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If We Only Knew Then...

In light of the NAWAC's recent Operation Endurance, it is good to revisit Brian Brown's BIPcast 6: Area X, recorded in September 2008 deep in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma where the NAWAC would eventually conduct Operation Endurance in the summer of 2011. 

This podcast, entitled BIPcast 6: Area X,  is the sixth in a series of podcasts, and is a sequel to BIPcast 5: Bigfoot in the Big Thicket.  BIPcast 5 and 6 were created while the NAWAC was heavily involved in Operation Forest Vigil.  The podcasts are made possible by The Bigfoot Information Project.  

This BIPcast features field interviews with NAWAC investigators Daryl Colyer and Chris Buntenbah.  If they only knew then what they know now.

Listen to BIPcast 6: Area X
.

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BIPcast 6: Area X - revisit

In light of the TBRC's recent Operation Endurance, it is good to revisit Brian Brown's BIPcast 6: Area X, recorded in September 2008 deep in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma where the TBRC would eventually conduct Operation Endurance in the summer of 2011. 

This podcast, entitled BIPcast 6: Area X,  is the sixth in a series of podcasts, and is a sequel to BIPcast 5: Bigfoot in the Big Thicket. The podcasts are made possible by The Bigfoot Information Project.  

This BIPcast features field interviews with TBRC investigators Daryl Colyer and Chris Buntenbah.

Listen to BIPcast 6: Area X
.

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New Study Reveals Texas is Second in Total Forest Land

According to an ongoing timber survey in Texas by the Texas Forest Service in cooperation with the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service, Texas is number two. Texas Forest Service officials are reporting that the timber survey of the entire state of Texas indicates Texas ranks second only to the state of Alaska in forest land.

The inventory involves surveying trees well beyond what is traditionally considered the heart of Texas forests, the Piney Woods of East Texas, indicating that there are roughly 60 million acres of forest land in Texas. The inventory will actually last ten years—from 2004 to 2014—and despite being a little more than halfway through the process, the Texas Forest Service expects the results to remain steady. After this inventory has been completed, another inventory will be conducted to compare data.

The survey is the first comprehensive statewide tree count in Texas history and it clearly demonstrates that the forests of Texas account for roughly 23 percent of the woodlands of the southern United States.

Data from the Texas Forest Service Survey

East Texas (12 million acres):
• Pine – 5.3 million (43 percent)
• Hardwood – 5.4 million (44 percent)
• Mixed – 1.5 million (13 percent)

The Rest of Texas (48 million acres):
• Juniper/Pine – 9.3 million (19 percent)
• Mesquite – 17 million (35 percent)
• Oaks/various hardwoods – 21.8 million (46 percent)

The expansiveness of Texas forests coupled with the extensive network of waterways and bodies of water make much of Texas ideal wildlife habitat, although a recent hard-hitting drought and numerous massive wild fires in Texas have done damage to the Texas ecosystem. According to data released by the Texas Forest Service in October 2011, recent wildfires in Texas destroyed nearly 4 million acres of Texas’s 60 million acres of forest land.

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The Echo Incident

Statements made or reported as being made by Honobia, OK, resident Charles Branson at the Honobia Bigfoot Festival on 1 October 2011, concerning incidents that took place the previous July, contain inaccuracies. The basic facts are as follows.

Read more: The Echo Incident

   

Final Speaker List for 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference

The Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy is pleased to announce the speaker list for the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference. The conference will offer a superb line-up of speakers.

• Dr Ian Redmond – Tropical field biologist and conservationist. The TBRC is especially pleased this year to present Dr. Redmond, considered one the world’s foremost field biologists, as the keynote and banquet speaker. Dr. Redmond studied mountain gorillas for decades and was the protégé of the late Dian Fossey. Like the celebrated chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall, Redmond is very open to the existence of an undocumented North American primate and his tremendous firsthand experience studying gorillas provides him with unique perspectives regarding the subject of sasquatch research.

