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Apes Among Us: Encounters

Today we are pleased to announce the release of the first episode or our new podcast series, Apes Among Us. It can be heard on the podcast's website or via the player below. It can also be subscribed to via iTunes and most popular podcasting apps (here's the show's RSS feed).

As explained by the show's co-host Brian Brown in the opening to the first episode, the NAWAC consulted with John Green prior to his death and prior to choosing the name of our production. John gave the group his blessing to use "Apes Among Us" which was, of course, the subtitle to his seminal work Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us. In many ways, the NAWAC has always felt inspired by John's work and perspective. The last chapter to The Apes Among Us, published all the way back in 1978, could almost have been something of a manifesto for the group and our approach to this subject. So much so, that in consultation with John, we previously published it in its entirety to our site. Our work on this podcast is both dedicated to John's memory and stands as a living tribute to his body of work.

Episode one of Apes Among Us, "Encounters," covers just a fraction of the wood ape encounters experienced or investigated by members of the NAWAC.

  • Co-host Brandon Lentz interviews one of the group's investigators concerning a visual encounter he had with two wood apes in the Ouachita Mountains. Sketches of the animals are found below.

  • Brandon and Brian discuss a joint visual encounter they had through a thermal imaging device. An image recreating the experience is also linked below.

  • In a recurring segment called "Encounter File," Brandon talks with NAWAC Investigator and board member Mike Mayes about how the group conducts its investigations as well as a discussion of a recent notable report sent in by a member of the public.

  • Alton Higgins, Daryl Colyer, Ken Helmer, and Paul Bowman have a "coffee house roundtable" of their various combined experiences investigating and researching wood ape behavior.

  • Finally, Brandon and Brian have a conversation with Alton Higgins and Daryl Colyer about the genesis and reception of the Ouachita Project Monograph.

Many thanks to all the NAWAC members who contributed to this show. As in all things we do, it was a team effort. If you like the show and want to hear more, please take a moment to rate and review the show in iTunes as it helps others find it and we want to hear what you think. Also, if you haven't already, take a moment to like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter in order to stay abreast of our future endeavors. 


Season One, Episode One "Encounters" show notes:

Report #01120043: Man out walking for exercise at local track has unexpected encounter with upright hair-covered subject

Ed's sketches (click to enlarge)







Brian's rendering of approximately what he saw through the thermal imager (click to enlarge)

 

 

   

The World Needs To Know

I’ve always been fascinated with nature. From an early age, I fondly remember seeking out the world beyond the comforts of home. I spent much of my childhood on a tract of family land, turning over logs to catch sight of reptiles and amphibians, wading in a stream catching turtles, and looking for clues of animals that I had never before seen. I desperately wanted to know everything that lived in the woods. As I grew older, I graduated to bigger animals. I started looking for mammals: White-tailed deer, black bears, gray wolves, and otters were all common targets of my curiosity. Maturity taught me that you can provide healthy sustenance by hunting, and I’ve spent decades pursuing that craft.

Brandon Lentz is a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman from Minnesota.

After feeling like I knew quite a bit about my own backyard, I started to seek out bigger mysteries of the natural world. I went to my local library nearly every day, seeking new animals to learn about. On one of these trips, I happened upon a book that had the silhouette of an apelike creature standing on two legs on its cover. The book was The Mysterious Monsters, by Robert and Francis Guenette (1975). Intrigued, I opened the book and flipped through it. I stopped at the famous image from the Patterson-Gimlin footage of an apelike creature, walking upright and looking back at the cameraman: Frame 352.

Frame 352

I was now beyond intrigued. Could there really be a hairy bipedal primate in the woods of North America? Given my predilection for mystery in nature, I had to know more. Since then, I’ve spent fifteen years reading everything I could find about this creature known as “bigfoot.” Tiring of the constant bickering and hoaxes within the bigfoot Internet community, I decided to take action and find out for myself what is really happening in the woods, and why people in different parts of the country were reporting the same thing: a tall, hairy, bipedal creature that is unlisted by science.

Drawing by Pete Travers, used with permission.

I had been a fan of the now defunct podcast The Bigfoot Show, and was utterly fascinated by the stories out of a place called “Area X.” The people on this show sounded sincere, like they had genuine stories to tell. I sought out Brian Brown, host of The Bigfoot Show, to ask him a few questions about this group called the North American Wood Ape Conservancy, or NAWAC. Brian was kind and thoughtful in answering questions from a stranger, and the NAWAC seemed to be the most legitimate and scientific group trying to solve the bigfoot mystery, so I decided to become a member. I sent my application to the group’s board of directors, and was accepted as an associate.

The NAWAC Annual Retreat at the Bowman Lodge near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

One week later, I found myself in a vehicle with Brian and other members of the NAWAC on our way to Oklahoma for the annual retreat at a beautiful ranch near Tulsa. Despite not having met me, I was invited to meet the group and hear their stories. What I learned that weekend seemed almost too good to be true; this group of biologists, outdoorsmen, professionals, scientists, and naturalists had very real experiences with what they called wood apes. Not only did they have knowledge about this mysterious animal, but they were real people banded together to try and save a species that they knew needed help. There was a kinship in the air that felt genuine. I knew then that I made the right decision in joining the organization.

After spending time with members in the field and meeting the requirements to become an investigator, I was invited to this place we all know as “Area X.” I signed up to spend a week in the Ouachita Mountain range with the hope of satisfying decades of curiosity and to help the group save the habitat of a species they all knew to be real. Having never had any sort of encounter myself, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I knew I had to help.

