Published on March 11, 2013
Close highway encounter on Highway 287 near Woodville. Read more...
Response: It is a common perception that, if the wood ape exists at all, it lives only in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern California, British Columbia), since that geographical area is thought to be the only region of North America capable of providing sufficient habitat for such a species to remain hidden and elusive. This line of thinking usually goes hand-in-hand with the notion that there is inadequate forested habitat in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana to allow for a population of large non-human primates to exist undocumented by science.
Many who live outside the borders of the Lone Star State, and indeed, many who live within its borders, actually know little of its varied landscapes and environment. Thanks to decades of Hollywood portrayals of the region, many visualize Texas (and Oklahoma) as being arid, desert-like, and complete with abundant saguaro cacti. (The range of the saguaro cactus actually is limited to the Sonoran Desert of extreme southeastern California, southern Arizona and adjoining northwestern Mexico.)
While portions of far western Texas and Oklahoma are certainly semi-arid, the eastern sections of both states receive abundant annual rainfall. These areas are heavily forested and feature an abundance of waterways and lakes; they are very much ecological clones of the two neighboring eastern states of the region, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The combined total amount of forestland in the four-state region equates to roughly 65,000,000 acres, or 100,000 square miles (the size of the state of Oregon). According to The Online Handbook of Texas, there are roughly 22,000,000 acres of forest in Texas alone; per the Arkansas Forestry Association, there are roughly 19,000,000 acres of forest in Arkansas; the Louisiana Forestry Association reports that there are 14,000,000 acres of forest in Louisiana; Oklahoma has approximately 10,000,000 acres of forest as indicated by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
While the forestlands of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma may be somewhat more parceled, or discontinuous, than northwestern forests, it is obvious that they are enormous in scope and depth, contrary to the misperceptions of some. Wildlife biologist Dr. John Bindernagel, who visited the region in 2001 and 2002, was struck by the richness and scope of the region’s forests, which are predominantly mixed deciduous, as opposed to the largely coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Bindernagel recognized the value and productivity of deciduous forests in terms of wildlife habitat and he pointed out that large species of mammals living in the southern forests would almost certainly require smaller home ranges than in northern coniferous forests.
Not only is habitat in the south-central U.S. sufficient to support a population of large undocumented primates, but reported observations of ape-like creatures are by no means exclusive to the Pacific Northwest in terms of both historical and contemporary contexts. Indeed, an early journalistic account of such a creature in Arkansas and Louisiana was featured by the Hornellsville Tribune in 1856. The so-called “Wild Woman of the Navidad” (Texas), was reported to have been quite fleet-footed and covered in short brown hair; the reports of the wild woman originated in 1837. The Memphis Enquirer reported of a similar encounter with a “wild man” in Greene County, Arkansas, in 1851. The residents of Gatesville, Texas were reported to be “excited” about the appearance of a large orangutan-like creature in 1871, as reported by the Michigan Argus that same year.
In addition to anecdotal accounts, physical evidence regarding the existence of the wood ape outside of the Pacific Northwest has been recovered. For example, in 1999, Jimmy Chilcutt, a latent fingerprint examiner and primate dermal ridge expert, studiously examined an alleged wood ape footprint casting from Georgia, taken by a Pike County sheriff’s deputy. Chilcutt’s conclusion was that the cast contained unique dermal ridge patterns and that the footprint was made by “an unknown primate.” Chilcutt further concluded that the dermal ridge patterns on the Georgia cast matched those of a cast he had examined from Washington.
So, in conclusion, sufficient and appropriate habitat exists to support a population of large primate such as the wood ape, historical records indicate the presence of the species in Texas and adjacent states, and physical evidence comparable to that collected in the Pacific Northwest has been collected in southern parts of the U.S.
Response: Taxonomy can be a subjective game, subject to changing rules. However, as implied by the term “missing link,” the wood ape, sasquatch, or bigfoot gives every indication of being a primate, one that might be characterized as a hominoid, a member of the taxonomic grouping that includes humans, gibbons (the lesser apes), and pongids (the great apes), together with their extinct ancestors and relatives. Most academicians who have studied the evidence fall into the camp that speculates the wood ape is an undocumented species of great ape. This position is supported in part by analyses of hundreds of casts of purported bigfoot tracks by Idaho State University biological anthropologist and primate anatomist Jeff Meldrum and Washington State University physical anthropologist Grover Krantz, who argued that the inferred foot anatomy and mechanics were apelike, in spite of superficial similarities to the human foot.