• Dr. Jeff Meldrum – Associate Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology, Idaho State University, and affiliate curator for the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Meldrum is the author of the 2006 book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. He is widely considered as one of the world’s foremost authorities regarding possible sasquatch-related evidence, particularly related to footprints and foot morphology. He has discovered tracks and has experienced probable sasquatch encounters. His laboratory includes a large collection of sasquatch foot castings. Dr. Meldrum will discuss an extremely intriguing hair sample found by a hog hunter in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

• Chester Moore, Jr. – Author, Executive Editor of Texas Fish & Game, Outdoors Editor for the Port Arthur News and Orange Leader newspapers. Moore has a long-time interest in mysterious animals. He has appeared on Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Travel Channel and others discussing the subject. At the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference, Moore will present a lecture entitled “Black Panthers and Beyond: The Truth about Big Cats in Texas.” He has studied big cats since his youth and has had the opportunity to work with them both in the field and in captivity. Moore’s presentation will tackle how Texas is wild enough and large enough to provide sufficient habitat for unknown large wildlife and how Texas could be the key to unlocking the mystery of black cats and other mystery cats.

• Alton Higgins – Biology Professor, wildlife biologist, and Chairman of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy. Ever since Higgins discovered large human-like tracks and scat in a very remote area in Washington, he has endeavored to explore the mystery of the sasquatch. He has spent the last decade investigating reported sightings and conducting field research as part of the TBRC. In 2002, he had his own sighting in a remote part of Oklahoma where he was investigating other reported sightings.

• Lyle Blackburn – Writer, Author of the soon-to-be-released book, The Beast of Boggy Creek: True Story of the Fouke Monster; Blackburn is a frequent contributor and advisor to Rue Morgue magazine. Growing up in Texas near the site of the cult-classic The Legend of Boggy Creek film, Blackburn has always been fascinated with the legends and reports of real “monsters.” He has intensely researched the subject in legend, fact, and fiction.

• Brian Brown – Owner of the digital marketing agency Ideapark, TBRC Marketing Director, TBRC Board of Directors, TBRC Field Investigator. Brown’s team was responsible for the TBRC’s outstanding website (www.texasbigfoot.com) and the TBRC’s iPhone application. When Brown is not designing websites for various corporations, he spends much of his time in remote places as a TBRC Investigator searching for the group’s elusive quarry. Brown will be giving a presentation on Operation Endurance, the TBRC’s seminal two-month field study held in the summer of 2011.

• Willie Mendez – Education Specialist at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures, a Smithsonian affiliate. Mendez was closely involved with the institute’s very successful Bigfoot in Texas? exhibition and speaker series, which ran during the summer of 2006. At this year’s conference, Mendez will share background information regarding the planning and implementation of the historic exposition and discuss some of the displays. This presentation should be a fascinating overview for anyone who was unable to make it to San Antonio for that 2006 project.

• Robert Swain – Cartoonist, author of the forthcoming book, Laughsquatch: Book One. Swain loves to kindly poke bigfoot and bigfoot researchers through his Laughsquatch cartoons. His engaging personality, insightful commentary, and gentle humor have made him a favorite at past conferences. Swain’s art can be seen at www.laughsquatch.com.

The 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference will be held in Tyler at the Caldwell Auditorium, 301 S. College Ave., October 1, 2011. There is also an evening banquet, held at the Discovery Science Place, 308 N. Broadway Ave at 7:30 PM. The banquet will spotlight the talents of singer/songwriter Lenny Green and a special presentation by Dr. Ian Redmond.

General admission is $25, with various upgrade packages available. Discounts are available for students, educators and active military with proper ID.

The TBRC is comprised of volunteer investigators, scientists and naturalists, actively engaged in activities designed to test the hypothesis that a very rare form of unknown primate—referred to as wood ape, bigfoot, or the sasquatch—resides in very remote areas where there is abundant rainfall, dense forestation, and low human population densities. The TBRC is funded by membership dues, fundraisers, and the annual Texas Bigfoot Conference, in addition to donations and grants. The TBRC desires to enhance the credibility of bigfoot/sasquatch research and facilitate a greater degree of acceptance by the scientific community and other segments of society of the likelihood of a biological basis behind the wood ape or sasquatch mystery.

   

Chester Moore Climbs Aboard for Conference

The TBRC is pleased to announce that Chester Moore will be a featured speaker at the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference, at the Caldwell Auditorium in Tyler, Texas, October 1.  Moore is one of the most widely recognized outdoors journalists in the United States.  He currently serves as Executive Editor of Texas Fish & Game magazine as well as Outdoors Editor for the Port Arthur News and Orange Leader newspapers.  He has sold stories and photographs to more than 100 publications.

A recipient of more than 80 awards for writing, photography and conservation, Moore was named a “Hero of Conservation” by Field & Stream magazine in 2008.