I arrived at a prearranged location on a Thursday and met Mark McClurkan, an NAWAC board member, and we were soon driving down a long, extremely rough, stretch of road, or more accurately, an old two-track mule trail. Upon turning a corner near where Alton Higgins found a trackway of 16-inch tracks back in 2000, we both observed an upright, light brown animal moving at a speed that I had never before imagined possible through such terrain. (We later estimated its speed to be in the 20-25 mph range.) The huge animal appeared to be running on two legs and seemed unnaturally smooth, as though it were floating across the forest. I saw the sun reflecting off its hair. I calculated that I saw the creature for about three seconds. I was floored; I hadn’t even unpacked my gear and already I’d learned that the stories were true. I’m in Area X, and I’ve encountered what appears to be an unlisted species of ape. “Bigfoot” is more than myth! Amazing!

The creek near where Lentz and McClurkan saw a large hairy upright figure in the woods.

Shortly after unpacking my gear at the primitive hunting cabin and trying to take in what I had just witnessed, I heard what sounded like a loud clear “wood knock” from the top of the nearby mountain.

“So something does knock wood against trees! Why?” I’ve been here for two hours and already the legends and rumors have proven to be true, at least in my mind.

The following afternoon, longtime NAWAC member Robert Taylor and I climbed the mountain behind the cabin to explore and look for evidence. While on the slope, I discovered what may have been a track. Upon inspection it seemed similar to what I had seen in the classic sasquatch books. I soon took a concealed position alone, not knowing what else I was going to experience. As I settled in, I suddenly noticed the distinct odor of what other team members have described as a “wet horse smell.”

The creek where Brandon Lentz heard boulders moving or being tossed.

Later on, I heard rhythmic rock-on-rock clacking sounds coming from the creek. What other animal could possibly bang rocks together?

Still later, after I had been sitting quietly and silently, observing and studying, I heard a large crash roughly 100 yards away from me. It was the obvious sounds of a tree falling to the ground. Trees do fall, the teams have documented dozens of trees falling, but this is the first time I’ve heard one fall in my many years of being in the woods. I found myself becoming unnerved for the first time. I decided to leave my position and head back to the relative security of the cabin, where I could process everything that had happened in peace.

During an evening hike along the base of the mountain, I heard another loud clear knock sound directly up the slope from me. Was I being tracked?

Late that night, Saturday morning, actually, I took my first shift at 3:45 AM of what the NAWAC refers to as “overwatch” using an ATN thermal scope. After a few enjoyable hours watching the resident gray foxes running around, I heard what sounded like large boulders being moved in the creek bed. Whatever was moving these boulders had to have considerable strength. Listening closely, minutes later, Brian Brown and I heard a sound that gave me chills. An animal produced a vocalization that sounded exactly like what is referred to as the “Ohio Howl.” I was out in the middle of nowhere, in the pitch-black darkness, and then the howling started. It reverberated throughout the valley. In my opinion, there is literally no known animal that could make the sound I heard. To put it mildly, it was startling.

The creek area where Brandon Lentz and Tim Sievert heard rock-clacking and huff-barks, similar to gorilla huff-barks.

On Sunday my teammates left to pick up new members. I decided to stay behind for the hours they would be gone, remaining quietly in the cabin to see if any rocks would be launched at the roof. When the heat became unbearable, I walked outside to the base of the mountain and yelled out, as my teammates had suggested, as a way to stir up animals. Much to my surprise, a charcoal-colored animal broke out from behind a tree on the slope and disappeared behind dense foliage without making a sound. Did I see what looked like the head of a gorilla?

Later, after I found a secluded spot to wait out the intense heat, I produced a high-pitched “WHOOP!” and immediately heard the same sound returned from the top of the mountain. Another attempt produced no response, but I couldn’t help but wonder, “Did I just interact with an undocumented species of ape?” Incredible!

The following two days produced more possible encounters while in the company of teammates. For example, Tim Sievert and I heard rock-clacking during a walk down to the creek on Monday. It takes hands to beat rocks together. When I answered with my own rocks, the clacking ceased and was replaced with a low, rough, barking-huff (documented by NAWAC teams before).

Late that same night, as the team sat outside in darkness listening to the sounds of the night, NAWAC board member and team leader Brian Brown and I both saw what we were convinced were apes through ATN thermal scopes. The creatures had silently approached the group from different directions and were quietly observing us. We would have never seen the figures without a thermal unit. During a recreation conducted afterwards, Brian estimated that the creature he saw was easily eight feet tall and three times my width.

The next day I was with Brian again near the location in 2014 where fellow NAWAC Field Investigators Travis Lawrence and Gene Bass had spotted four seemingly young apes that resembled chimpanzees. Our intent was to try to flush animals back towards three other previously deployed members. Seconds after Brian said, “Nobody ever comes to this spot, it’s a good place to hide…,” we came upon two large animals that hurriedly took off in different directions. From what I could tell, one was brown while the other appeared to be the same charcoal color I had seen earlier on the slope of the mountain. I focused on the charcoal animal; Brian focused on the brown animal. They were large, hairy, and very quick. We had practically walked on top of them. I wondered if the animals were trying to conserve energy in the oppressive heat and waited to move until we were almost on them. I don’t know what other large animals sit together and run off in opposite directions when spooked.

Early the next morning, Wednesday, I was packed and heading out of the valley to start my long journey home. I had much to process.

I left Area X feeling like I had just witnessed a world that very few will ever know. Any illusions about the existence of these animals were completely shattered. From what I could tell after my week in that place, these animals are real. What’s more, they are strong, nimble, incredibly fast, incredibly smart, and intensely curious about us. My mind was spinning.

Why doesn’t anybody seem to care about this?

Why doesn’t anyone acknowledge what’s happening in the wilderness?

Doesn’t anybody know that habitat is shrinking at a ridiculously fast rate? Why is the subject of undiscovered apes in North America, or “bigfoot,” such a big joke to the general public? They exist! One merely has to search with focus, determination, and persistence.

I struggled with my experience for days, wondering, for fear of ridicule, if I should tell anyone outside of the NAWAC. I have since decided that what is happening in the Ouachita Mountains is far bigger in importance than the possibility of being the brunt of jokes. I know what happened in Area X. I know what I saw, heard, and smelled.