One of the most startling, and disconcerting to some, aspects of the wood ape phenomenon concerns the bipedal mode of locomotion typically reported by those who claim to have seen the species.
Primate anatomy experts who have studied the so-called Skookum Body Cast (collected in September 2000 in Washington state), such as Daris Swindler, a prominent University of Washington anthropologist and primate taxonomist, have determined that part of the imprint, allegedly made by a wood ape, showed a huge heel and Achilles tendon, physical features indicative of a bipedal species.
Primate bipedalism is interpreted by some anthropologists as a unique characteristic of the genus Homo. However, Carlton Coon, former president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists and one of the few anthropologists who have publicly expressed confidence that the wood ape exists, argued that walking on two legs was not necessarily a sign that the wood ape was close kin to humans, stating that, “More than one primate can have found it advantageous to stand and walk erect.”
Other lines of reasoning support the position that the wood ape does not represent an intermediary form, or missing link, between humans and apes. This would include the absolute absence of credible reported observations of rudimentary cultural traits beyond what might ordinarily be expected from a great ape, such as the construction of crude “nests” or shelters or the throwing of objects. This subject is discussed more fully by Dr. John Bindernagel in his book, North America’s Great Ape: the Sasquatch.
Response: Physical remains of a huge ape species have been found, but not yet in North America. Some researchers, including prominent primatologist Daris Swindler, are convinced that the evidence serves to indicate that the wood ape is a modern-day descendent of Gigantopithecus blackii, a widespread Asian ape of gigantic proportions that possibly lived as recently as 200,000 years ago, according to the fossil record.
Of course, when most people ask this question they are usually limiting their inquiry to Canada and the United States. There is no definitive answer regarding the absence of physical remains in contemporary times. The best we can conjecture is that the wood ape is a very rare species and that, like most animals that perish in the wild, their remains do not last long in the heavily wooded areas they seem to prefer. Even the remains of common known animals that died from natural causes or were not killed due to contact with humans are rarely found in the wild.
Response: As with most questions pertaining to the species, we can only speculate regarding why a wood ape has not been killed, inadvertently or intentionally, to produce a corpse.
There are apparently credible accounts of wood apes being hit by vehicles, and possibly injured. Needless to say, no bodies have been recovered. One such account from Oregon was investigated by wildlife biologists LeRoy Fish and Alton Higgins. Both men corresponded and spoke with the reporting witness extensively over a period of months and found him to be credible. Unfortunately, neither investigator was able to interview the second witness, with whom the reporting witness had lost contact.
A rather large number of individuals claim to have shot a wood ape, or at least shot at one, including NAWAC investigators. NAWAC investigators found blood traces from what they believe was a wounded wood ape from their 2011 field study Operation Endurance. Due to environmental degradation, attempts to extract DNA failed. Wildlife biologist John Bindernagel investigated a report of a wounded wood ape. The witness claimed he shot the creature in the arm. In the following years Dr. Bindernagel reports that he investigated several sightings from independent sources where witnesses reported seeing a wood ape with an apparently damaged arm.
However, there are a few accounts of wood apes being fatally wounded. One of the most thorough investigations of a claimed wood ape killing was performed by Curt Nelson, a senior research scientist at the University of Minnesota.
Response: Based on the pervasiveness within Native American and First Nations lore of creatures resembling contemporary descriptions of what is commonly referred to as the sasquatch or "Bigfoot," it is reasonable to conclude that the wood ape has been part of the North American fauna for many centuries.
While the fossil record from Texas establishes that primitive primates were indigenous here, it seems most likely that the wood ape originally migrated to this continent from Eurasia, as did many other mammal species. Jeff Glickman suggests in his “continuity theory” that the giant ape known as G. blackii, which lived for millions of years in Asia, moved across the Beringia land bridge to establish itself in North America. This has also been referred to as the “great ape hypothesis.”