Moore has written several books, including his latest, Texas Trout Tactics and Texas Waterfowl.  For 12 years he has hosted his radio program “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI out of Beaumont, TX.

Having had a longtime interest in mysterious animals, Moore founded and organized the Southern Crypto Conference from 2002-2005.  He has appeared on Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Travel Channel and others discussing the subject.

At the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference, Moore will present a lecture entitled “Black Panthers and Beyond: The Truth about Big Cats in Texas.”   He has studied big cats since his youth and has had the opportunity to work with them both in the field and in captivity.  The talk will tackle why Texas could be the key to unlocking the mystery of black cats and other mystery cats.

Chester Moore embraces a philosophy of living with intensity and embracing one's divine purpose.

   

Redmond and Meldrum to Double Team 2011 Conference

The TBRC is pleased to announce that Dr. Ian Redmond and Dr. Jeff Meldrum will give presentations at the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference, scheduled for October 1, 2011. Dr. Redmond will be the keynote speaker for the evening banquet immediately following the conference.

Dr. Redmond is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost field biologists, renowned for his decades of work with elephants and mountain gorillas. The recipient of numerous honors, he served as Ambassador for the UN’s Year of the Gorilla 2009 and for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species since 2010. He serves as a consultant for organizations such as the Born Free Foundation, the Gorilla Organization, the Orangutan Foundation, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. He established and chairs the Ape Alliance (eighty organizations linked via www.4apes.com), the African Ele-Fund, and the UK Rhino Group (www.rhinogroup.org.uk). He is the Chief Consultant and Envoy for GRASP – the UNEP/UNESCO Great Apes Survival Partnership, an organization he helped launch in 2001.

Born in Malaysia, Redmond’s passion for animals developed during his boyhood in Beverley, a market town in Yorkshire. In 1976, after attending Keele University, Redmond joined Dr. Dian Fossey in studying and protecting the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and Zaire. This work also led him into documentary filmmaking. He introduced Sir David Attenborough to gorillas in 1978 for the famous BBC Life on Earth sequences, and he coached Sigourney Weaver for her award-winning role in the film Gorillas in the Mist (1987). He has been an advisor for or has appeared in more than fifty documentary films for the BBC, National Geographic Society, Discovery Channel, TF1, etc. In 2011 he was a featured scientist in the History cable channel documentary Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide.

Dr. Ian Redmond

Dr. Redmond’s books have been translated into many languages and he is in demand as an entertaining and thought-provoking public speaker. Do not miss this rare opportunity to meet and learn from this distinguished scientist.

Dr. Meldrum is a physical anthropologist at Idaho State University and an affiliate curator for the Idaho Museum of Natural History. His research is centered on vertebrate—particularly primate—evolutionary morphology. His formal study of primates began with doctoral research on terrestrial adaptations in African primates, and has since taken him from the dusty skeletal cabinets of far-flung museums to the remote badlands of Colombia and Argentina in search of fossil New World primates, and to Asia to investigate intriguing reports of unknown primates. He has published extensively on the evolutionary history of the South American primates and has described several new extinct species. He has documented varied primate locomotor specializations in laboratory and semi-natural settings. More recently his attention has returned to the emergence of modern human bipedalism. His co-edited volume, From Biped to Strider: the Emergence of Modern Human Walking, Running, and Resource Transport, proposes a more recent innovation of modern striding gait than previously assumed.

As the acting director of the Center for Motion Analysis and Biomechanics (CMAB) Dr. Meldrum is collaborating with engineers, paleontologists, and the Idaho Virtualization Lab, to model the pattern of evolution of the hominid foot skeleton. His interests also encompass the evaluation of the footprints purportedly left by an unrecognized North American ape, commonly known as the sasquatch. He has authored an expanded companion volume to the very successful Discovery Channel documentary, Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. He is widely considered as one of the world’s foremost authorities regarding possible sasquatch-related evidence. He has discovered tracks and has experienced probable sasquatch encounters. His laboratory includes a large collection of sasquatch foot castings.

Dr. Meldrum gives a presentation at the 2008 Texas Bigfoot Conference.