I have concluded that something very special is happening in the Ouachitas. It is maddening to realize that, while I can tell of my experiences to others in an effort to help an undocumented species, I know that most people will look at me like I belong in a mental hospital. So be it.

Brandon  Lentz spends much of his time in the outdoors, hunting, fishing, hiking, and these days aiding in establishing the North American wood ape as a legitimate species.

The world needs to know that this species, the North American wood ape, exists, and that it could very well be on the brink of extinction. I am determined, along with the rest of the NAWAC, to continue to sacrifice time, effort, and expense, the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, to bring these very real and spectacular animals out of the sphere of superstition, speculation, anecdote, myth, and legend, and into the light of scientific recognition.

***

Brandon Lentz is a Field Investigator with the North American Wood Ape Conservancy and lives in Minnesota with his dog Luka. There, he hunts and fishes the dense forests and many waterways that Minnesota has to offer. 

   

Area X Presentation From Beachfoot 20

Bob Strain, a North American Wood Ape Conservancy member living in California, recently made a presentation on Area X at the annual Beachfoot conferece. 


Spacial thanks to Rictor Riolo for creating and editing the video.

   

NAWAC Expands Areas of Investigation

The North American Wood Ape Conservancy today announces an expansion of the areas in which the group operates. Previously, the group was active in the original four state region of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. With today's announcement, the group has created the following operational regions:

 
Northeast Southeast West
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Vermont 
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • California
  • Nevada
 South-Central  Upper-Midwest  
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
 
  • Iowa
  • Michigan (Upper Peninsula)
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
 

Operations in these regions will include investigation of received encounter reports including on-site visits (if necessary or deemed appropriate), field work in areas of potential wood ape habitat, member development activities, and educational opportunities aimed at the general public. 

These regions are formed around groups of NAWAC members who, through field work and completion of other prerequisite efforts, have achieved investigator status within the organization. The NAWAC only publishes encounter reports that minimally include a witness interview by an investigator. Many times, the group will also conduct an on-site investigation of the encounter. Being able to travel to and back from these sites in a reasonable amount of time greatly dictated which states were included in each region.

Membership of the group has expanded significantly in the past few years and with it has come individuals of great talent, dedication, and ability who have shown themselves to be qualified investigators. Individuals interested in membership to the group can submit an application here

   

Ouachita Project Monograph

 

Ouachita Project Monograph


The mission of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy is to facilitate official recognition and conservation of what it believes is a rare unlisted North American anthropoid species. Pursuant to those objectives, the organization has focused its time and resources in the Ouachita Mountain Ecoregion, dispatching teams to conduct prolonged searches and document all pertinent observations in a location with a history of reported sightings of large ape-like creatures.

The investigations, conducted over the course of four years, ranged from sixty to one hundred twenty days in duration, and produced observations, evidence, and information thought to be significant, though not definitive to the point of validating the existence of a native North American anthropoid species. Some of the more notable thoughts and impressions recorded by scores of NAWAC team members are described and discussed in the Ouachita Project monograph.

Download the monograph here: Ouachita Project Monograph — Version 1.1 (PDF, 5.2 MB)

Frequently Asked Questions
Following release of the Ouachita Project Monograph to the public, we have found that certain questions repeatedly come up regarding our approach, observations, and conclusions. In an effort to more efficiently address these questions, we've created this FAQ. If you have additional questions you think may be worth addressing, please feel free to contact us.

Revision History
Initial release, 3 March 2015
Version 1.1, 12 March 2015 — Updated to reflect confirmation of results from DNA test to hair samples (page 102), elaboration on alternative sources of rock impacts (page 63), clarification of the length of time the security system was in place (page 156), as well as correction of various typos.

Video
Here's a flyover video shot in June, 2014, that provides a feeling for the denseness of the surrounding area.

 

Audio
The audio files below (provided to illustrate the kinds of events described in the paper) were recorded during the Ouachita Project using TASCAM DR-40 and Marantz PMD670 digital recorders, and Sennheiser MKE102S/K6 omni-directional microphones. All but one of the recordings were made in the very early morning hours while team members were asleep or were on overwatch. These files have been amplified and equalized, and in a few cases edited for the sake of brevity and file size. They were culled from literally thousands of hours of audio and are only a small representation of the total audio recorded by the NAWAC during the Ouachita Project. They are all in the WAV audio file format.

Audio clip 1: A wood knock just before dawn right outside the cabin.

Audio clip 2: A rock hits the cabin then a very loud wood knock.

Audio clip 3: Huffs then a rock is thrown onto cabin and rolls around.

Audio clip 4: Huffs then a rock hits the cabin.

Audio clip 5: More huffing before a rock slams the cabin.

Audio clip 6: A whistle, shuffling, huffing, and a rock.

Audio clip 7: Huffs, rock through the trees, slams cabin, then bounces onto the ground.

Audio clip 8: Single huff, then rock zips through trees and pounds cabin.

Audio clip 9: A rock rips through tree limbs and then falls short of the cabin thumping the ground.

Audio clip 10: While the team is talking in front of the cabin around the fire circle, a rock flies through trees and strikes the cabin.

Audio clip 11: A rock hits the loose corrugated metal on the shed and bounces.

Audio clip 12: The so-called “rain of rocks.” While the team lay in bed asleep, the cabin was repeatedly struck by rocks on the roof, and on two walls, including a porch. It went on for several minutes. This is the abridged version.

Audio clip 13: What team members refer to as a “mouth pop,” or "click," documented many times in the field.

Audio clip 14: A recording from NAWAC field audio of what could be “faux speech.”

   

In the United States, Researchers are Hunting for the Mysterious Bigfoot

In a remote valley in the US researchers hunt for a phantom: Bigfoot. Is the mysterious ape creature merely legend, or is it reality? Researchers are looking for it – equipped with guns.

