Are We Closing in on Bigfoot?
DNA evidence, amazing photos, increased sightings and new high-tech detection methods suggest that we may be close to discovering the truth about Bigfoot
In early April, 2001, British scientists made a startling announcement. After examining the DNA in a strand of hair thought to come from a Yeti – the Asian cousin to America's Bigfoot – scientists were unable to identify it as coming from any known animal.
This astonishing discovery is the most recent peak of what has become a growing mountain of evidence that we share this planet with an as-yet undiscovered species – or perhaps several species – of bipedal primates. And whether they are a kind of ape or are more closely related to humans – or something in-between – is unknown. But this new scientific evidence combined with new detailed photos and an increasing number of compelling sightings holds the promise that we may be very close to solving the mystery.
The DNA Evidence
The great Himalayan mountain range lies on the border between India, Nepal and Tibet, which is now part of China. The existence of the Yeti has been known to the people of this region for centuries. The first reliable report of a sighting from a Westerner came in 1925 when N.A. Tombazi, a Greek photographer working as part of a British geological expedition, saw the creature from a distance of about 1,000 feet. Although he did not get a photo of the Yeti, he and other members of the expedition did find footprints. Over the years, many other stories of the Yeti surfaced, and in the West it became known popularly as "The Abominable Snowman." (For more on the history of Yeti sightings, see "Yeti: Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas".)
The long black strand of hair examined by the British scientists was found on the bark of cedar tree in the Kingdom of Bhutan, a small country on the eastern side of the Himalayas. The tall, hairy creature is believed by many locals to inhabit the forests and mountains of Bhutan, where it is called the Migyur. The British were led to this particular tree by Sonam Dhendup, the kingdom's official Yeti hunter. Locals had found a mysterious piece of skin in the hollow of the cedar tree, which they think the creature might have called home. Carefully examining the area, the British scientists found fresh footprints just a few hours old. Inside the tree, they noted claw-like scratch marks and found several strands of the hair.
Some of the hair was taken back to the UK for DNA testing. Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the Oxford Institute of Molecular Medicine and one of the world's leading experts on DNA analysis examined the hair. "We found some DNA in it," he said, "but we don't know what it is. It's not a human, not a bear not anything else we have so far been able to identify. It's a mystery and I never thought this would end in a mystery. We have never encountered DNA that we couldn't recognize before."
Several Bhutanese have actually seen the Yeti. Druk Sherrik, a former member of the country's royal guard, told the British expedition, "It was huge. It must have been nine feet tall. The arms were enormous and hairy. The face was red with a nose like a chimpanzee."
The Yeti has also been captured on video in the so-called Snow Walker footage. In 1996, two hikers making their way through the mountain snows of Nepal captured video of a hairy, upright walking creature trudging up the side of a hill. The video has yet to be proved or disproved.
But the DNA test has proved that there is an unknown creature out there. What kind of creature that hair belongs to is unknown, but when one considers it along with the footprints and the eyewitness sightings, the case for a previously unknown ape or hominid is strengthened. The DNA is likely to inspire new expeditions to find the Yeti.
The Skunk Ape Photos
Bigfoot-like creatures have been spotted in virtually every country of the world and in almost all of the US states. It's known as Sasquatch in the US Northwest, as Bigfoot around the Ohio Valley and as the Skunk Ape in Florida. The Skunk Ape has been sighted many times and even photographed, but at a distance that made it difficult to distinguish exactly what it was.
In the autumn of 2000, however, an elderly resident of Sarasota snapped some amazingly clear, close and detailed photos of what is obviously some kind of primate. The photos and complete story of the sighting can be seen at the website of Loren Coleman, a veteran cryptozoologist and author who has scrutinized the pictures.
The couple, whose names have been kept confidential, decided to try to photograph the creature after it invaded their property on several nights, apparently looking for food. "For two nights prior," the wife said, "it had been taking apples that my daughter brought down from up north off our back porch. These pictures were taken on the third night it had raided my apples." The photos were taken right in their back yard.
|"I didn't even see it as I took the first picture because it was so dark. As soon as the flash went off for the second time it stood up and started to move."|
The woman took her camera into the backyard after hearing strange, deep "whoomp" noises. She couldn't see anything because of the darkness and the dense foliage surrounding her property, but she aimed her flash camera in the direction of the noises and snapped away. "I didn't even see it as I took the first picture because it was so dark," the woman said. "As soon as the flash went off for the second time it stood up and started to move. I then heard the orangutan walk off into the woods."