The 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference will be held in Tyler, Texas, October 1, 2011, 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. The conference will be at the Caldwell Auditorium. The address is:

Caldwell Auditorium
300 S. College Ave.
Tyler, TX 75702
(903) 262-2300

The fundraiser banquet dinner will be from 7:30 P.M to 9:00 P.M. with a special presentation by world-renowned field biologist Dr. Ian Redmond. The dinner will be held at the Tyler Discovery Science Place. The address is:

Discovery Science Place
308 N. Broadway Ave.
Tyler, TX 75702
(903) 533-8011

 

   

Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide, A Second Point of View

Perhaps we should have taken a clue from the use of our favorite perpetually persecuted sasquatch (of Jack Link’s Beef Jerky fame) to publicize Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide, shown 2 February 2011 on the History cable channel. Despite the involvement of a distinguished cast of scientists, the only “definitive” thing about this latest foray into squatchploitation was that it shouldn’t be taken much more seriously than a humorous jerky commercial.

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Well, perhaps that is a wee bit harsh, but when my wife, who is generally apathetic concerning bigfooty things, sat there groaning and arguing at the television, I figured the producers had probably missed the mark with more folks than this sometimes jaded enthusiast.

The first impression that struck me in watching the program was a sense of déjà vu. Was the MonsterQuest marathon from earlier in the day still running? The tone, pacing, music, structure, use of reenactments, etc., really echoed MonsterQuest’s campy formulaic style.

Unfortunately, Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide needed content more than it needed style.

It’s not that the program was bereft of information. In the fashion of the MonsterQuest series it so resembled, the producers managed to squeeze thirty minutes worth of content into two hours. Unfortunately, little of the information was new, and the original opinions proffered by the distinguished scientists were weak, if not laughable.

The panel of scientists included geochronologist Jack Rink, who has studied Gigantopithecus fossils; Anna Nekaris, bringing extensive field research studying nocturnal primates to the table; taxonomist and fossil primate expert William Sellars; Ian Redmond, a tropical field biologist who spent years studying mountain gorillas with Dian Fossey; and Jeff Meldrum, an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology with expertise in the foot morphology and locomotion of monkeys, apes and hominids. The supporting cast included field biologist John Mionczynski and U.S. Forest Service anthropologist Kathy Strain.

There were some things about Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide that I enjoyed. Beautiful mountain vistas graced the program throughout, and I thought the dozen plus sighting reenactments were done well. Near the beginning of the program I was pleased to hear the narrator affirm, “Something is out there, but what?” It was also refreshing to see a few new faces from the scientific community willing to grant the sasquatch phenomenon and the question of unknown hominids some time and open-minded deliberation.

Unfortunately, and predictably, not all the discussion appeared to be carefully considered. For example, cursory reviews and perfunctory dismissals characterized the team’s “analysis” of the records of bipedal primates in Florida and “the Patterson film” (as they called it) from 1967. If a child had suggested that Florida witnesses were probably confusing escaped pet orangutans or chimpanzees for large bipedal primates, one might smile in amusement at the suggestion, but the zany idea is supposed to be taken seriously if it’s offered by a group of scientists. I suppose it applies equally to reported sightings in Texas and throughout the South.

In like manner, the documentary’s Patterson/Gimlin film treatment was unconscionably superficial. In response to Meldrum’s measured comments regarding the subject filmed by Patterson and Gimlin, Sellars shoots back with, “It shrieks at me ‘man in suit.’ I mean, it really does!” Rather than include a discussion regarding the merits of the argument that a homemade cowhide suit could demonstrate the features exhibited in the film, the program’s editors chose to add subjective and irrelevant criticism from a Mike McLeod, said to be a journalist.

Permit me a brief detour. Science should be about evaluating data and examining evidence. I hope Professor Sellars (and others who share his opinion) will someday reconsider his peremptory pronouncements and pursue some puzzling problems pertaining to the Patterson/Gimlin film. That’s what science boils down to: asking simple questions. To get him and others who share his critical perspective started, I propose a straightforward query. Can you find a gorilla costume from the 1960s (I’ll even throw in the decades from the 70s to the present) that clearly shows a gluteal cleft and the attachment of the trapezius and latissimus dorsi muscles to the spine? These features are plainly visible in gorillas, and they clearly show in the creature filmed by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. End of detour.

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Another investigative technique that Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide barely touched was the use of detection dogs. I have spoken with Meldrum and Mionczynski about this novel avenue of research, and I feel that their insight and experiences could have made for some captivating television.

One of the issues upon which the panel seemed divided concerned the matter of witness testimony. Anna Nekaris, for example, expressed on a couple of occasions her confidence in such accounts. “I believe very much in what local people say,” Nekaris stated, “and if local people tell me something is there, I have a suspicion it may be, even if I haven’t seen it.” I got the impression, however, that the panel as a whole found tales coming from the inhabitants of third-world regions regarding man-beasts of various sorts more compelling than similar accounts originating from countries like, say, the USA or Canada.