“It’s like a jungle here,” said biologist Alton Higgins. “Large areas are completely undeveloped. The vegetation is dense and the biodiversity is great.” The photos he shows back up his words. Green hills as far as the eye can see, a wild brook that winds through dense brush. The landscape is more reminiscent of Central Africa than the United States, but it is in the Ouachita Mountains, in the heart of North America.

Alton Higgins stands on the steep mountain where he and his colleagues have spent the last decade attempting to obtain definitive evidence of the wood ape as a novel or relic species. Photo: Chris Buntenbah.

Here, in this wild region in Oklahoma, a group of American researchers search for a phantom. An unknown ape, so they claim, lives in these forests. An animal, like the gorilla or chimpanzee, that walks on two legs like a man, is agile, extremely fast, and shy.

“We have now seen them dozens of times,” says Higgins. "Different animals. Juveniles and older. One we call Old Gray. The animal is about two meters tall, heavily muscled and covered with silver-gray hair.” Higgins himself saw Old Gray when the animal flitted across a clearing. Another researcher observed it crossing a river – in spite of its size and stature it was completely silent and graceful on the stones as it entered the undergrowth.

The reports of Alton Higgins and the North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC) sound fantastic. So fantastic that they could have come from the pen of the writer Arthur Conan Doyle. Much like the characters in "The Lost World,” NAWAC researchers maintain they have encountered a kind of forgotten world supporting primeval creatures. “I would probably not believe it if someone else were to tell me,” says Daryl Colyer. “However, I can only stress that our reports are true and these animals undoubtedly exist.”

18 Unique Sightings

Colyer is ex-military intelligence, has a degree in history, is from Texas, and works in the private sector today. “The recent expedition in the summer of 2014 lasted four months and around 40 people participated,” he says. Researchers entered the remote valley in small groups and spent days or weeks. “In 122 days total, there were 18 unique sightings.” Alton Higgins alone saw the creatures four times.

Colyer and the teams documented events that the researchers thought were connected with the mysterious apes. For instance, stones were thrown into the camp of the researchers – the cabin roof, in particular, is a popular target – or limbs were torn and smaller trees were knocked down.

The experiences of Higgins and Colyer are indeed impressive, but not unique. In various places in America great ape-like creatures have been reported again and again, especially in the heavily wooded areas in the northwest. The creatures are known as Bigfoot – because of the huge footprints they leave. Some call them Sasquatch – a name derived from the language of indigenous people to mean Wildman of the Woods. Higgins and his colleagues call them “wood apes.” They want to distance themselves from the term “Bigfoot” – it carries too many negative connotations. It is associated too much with tabloids, hoaxes, and crackpots, says Colyer.

In 2008, a man from Georgia claimed to have killed a Bigfoot. His story dominated press headlines for weeks. In the end, the whole thing turned out to be false.

Officially, Bigfoot does not exist. Most scientists laugh about the claims of Bigfoot researchers. Primatologist Thomas Geissmann of the University of Zurich says such reports are merely entertainment and have no scientific value. “I do not think for a moment that Bigfoot exists,” says the primate researcher who specializes in gibbons. Furthermore, apes live in tropical jungles. “Although I have not read the reports of NAWAC, I know the claims of Bigfoot researchers sufficiently. They never convinced me.”

A Dead Animal as Evidence

Due to the number of scientists involved, the reports of the NAWAC are more credible than others. However, all the NAWAC can present is claims. They have no evidence, a fact criticized by Geissmann: “It would be easy to get a good photo of these animals,” he said. “The researchers would only need a few photo-traps set up in the region, then they should eventually get a clear shot.”

In fact, the NAWAC attempted this. “It was a flop,” says Colyer. “We obtained hundreds of photographs of black bears, but none of a wood ape.”

Gathering photographic evidence is no longer the primary goal of the NAWAC, he explains. Would pictures be enough for either science or the government? Only a dead specimen can provide clear evidence of their existence. Therefore NAWAC researchers no longer chase through the forest with cameras, but with large caliber weapons.

Colyer came very close to providing the ultimate proof in 2011. He fired his shotgun at an upright large animal moving smoothly through the undergrowth. “We found blood spatter on stones, but no body.” It is incredibly difficult to hunt these animals, the experienced hunter explains. “These animals are like ninjas: extremely fast and silent.” Colyer’s NAWAC colleague Travis Lawrence, a high-school math teacher from Spring, Texas, came even closer in the summer of 2013.

Daryl Colyer and Phil Burrows briefly rest as they attempt to collect a wood ape specimen.  Photo: Alton Higgins.

On that night Lawrence was positioned in a tent – with a gun that had a thermal imaging scope. The thermal imaging technology, which is used by rescue workers in the search for missing persons, makes it possible to see creatures in absolute darkness.

Alton Higgins was located near Lawrence in another tent. It served as a kind of bait to attract the interest of wood apes. At about 4 o’clock he awakened. Then he slid the zipper on the tent door to create noise to attract the interest of any lurking primates. Lawrence recalls what happened next: “Suddenly I saw a shining figure [illuminated and visible in the thermal scope] near Alton’s tent. I only saw the upper body, the lower part was hidden by bushes. The figure was tall, had a pointed head and powerful trapezius muscles. For me it was clear what I saw.” Within seconds Lawrence directed the crosshairs on the creature’s head and pulled the trigger. “I thought it was done.”

But disappointment came quickly. Despite an intensive search, they found no corpse. What they did find, where Lawrence had seen the creature, were several branches with damage. “The projectile was deflected significantly,” says Lawrence. He would have made the world a fascinating puzzle poorer, but science a sensational discovery richer.

The Hunt for DNA

The wood ape would have been one of about 30 species of mammals discovered in 2013. Even today, in a world in which humans have penetrated into the most remote reaches of the earth, and Google and Wikipedia give us a sense of omniscience and omnipresence, new creatures are discovered.

UZH primatologist Thomas Geissmann criticized the actions of the NAWAC. "I am sure that it is not necessary to kill a specimen. I have described several new species of monkeys and never had to kill an animal for it. "

In 2005 Geissmann and colleague Urs Thalmann described a new lemur species. Hair as well as photo and video material and audio recordings were enough. “It takes just a few hairs of a Bigfoot to unambiguously tell if it exists and what it is.”

