin’s great Northwoods.