Through a presumably rigorous report-winnowing and habitat analysis process, the panel deduced the existence of several global “hotspots” of activity that could have some basis in reality. This is all well and good, but it’s surely misleading to casual viewers who may not realize that these areas have long been identified and associated with large bipedal primates. I did think the panel made some reasonable deductions in proposing that the yeti, mande burung, and yeren all represent the same species, the likely descendents of Gigantopithecus.

From my perspective, I don’t think the program, which had enough problems as it was, should have included, however briefly, the “Myakka Ape” photos, photos that, as I see it, are problematic. In a 2004 article, based on my conference presentations in 2003, I laid out a number of reasons why I believed those photos should be discounted. The fact that Jeff Meldrum, the member of the science team most relied upon for information pertaining to North America, wrote in 2004 that “quite explicit evidence” has shown the Myakka story to be a hoax makes their inclusion confusing.

The program did do an adequate job summarizing recent fossil discoveries and establishing the fact that for millions of years many species of large primates shared the same landscapes. If Homo sapiens is Earth’s only remaining bipedal primate, that is the exception to the pattern of the past, as noted by Meldrum. Regarding the presence of such a bipedal primate in North America, which was the main focus of the program, the panel addressed three possibilities: giant ape, ancient human, and modern human.

While sitting firmly in the ape camp myself, I did find the ancient human theory interesting, though not very convincing. Homo heidelbergensis was a large and muscular hominin. This species used tools, hunted, and exhibited other forms of social behavior. As Meldrum pointed out, if the North American sasquatch is the descendent of H. heidelbergensis, it is odd that the species would forego the advantages of cultural development to pursue an even more primitive lifestyle.

I was surprised by the program’s inclusion of a related topic regarding an “ancient human” basis for the sasquatch phenomenon, that of hybrids. Many of us, I suppose, have heard these stories of unfortunate women, sex-crazed wildmen, and their doomed offspring. This appears to be a widespread mythos among native North American cultures, even extending to Central America, and it has proven to be a popular subject for dime novels and low-budget movies for many years. However, in the absence of any corroborative evidence, I don’t think speculations based on such legends or beliefs warrant consideration in empirical, as opposed to social, science discussions.

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Perhaps the silliest idea of all those presented was Jack Rink’s. (I wonder if he’s considered starting a jerky business with a Gigantopithecus brand mascot?) He suggested that bigfoot sightings could be explained as glimpses by witnesses of Squamish Indians following the traditions of shamanistic training and initiations. (Is Rink a covert acolyte of M.K. Davis?) The discovery of simple stone tools “in out of the way places” was proposed as supportive evidence.

Regarding this “out of the way” idea, I remember hiking and hunting with my dad in (what appeared to me to be) some extremely “out of the way” places in Arizona. Once while hiking through a seemingly God-forsaken narrow canyon in the Superstition Mountains we noticed, by sheer chance, a tiny adobe cliff dwelling built in a cleft positioned high on the canyon wall. As we scrabbled our way slowly up to the spot I remember thinking, “Why would anyone chose to live in such a place?” We found it apparently undisturbed, and we left it that way. I had the same thought on another occasion when we climbed up a desert mesa while hunting javalina. It was a tough climb, rocky and thorny, but when we reached the top we found, much to my surprise, a veritable field of broken pottery and matates. There were no trees, no water, no soil for farming, yet it was plain to see that the area had been inhabited. My point is, just because a place seems “out of the way” to our modern sensibilities doesn’t mean it would have been avoided in the past. Finding stone scrapers in seemingly odd places in British Columbia should not be seen as evidence supporting a modern human explanation for bigfoot sightings. Ian Redmond and Kathy Strain quickly quashed the quirky theory that Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide spent far too much time developing, just as I have spent too much time discussing it.

Another silly part of the program was the description of bigfoot investigator Cindy Dosen as a research expert, or words to that effect, and the trip she led into the woods with Ian Redmond. The distinguished Redmond, easily the most experienced field man and the most prominent “Definitive Guide” panel member, must have felt at least a little discomfited as he was directed in his scenes and asked to comment about the possibility of sasquatch stick structures. As for Dosen, she probably didn’t describe herself as an “expert” at anything, but the narrator’s use of the term brings up a sore point often discussed by bigfoot enthusiasts with regard to scientists, if I may digress once again.