Alton Higgins understands Geissmanns’s reasoning. “We have been trying for years to collect DNA.” After Colyer fired at an ape, traces of blood were found, however, not until several days later. “The blood was dried up, and the analysis brought no DNA to light,” said Higgins.

“They Resembled Chimpanzees”

DNA evidence would have to exist in large quantities. “But our experience has shown that it is very difficult to get that. The analyses are also very expensive. We are therefore convinced that it is most efficient to collect one. It is morally justifiable, especially because it represents the first step towards the protection of the animals.”

Colyer and Higgins scale a rugged mountain slope in the Ouachita Mountains as they seek out sites for camera traps. Photo: Chris Buntenbah.

“We don’t know how many wood apes live in the region, or in North America, or whether they are even at risk,” Higgins says. “The fact that we observe animals of various sizes and hair color in this place suggests a larger group.” In particular, a sighting last summer was significant: four juveniles climbed down from a tree and fled. “They resembled chimpanzees and ran on all fours,” eyewitness Travis Lawrence recalls. From this sighting it can be concluded that there were several mothers in the valley. Higgins regards the place as a refuge, a haven where the animals can feed, rest, and reproduce. "We don’t know yet how many such refuges exist in North America. This may be one of the last."

Click here for the source article.

   

Critical Examination of Todd Standing's Video Subjects

Through special arrangement with its authors, the NAWAC is making available an analysis of the Todd Standing "Sylvanic" video subjects performed by Phil Poling and Daniel Falconer.

Preface: Critical Examination of Standing/Sylvanic Bigfoot Videos.  Drawing from their respective fields of expertise for a combined examination, Phil Poling (formally trained in photography and with a twenty year law enforcement background) and Daniel Falconer (seventeen years working for special effects company and writer of numerous books on film special effects) have come together to analyze Todd Standing’s claimed bigfoot videos. Compiling their observations and reasoning in freely available, illustrated PDF, Falconer and Poling hope this document will be of help to readers who wish to critically examine Standing’s videos and draw their own conclusions. Poling and Falconer had never been in contact or worked with each other before, but their conclusions, reached independently and with the benefit of very different backgrounds, were practically identical. 

 

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Critical Examination of Standing/Sylvanic Bigfoot Videos (PDF, 1.3MB)




 

 


   

What Can We Expect to Learn from Wood Ape DNA?

[The following article originally appeared at the Texas Cryptid Hunter's Blogsite; it has been slightly modified for the North American Wood Ape Conservancy website and it is used here with the express consent of Michael C. Mayes].

With the cryptozoological community all aflutter over the Bryan Sykes DNA study, I thought now would be a good time to discuss what exactly it is we might expect should viable wood ape DNA ever be successfully obtained. I can’t take credit for the question. Fellow NAWAC investigator Ed Harrison posed the question on the NAWAC's private online forum. Some of the specific questions raised by Harrison were: Will we be able to determine the origins of the wood ape species (geographically)? From which branch of the primate tree did the species spring? How big do they really get? Many other questions were raised and discussed as well but you get the idea.

What we do know is that simply observing/documenting DNA similarities between species says little, or may say very little, about morphological and/or behavioral similarities. A good example of this is the comparison of human and chimp DNA, which shows great overlap.

For example, let’s assume that wood ape DNA is 99 percent comparable to that of a modern human. That, in and of itself, wouldn’t mean they are “human” as we understand the concept. Significant differences could result from factors controlling the expression of genes. The sequence in which genes are activated during development, the duration in which the genes are active, epigenetic factors controlling which genes may be turned off, these factors could produce creatures that are very different from “us” even if the DNA is nearly identical.

Another NAWAC member with great expertise in this area is Brad McAndrews. Brad holds an ABHI certificate from the American Board of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics and is a Certified Histocompatibility Specialist (also known as a Clinical Histocompatibility Scientist in some states). Brad received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin (B.S. in Biology with concentration in Genetics and Biotechnology) and followed that with five years of intensive training at a clinical laboratory of the University of Texas Health and Science Center in Houston, Texas. All of that to say, Brad knows what he is talking about when it comes to genetics. Following is a summary of Brad’s thoughts to the questions posed above (with some input from Alton Higgins, a wildlife biologist, a retired biology professor, and Chairman of the NAWAC):


What can we expect to find in the DNA?

McAndrews: “The study of the wood ape genome will be multifaceted in that several scientists and organizations of varying expertise will study their genes of interest. It will take years to draw lines of correlation between parallel species but science will begin to produce results, the wood ape blueprint, in only days. We will learn about their growth curves, metabolic characteristics, endocrine pathways, and we’ll be able to make discoveries from other genetic linkages already being studied in the higher primates. The endocrine system drives the growth and development cycle from the fetal stage through adolescence (and even adulthood). We’ll learn a great deal from studying the endocrine system (which includes hormones, etc) including various physical attributes including relative musculature, to things like emotional states, sleep patterns, and details of the reproductive system. We’ll learn about its dietary capabilities and/or restrictions by studying certain metabolic factors.

We will learn details on their ability to learn, hearing, sight, the ability to vocally enunciate (both vowels and consonants) – the FOXP2 gene. We’ll learn some interesting things about how they learn, and where their strongest cognitive and/or involuntary cerebral strengths lay. One of the biggest, and most complicated, targets of the wood ape genome will focus on facets of the immune system. Studies of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) repertoire will teach us a lot about disease susceptibilities and as well as possible new constructs (i.e. mutations) that may help the wood ape fight certain diseases – like Lyme or RMSF. HLA is my particular field of study. No doubt, the discovery of the wood ape will lead to new treatments for mankind. I foresee a day when cells from the wood ape are cloned and distributed (for profit) for study all across the globe. New drugs and therapies will emerge after studying certain aspects of the wood ape immunopathology and it constructs.