Although G. blackii fossils have not been found in North America, it is reasonable to propose that the species, or a descendant of it, may have indeed crossed the Beringia land bridge, as suggested by Glickman, Krantz and others. Fossil remains of Asian species, such as the red panda (Pristinailurus bristoli), an ecological contemporary of G. blackii, have been found in North America (Tennessee and Washington). Such findings provide supportive evidence that the great ape hypothesis is at least plausible.
Response: It stands to reason that any legitimate extant species, listed or unlisted, would have a breeding population. The question probably originates from the notion, perpetuated by some, that "Bigfoot" is more of a monster, myth or legend, rather than an existing unlisted species of primate. It should be noted that gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), prior to formal recognition of the species, were frequently described as ape-men or monsters.
Response: Probably not very many. In spite of the broad distribution of reported sightings in North America, circumstantial evidence suggests that a large percentage of sightings in any particular area possibly represent repeat observations of the same animal or a limited number of individuals. Adult animals are very large, implying long life spans and low rates of reproduction. Taken together, these and other observations and probable limiting factors suggest that the species is rare. Upon definitive documentation, the wood ape will almost certainly be declared endangered, until or unless population data indicating otherwise are eventually collected. It seems reasonable to propose that a couple thousand of the animals may exist in small population pockets spread across remote areas of North America.
Response: For an individual hunter, hiker, or motorist who clearly sees a wood ape, the question is moot: They have their proof.
However, there is an established scientific method for the recognition of new animal species. There are very few examples of an animal being listed through photographs or even DNA evidence alone. A specimen is required. As such, the North American Wood Ape Conservancy is actively proceeding with plans to obtain irrefutable definitive proof to secure recognition of the existence of this large undocumented primate species.
Response: Any large species of animal can be potentially dangerous. In 1998 a tapir attacked a zoo keeper in Oklahoma City and bit off her arm. Deer have been known to attack and even kill humans. In March 2004, at the Dallas Zoo, a male gorilla escaped, injuring several people onsite before he was shot down by local law enforcement. Each year zoo animals, wild animals, and pets injure humans.
One should not presume that the wood ape is incapable of endangering a human; however, thousands of reports accumulating over the last two hundred years or so almost universally indicate that the wood ape is a timid and wary animal, preferring to retreat or hide when near humans. However, like other primates, particularly the great apes, wood apes also appear to be highly intelligent and curious, and anecdotal evidence suggests that they will occasionally approach human structures or vehicles, particularly under cover of darkness, perhaps motivated by the possibility of finding food. The NAWAC has documented such approaches at remote study sites deep in the Ouachita Mountains. As such, a number of NAWAC researchers have seen and been near the creatures; while a wood ape may sound intimidating, and apparently they will sometimes exhibit seemingly aggressive intimidation behavior (very much like the great apes), they seem to want to avoid direct contact with humans.
Response: The February 2007 Discovery Channel documentary Best Evidence: Bigfoot included commentary from anthropologist Dr. Nina Jablonski who repeatedly asserted that the wood ape could not exist because of insufficient food resources to support such a large mammal. This position is untenable.
As pointed out by U.S. Forest Service anthropologist Kathy Strain, hunter/gatherer groups of Native Americans thrived for centuries in many of the same habitat types that today produce bigfoot reports. Large mammals live in the harshest environments; there is no reason to suppose that the wood ape could not find food where other animals, including large omnivores such as bears and packs of coyotes, are capable of surviving.
Response: Reliable reported observations of the wood ape do seem to indicate that it is an omnivore; that is, it is an animal that feeds on both plants and other animals. Using the anecdotal data supplied by the thousands of reported sightings from North America, it is reasonable to propose that the wood ape’s diet consists of nuts, leaves, berries, fruit, fish, shellfish, crawfish, insects, small rodents, squirrels, rabbits, deer, elk, wild hogs, and domesticated farm animals such as chickens and hogs.
Other primates, such as humans (Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), consume animal flesh, and as such, are both omnivores as well. Moreover, recent studies suggest that G. blackii was an opportunistic omnivore, aptly fitting reported observations of the wood ape.
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