In a strange dichotomy, members of “the bigfoot community” (whatever that is) often complain that members of the scientific community pay scant attention to the bigfoot phenomenon, at least publicly. At the same time, those who do are often ostracized or criticized because the “expert” label is often affixed to them (even if this is done by others, not themselves). I have no problem with describing the scientists involved with Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide as experts in their fields, and each is in a position to comment authoritatively on different aspects of the presumptive natural history of the sasquatch and other hairy hominoids. Blithely dismissing the opinions of a scientist, especially if the opinions are thoroughly considered and within the scientist’s purview, just because the scientist has never seen or claimed to have seen a sasquatch, amounts to little more than playground-level gamesmanship, in my opinion. Cindy Dosen may have been chased by a bigfoot, but that doesn’t make her an expert at bigfoot vocalizations (the producers should have provided an analysis of the recorded vocalizations) or an expert field researcher any more than I can claim to be a comet expert just because I’ve seen a couple of them.

I suppose I could nitpick Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide for days, but a few troubling taradiddles deserve at least a brief mention. For example, the team concluded that a “massive surge” of reported bigfoot sightings was triggered by the Patterson/Gimlin film when it seems just as likely that increasingly widespread access to communication and information during that time period is similarly responsible. On a related point, the team seemed to believe that, outside of the Pacific Northwest, there was “almost no previous history” of reported sightings in North America when, in fact, there are thousands of such reports (not to mention the ubiquitous legends of native cultures) extending back hundreds of years, as documented in a couple of compendiums on the subject.

The “Bili Ape” was identified as a new species of great ape, recently discovered in Africa, but my understanding is that its DNA is identical to that of the local subspecies of chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii. In my opinion, this should not have been used as a way of trying to establish that large primate species, such as the sasquatch and others mentioned in the program, remained to be discovered and documented.

Overall, I have to say that I got the impression that the documentary was just too hurried in its production. A couple of us in the TBRC had extended conversations with a producer about possibly participating in the filming of the show, but it was almost a “right now” situation and schedules, made more complex with a flight to Canada as part of the mix, could not be worked out. I don’t think participation by one or two of our members would have made any difference in the quality of the final result, and I don’t fault any members of the team of scientists. Involvement in these kinds of projects is always unpredictable; they had no way of knowing if the result was going to resemble MonsterQuest on steroids, a BBC nature documentary narrated by David Attenborough, or something in-between. At least the subject was treated in a serious manner. There were no tongue-in-cheek comments from the narrator or condescending comments from smug critics, as is too often the case in bigfoot-related programming. We can be thankful for that.

My final comments concern my first bit of apprehension upon hearing of the program, specifically, the Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide title assigned to it. This told me that whoever was at the helm of the documentary lacked a true scientific perspective regarding scientific knowledge and the processes used to learn about the world around us. No scientific explanations are fixed, set in stone, definitive. All knowledge is tentative, subject to change. Challenging the ideas, results, theories, evidence, and etc. of other scientists is a big part of what drives scientists and makes science fun. Sure, some scientists learn things that help mankind in one way or another, but most pursue arcane topics out of an unrelenting sense of curiosity and the joy that comes from discovering something new.

Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide will not go down in the annals of television as one of the best bigfoot-related documentaries, much less as having established anything definitively. However, I do hope that the scientists involved, upon reflecting on the experience, develop an increasing level of openness to that which goes against convention. If that is a result, then Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide will have garnered a degree of success that goes beyond television ratings or generally critical reviews.

References

ABC News Online. 29 June 2006. Mystery apes are chubby chimps, zoologists find. Retrieved from here.

Arment, Chad. 2006. The Historical Bigfoot. Coachwhip Publications. 348 pp.

Higgins, Alton. 2004. Evaluating Purported Sasquatch Photographic Evidence. Retrieved from here.

Meldrum, Jeff. 2004. Book Review: Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol.18, No. 3, pp. 521-523.

Strain, Kathy. 2008. Giants, Cannibals & Monsters: Bigfoot in Native Culture. Hancock House Publishing. 288 pp.

   

The Resilience of Primates

A new study, published in the Nov. 30 issue of American Naturalist, shows that primates are less susceptible to environmental ups and downs, particularly changes in rainfall, than other animals.