We’ll also learn many other things that are not specifically related to the wood ape’s nuclear or mitochondrial genome. Various microbiotomes will be discovered in the animal’s gut flora and new bacterial species/populations may be found on the epidermis (skin) or mouth cavity. We could learn a lot simply by swabbing the cheek of an ape…. We might learn what types of foods they eat even if their entire digestive tract is empty. We can learn about how they metabolize certain foods and compounds.”


Is the wood ape a descendent of Gigantopithecus blackii? What is the evolutionary lineage?

McAndrews: “This question will be answered very quickly by sequencing the < 20,000 base pairs of DNA from the mitochondrial genome and comparing that to what data is available for G. blackii. This is easy science. Compare this to all the highly mutagenic interesting stuff found in the more than 3 billion base pairs of the nuclear genome!"


What can we expect to find within a non-contaminated sample of tissue/blood that has been scientifically proven to be valid?

McAndrews: “We’ll discover a great many things (as we touched on above). The difficult part of this is that in the scenario where we’ve only a small amount of blood/tissue, proving the existence of this creature as a valid species has limitations. The specimen itself, in this case, is a limiting factor, which could prevent full independent and reproducible study. Basically, science demands that third-party laboratories reproduce the same data set to support the initial find thus creating a 'theory.' Ideally, this would include the initial steps of DNA isolation/extraction from the specimen in question. In the case with our Echo samples, we’ve only two very small and degraded residues… That’s huge limitation for us.”


Will we find the origins of wood apes (geography)?

McAndrews: “Information on evolutionary history and genetic lineage/origins may be pulled from the mitochondrial genome of a given species. Even without the full mitochondrial genome, much of this information is attainable by analyzing comparative evolution of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene – a humble 1,200 base pairs of information. Determining geographic origin, however, would require an existing known ancestral 'anchor' species in a given geography. When comparisons between two closely related species are being made, this information becomes less reliable because of limitations in sample (that being the gene targeted for sequencing) size. In these cases, additional sequence targets are valuable. Basically, the targeted gene of study may be too highly conserved between the two species. There are only 33 mutations between human and chimp, a mere two percent variation. What might we expect with the wood ape? The comparisons are so alike that it brings into question human contamination… A more likely conclusion to an odd result that ‘looks human.’ (Scally, et al, 2012)."


How far back does the gene pool go (timeline)?

McAndrews: “A gene pool is actually a collection of all heredities that currently exist in a given and accessible (in regards to breeding) population. That is, how variable (i.e. stable) is the gene pool of the wood ape population? I think what you’re trying to ask is 'how far back did this animal branch out from the tree of life?' The answer to this question would be one of the first addressed via the sequencing of the mitochondrial (maternally inherited) genome. Thankfully it would be the easiest of all to answer in terms of testing and it would provide answers to those questions related to its evolution history and origins. This is what I am most curious about personally. I think this is true for many. This is also where Bryan Sykes holds his expertise. A simple science in today’s world, (BBC Horizon, 2005).”


From which branch of the primate tree did the species spring?

McAndrews: “This will quickly be answered by producing a mitochondrial sequence of the organism. Less than one week of time to produce this data set and a couple-few minutes to run a comparison on GeneBank.”


How tall [do] these animals really get (physical attributes), etc.?

Alton Higgins: “Simply observing/documenting DNA similarities between species says little, or may say very little, about morphological and/or behavioral similarities. A good example of this is the comparison of human and chimp DNA, which shows great overlap," (A. Higgins, personal communication, October 15, 2013).

McAndrews: "While this may certainly be true in a broader context, much of the data derived from genome-wide association studies of similar but different species provide a veritable treasure trove of information that holds value in describing both physical and behavioral phenotypes for a given species.

Take a look at the following article [originally appearing at Nature.com], for instance, where it says, ‘As expected, most of the human genome was closer to the chimp’s than to the gorilla’s. But in about 15 percent of the genome, human and gorilla resemble each other the most. In another 15 percent, chimp and gorilla DNA are closer to each other than chimp is to human. The analysis also found gene variants in gorillas that are harmless to them but are linked to dementia and heart failure in people. …If we could understand more about why those variants are so harmful in humans but not in gorillas, that would have important medical implications,'" (Chang, 2012, AP).

Alton Higgins: "Significant differences could result from factors controlling the expression of genes. The sequence in which genes are activated during development, the duration in which the genes are active, epigenetic factors controlling which genes may be turned off, these factors could produce creatures that are very different from ‘us’ even if the DNA is nearly identical," (A. Higgins, personal communication, October 15, 2013).

McAndrews: "Absolutely spot on here.  This is where the revolution in medical genetics (ever heard of this?) will make its biggest strides. Epigenetic gene expressions are influenced by a number of different ‘micro factors’ which may be stimulated by environmental factors and/or stressors. These changes in expression can be either minute or significant. Some changes due to environmental change show themselves phenotypically, while others do not. Many are expressed temporarily, some longer, some for a lifetime, and some are heritable through successive generations (given the continued presence of external pressures). Epigenetic factors, however, are functional in ways that do not cause mutation, or change, to the nucleotide sequence of the organism’s DNA but rather they cause the DNA to be ‘read’ in different ways. This results in coding for different proteins, turning off certain active genes, or by turning on certain dormant ones. Some mechanisms actually modify DNA locally let’s say, for instance, in the epidermis/skin by adding methyl groups to DNA or RNA, or by binding protein to genetic receptors to inactivate a certain from being expressed. This influences the underlying DNA in a way that it is transcribed (or ‘read’) differently than it was before. You know how some mammals grow thicker coats of fur in the winter and then lose it in the spring? That’s a perfect example of how these factors can influence a change in expression as a product of seasonal changes in temperature (the environmental catalyst). Another fantastic example of epigenetic expression can be seen when a domesticated hog goes feral. Genetic expressions may change very quickly due to environmental stressors, or change. It does not take long before offspring start to resemble feral hogs (the Wild type organism) again with their stunted snouts becoming elongated; hair becoming longer and increasingly coarse, their tusks even grow at faster rates. The domestic pig that gets loose will even begin to show/express ‘feral’ characteristics with longer/thicker hair, increased virility, and quick change in behavior. This is due to something called ‘phenotypic plasticity,’ which is a mechanism that involves a lot of epigenetic factors, caused by environmental alteration or habitat, and which results in changes in genetic expressions – both in phenotype (physical change) and even behavior. The immune system is also greatly influenced by these factors (Louchart & Viriot, 2011), (Ralston & Shaw, 2008) .