The couple called it an orangutan because that is the closest thing they could liken it to. Indeed, the photographs reveal a creature that does have a distinctly ape-like or orangutan-like appearance. "It only came back one more night after that and took some apples that my husband left out in order to get a better look at it. We left out four apples. I cut two of them in half. The orangutan only took the whole apples. We didn't see it take them. We waited up but eventually had to go to bed."
Loren Coleman has been very cautious in his handling and examination of the photographs. With today's digital imaging and photo manipulation capabilities via a home computer, one must be wary of fakes. One expert who studied the pictures, David Bittner, a well-known videographic, photographic and film analyst, and partner of Pixel Workshop, Inc., told Coleman, "I'm pretty impressed with it so far, at least in terms of it being a real photograph, and not a compositing job or a cardboard cutout."
Could it be a man in an ape suit? The details revealed in the photos seem to make this unlikely. Enhancements of the original photos by Coleman and Bittner show forehead lines, yellow canines, fingernails, hair and other significant details. There are also behavioral aspects that lean in favor of this being a real animal. "A few primate, Bigfoot, and cryptozoological students and scholars have sent in their insightful comments," writes Coleman on his website. "One note reinforces something we had noticed ourselves, namely that the animal is displaying to the photographer, a characteristic 'pant hoot' expression. A hoaxer would need to be extremely familiar with the finer points of pongid behavior to include this aspect within a hoaxed scenario."
So if it's real, what is it? "The various analyses of the two photographs are holding up and there does not seem to be computer fakery or apparent hoaxing involved," Coleman says. "Whether or not this is an escaped animal or a mystery primate remains to be seen, however."
Sasquatch Body Imprint
Sightings of Bigfoot or Sasquatch have been reported in the American Northwest for well over a century. Scores of footprint casts have been made, and several controversial photos and even motion picture film (the infamous Patterson film) have been taken.
Last September, however, brought some new, compelling evidence for the existence of the mysterious biped. Bigfoot researcher Jeff Meldrum, an anthropology professor at Idaho State University, has been examining a discovery made on September 22 near Mount Adams in the State of Washington. Some think it is a body imprint in the ground of Bigfoot, including its left forearm, hip, thigh and heel.
|The imprint seems to have been made by a large, hair-covered hominid more than 2.5 meters tall.|
The imprint was discovered by LeRoy Fish, a retired wildlife ecologist from Triangles Lake, Oregon., Derek Randles, a landscape architect from Belfair, Washington and Richard Noll, a meteorologist from Edmonds, Washington – all part of a 13-person expedition sponsored by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. The team had gone into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southern Washington state looking for evidence. To lure one of the creatures, the team set out apples in a muddy spot, spread pheromones and played recordings thought to be the calls of other Bigfoots. They returned the next morning to find an impression that they believe was made as the creature sat down and reached over to pick up the bait.
Jeff Meldrum, with the help of a retired physical anthropologist and a wildlife biologist, examined the cast and concluded that it could not be attributed to any animal commonly known in the Northwest. They said it may represent an unknown great ape. Meldrum said the imprint seems to have been made by a large, hair-covered hominid more than 2.5 meters tall.
Despite the sporadic sightings and occasional footprints, Bigfoot has been very successful at evading humans and their cameras. It is theorized that the creature must be highly sensitive to the presence and approach of humans to so effectively keep hidden from them.
Bigfoot's mastery of hide-and-seek may meet its match, however, if the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) is successful in implementing its latest high-tech plan to capture the hairy one on film and video: motion-triggered cameras and even webcams. The benefit to these self-operating or remote-controlled devices is that humans do not need to be present to operate them. Bigfoot, they hope, won't know the cameras are there.
Thom Powell is head of BFRO's Wireless Wilderness Project that aims to place wireless webcams and microphones in areas where Bigfoot has previously been spotted. Triggered by movement, the webcams would turn on only when something moves in front of them. True, they are likely to catch a lot of deer, squirrels and other common wildlife as they move through the forest, but there's always the chance that Bigfoot will make an appearance. And that would lend tremendous credibility to the pursuit of the creature. "The impact that such evidence would have on cryptozoology would help sway certain scientific parties," said Powell. "[Bigfoot researchers] are tired of being the point men on the 'does it exist?' debate." BFRO is currently seeking funding for the project.
Will we ever solve the mystery of Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Skunk Ape or Yeti? Perhaps we shouldn't lump them all together; they may each be very different creatures and represent quite different mysteries. But with expeditions and investigations on the increase and with the help of some high-tech tools, we may very well be close to discovering what some of these strange beasts are.