Anyhow, bottom line is this… just because an organism’s DNA looks similar to another’s from a bird’s-eye view perspective, does not mean that the two organisms are one in the same, or even close to being similar to one another physically, mentally, etc. There is A LOT of stuff going on that goes much deeper than the mere DNA blueprint and we’re just beginning to make sense of it all. We do have a long way to go, sure, but huge strides are being made in the way of knowledge. I can say the following with great confidence, without the detailed genetic comparisons of closely related species, none of these gains in knowledge would be possible.”

***

Whether the Sykes study yields wood ape DNA remains to be seen. I do think Brad has given us a very good idea of what to expect if and when Sykes, or anyone else, does come up with a viable genetic sample.

One other question sprang to mind when Sykes examined alleged yeti hair and identified it as belonging to a supposedly long extinct species of bear:

Will mainstream science recognize the existence of a large mammalian species thought to be long extinct based solely on DNA evidence?

IF the scientific community accepts Sykes’ results and officially recognizes this ancient bear as a living, breathing species that still walks the earth then the “no-kill” crowd may finally have a valid argument as to why a wood ape specimen should not be collected. If, however, the scientific community refuses to recognize the existence of this ancient bear, a species that they KNOW actually did exist at one point, then there is zero chance that wood ape DNA alone will suffice in documenting the species. If the existence of this ancient bear remains unrecognized after intense DNA study then it should become crystal clear to everyone that the only way to prove the existence of the sasquatch, or wood ape, is by the taking of a holotype. There would simply be no other way.

[As of the date of the publishing of this article on the NAWAC website, April 4, 2014, it should be noted that neither governmental nor scientific entities have initiated actions in and/or around the Himalayas declaring Sykes's so-called relict polar bear a unique, extant (or extinct) species, protecting it from harm, conserving its environment, or even putting boots on the ground to learn more about it].


References

BBC Horizon (Producer). (2005). The ghost in your genes, (parts 1-5). (Available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toRIkRa1fYU).

Chang, A. (2012). Genome study finds some gorilla DNA aping our own. Associated Press. Retrieved from http://news.yahoo.com/genome-study-finds-gorilla-dna-aping-own-183311808.html

Louchart, A., & Viriot, L. (2011). From snout to beak: the loss of teeth in birds. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 26(12), 663-673. Abstract retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/51705217_From_snout_to_beak_the_loss_of_teeth_in_birds/file/72e7e5257bb12cd6c6.pdf

Ralston, A., & Shaw, K. (2008). Gene expression regulates cell differentiation. Nature Education 1(1), 127. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/gene-expression-regulates-cell-differentiation-931

Scally A., Dutheil J. Y., Hillier L. W., et al. (2012). Insights into hominid evolution from the gorilla genome sequence. Nature 483(7388): 169–75. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303130/
 

   

NAWAC Adopts a Highway

Part of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy’s mission statement includes facilitating the official recognition, conservation, and protection of the habitat of the species to which we refer as the wood ape. In keeping with the spirit of preservation upon which our organization is predicated, the NAWAC is proud to announce that we have adopted a two-mile stretch of highway through the Texas Adopt-a-Highway Program.

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The Adopt-a-Highway Program began right here in Texas in 1985. Since then, it has grown into a nationally and internationally recognized litter-prevention effort, saving taxpayer dollars and keeping our rights of way clean. The program has more than 4,000 participating groups across the state1 and the NAWAC is now pleased to be counted among them. As part of our application into the Adopt-a-Highway Program, we have pledged to pick up litter along our two-mile stretch of highway four times per year.

The location of the stretch of highway we have volunteered to clean was not chosen by accident. Our signs can be seen when driving through the heart of the Sam Houston National Forest, the area of Texas with the highest concentration of reported wood ape sightings in the state. Specifically, we have adopted the two-mile stretch of Highway 1375 between Osborn Road and FM 149 in Montgomery County.

Our first official road cleaning has been scheduled for February 15th. Any members of the public that would like to assist the NAWAC in picking up litter are welcome to help us! Additionally, a barbecue has been planned after the cleaning and several members will be camping in the national forest afterwards. If you are a quiet supporter of the NAWAC and would like to learn more about us, not only is this an excellent opportunity for you to do so, but you will be performing a generous act of public service as well.

If you would like to join in our effort, please contact us. Make sure that you include your personal contact information so that we can communicate to you the specific details of the day. Additionally, if you would like to join us for the after-cleanup barbecue, we ask that you donate $10 to cover the cost of the food.

A special thanks to NAWAC Investigator John Dollens for spearheading this effort.



1 Texas Department of Transportation – https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/get-involved/volunteer/adopt-a-highway/history.html

   

The Bigfoot Show, Episode 54: Further adventures in the land called X

[Note: The following essay was written by Brian Brown as the opening monologue for Episode 54 of The Bigfoot Show podcast.]

*****

The title of this episode, “Further Adventures in the Land Called X,” is, I will admit, somewhat misleading. It is indeed a furthering of the accounts and experiences members of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy have had as they conducted their work this past summer in a remarkable little corner of the Ouachita mountain range (Cole & Marston, n.d.). It is, as you probably already know, called “X” by the group. You will hear some astonishing things. Possibly you will find some of these things to be unbelievable. As always, you have my assurances that everything you hear is true. I know these guys and, crazy as some of them may sound, this is true.

Paul Bowman, Daryl Colyer, Brad McAndrews, and Brian Brown discuss field work plans at the Bowman Lodge before heading to Area X. Photo by Chris Buntenbah.

But no, this show is not actually about random bigfoot encounters in X. It is actually about a group of dedicated individuals going about the work they feel is necessary to bring “bigfoot” out into the light of science and reality. In short, this is about collecting the wood ape holotype (Green, 1978). Members of the NAWAC have not been shy about their intention to collect as complete a wood ape specimen as possible. However, this is the first time you’ll hear about what that endeavor is actually like. It’s not, as you probably expect, easy work.

Mark McClurkan monitors the new surveillance system on a slow, quiet night. Photo by Rick Hayes.

Now, you either agree with the point of view of the NAWAC or you don’t (Higgins, 2011). Regardless, the position of the group, and the thing that drives them, can be summed up by explaining what’s called the “50/500 Rule” of conservation biology (Traill, 2010). Basically, about fifty individuals of a particular animal need to be present in any given area to prevent a destructive rate of inbreeding. If these fifty are cut off from more of their kind, or are the last of their kind, their chances of survival are questionable. Around 500 individuals are required to maintain an acceptable level of genetic variation; numbers lower than that can make the animals susceptible to being sucked into the terrifyingly named “Extinction Vortex” ("The Extinction Vortex, n.d.).

Ape crossing.  NAWAC investigators have had at least two visual encounters with wood apes as the apes crossed this area of a creek in Area X.  Photo by Rick Hayes.

The extinction vortex is a series of models used by biologists to understand and predict animal extinction rates. Besides genetic diversity, other factors include habitat pressures and habitat fragmentation (“Arkansas Files Appeal to Join Clear-Cutting Suit,” 1991). Of course, no one knows for sure how many apes there are in the Ouachitas, or North America, for that matter, but we know that the region has been and continues to be harvested of trees using practices that promote the development of monoculture forests. We know that the relatively untouched areas of the range are becoming fewer and farther between. When applying that knowledge to what we understand about large primates worldwide, and the group’s own observations of wood ape behavior over the past several years, we would expect “bigfoot” to be social animals that live in groups inhabiting established territories. Each group, whatever its social structure, would require a finite amount of land upon which to thrive. Some of the big unknowns are how big is that territory? Are monoculture environments acceptable wood ape habitat (Expertsvar, 2013)? How many eligible areas are left in that part of the country? In short, are there less than fifty apes left, or more than 500, or somewhere in-between? And do they know where they can find more of their kind? Essentially, how many factors found in the extinction vortex are already at work and affecting wood ape populations?

The team has had several visuals along this mountain face.  Photo by Chris Buntenbah.

The NAWAC feels the only way to know how many apes there are in X or how many “Xs” there are in the Ouachitas or the Ozarks or the Sierras or the Olympics, or anywhere, is to put qualified and numerous boots on the ground to find out. The only way to put those boots on the ground is to establish as an absolute fact that there is an actual animal to be protected. The most efficient and expeditious way to establish as an absolute fact that the animal exists, is to collect a specimen (“Collection of voucher specimens,” n.d.).

As Brown says, it's going to take boots on the ground.  Photo by Mark McClurkan.

There are more than a few people in the community of sasquatch enthusiasts who feel the best course is to leave these animals alone.

“They’ve been just fine all by themselves so far, and they’ll be just fine in the future.”

But that train of thought is tantamount to putting a bag over your head as a way to better understand the world around you. All one has to do is look at a satellite map of any wild and wooly area in North America to see how truly wild and secluded parts of it are under constant pressure. They’re shrinking. If you think this situation is tolerable to an animal like sasquatch, you might as well ask yourself how many can you balance on the head of a pin (Radford, 2008).

All one has to do is look at a satellite map of any wild and wooly area in North America to see how truly wild and secluded parts of it are under constant pressure.

I suppose we could wait for an acceptable DNA sample to be collected and confirmed, or for an unsuspecting bigfoot to step in front of a logging truck with bad brakes, or for an old portly one to succumb to cardiovascular disease while raiding a campground dumpster, but nothing like that has happened in more than fifty years of looking and, at least in my opinion, it’s unlikely to happen in the near future. So, we can either keep waiting, and hoping to get lucky and pretending like the animal we’re talking about here has all the time in the world, or we can show some initiative and try to protect them and their habitat sooner.

Perhaps tomorrow.

And that’s what the NAWAC is working towards.

Today.
 



[Listen to Episode 54 here.]

References:

Arkansas files appeal to join clear-cutting suit. (1991). Retrieved from http://newsok.com/arkansas-files-appeal-to-join-clear-cutting-suit/article/2361067

Cole, S. R., & Marston, R. A. (n.d.). Ouachita Mountains. Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. Oklahoma State University. Retrieved from http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/o/ou001.html

Collection of voucher specimens. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.animalethics.org.au/policies-and-guidelines/wildlife-research/voucher-specimens

Expertsvar. (2013). Mixed forests more productive than monocultures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/01/130109081141.htm

The Extinction Vortex. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.mongabay.com/09vortex.htm

Green, J. (1978). Sasquatch: The apes among us. Hancock House: Surrey, B. C., Canada. [The particularly relevant Chapter 26, “Sasquatches, Humans, and Apes,” can be found at http://woodape.org/index.php/about-bigfoot/articles/219-taking-a-stand-with-science-and-reason-sasquatches-humans-and-apes]

Higgins, A. (2011). A word from the Chairman. North American Wood Ape Conservancy. Retrieved from http://woodape.org/index.php/news/news/191-wordfromchairman

Radford, B. (2008). How UFOs and Bigfoot could save Earth. LiveScience. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/2253-ufos-bigfoot-save-earth.html

Traill, L. (2010). Minimum viable population size. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/154633


   

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