Researchers from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, North Carolina, looked at, literally, decades of data on birth and death rates for seven different primate species. The species examined were muriqui monkeys (Brachyteles arachnoids) and capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) in Central and South America; yellow baboons (Papio ynocephalus cynocephalus), blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), and lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) from the African Continent; and sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi coquereli)—a type of lemur—in Madagascar.

The collection of this much data was a monumental effort. Seven different research teams working around the world monitored the births, lives, and deaths of thousands of individuals daily for more than 25 years. The researchers used a new database developed by the NESCent to compile and cross-reference the data in an effort to find similarities between the species.

“Wild animals deal with a world that is unpredictable from year to year,” said the lead author of the study, Bill Morris. The Duke biologist added, “The weather can change a lot; there can be years with plenty of food and years of famine.”

The 25 years of data covered both good years and bad and seems to have run long enough to make the data scientifically valid. What the researchers found was interesting. Year to year survival rates of primates proved to be more stable than survival rates of other animals. The primate data were compared to that of two-dozen species of birds, reptiles, and mammals.

Gorillas, like most primates, eat a wide variety of foods.

The co-author of the study Karen Strier , an anthropologist as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that primates possess some key traits that enable them to make seasonal adjustments to their diets.

“For one thing, they’re social,” said Strier. The fact that primates live in groups allows them to share information with each other. This shared information allows them to be more effective in locating sources of food and water during lean times.

Another, and perhaps even more important, trait that allows primates to survive better than other species during times when food-stuff is scarce is the ability to eat a wide variety of food items. Monkeys and apes will eat leaves, grasses, fruits, flowers, bark, and seeds. In short, unlike many other animals, they are generalists when it comes to their diet. This is a huge advantage over species that have specialized diets. When their favorite foods are in short supply, primates can adapt and eat something else. The article then goes on to hypothesize that similar traits may have helped early humans survive environmental ups and downs.

A sifaka feeding.

Could the study have any relevance to the sasquatch? Possibly. The fact is that nobody really knows with absolute certainty how sasquatches live, socialize, or eat; however, we do have a substantial number of reliable observer reports that allow us to hypothesize.

The social nature of primates is the first trait the study points to as giving an advantage in surviving environmental ups and downs. Multiple animals working cooperatively to spread out, scout, and forage over a large area makes finding suitable food and water much easier. Most sasquatch sightings are of a single individual. There are, however, sightings of multiple animals reported. Pairs, family units, and even twenty plus individuals (see The Tale of Muchalat Harry in the Sasquatch Classics archive) have been reported. The fact is, we just do not know how sasquatches interact. Do they spread out during the day and “go home” at night? Do the females and/or young stay in one general area while males hunt/forage? We just do not know. The fact that the number of sightings of single animals dwarfs the number of reports featuring multiple animals would point to the sasquatch being mostly solitary, much like orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). But who is to say that when an individual is observed it is not out scouting or foraging for its family unit?

What seems even more interesting is how the broad diet of primates helped them survive tough times, which actually makes perfect sense. The more varied the diet of a given animal the better the chances said animal will find something to sustain itself. Specialization in diet is one reason species like the giant panda of China and the koala of Australia find themselves in trouble. It has even worked against humans in the past.

A prime example would be the Indian wars fought between the U.S. government and the American Indians that inhabited the Great Plains of North America in the mid to late 1800s. These tribes were expert horsemen and warriors. They were highly mobile, intelligent, and fierce. They proved to be more than a match for the U.S. Army. They had one weakness, however. That weakness was their near total dependence on horses and the American bison.

U.S. military strategists, after suffering several humiliating defeats, like the Battle of Little Big Horn, decided to do more than just engage the tribes directly. They would remove the very things these tribes needed for survival. Army scouts swooped down on Indian encampments and, instead of engaging the braves, shot all the horses. Meanwhile, buffalo hunters were hired to kill as many buffalo as possible. An all out slaughter ensued. It was not long before fierce tribes like the Kiowa, Comanche, and Sioux were brought to the point of starvation. In a shockingly short amount of time the great horse culture of the plains was gone and the American bison was on the brink of extinction.

Specialization helped the American Indians of the Great Plains become very successful for hundreds of years, but it proved to be their undoing in the end. Such is the possible fate of species that are overly dependent on one food source. If the food source disappears, for whatever reason, the species is likely to disappear as well.

The diet of chimpanzees is highly varied and even includes meat.

It is encouraging that this study shows most primates are not overly dependent on one food source. It has long been theorized that the sasquatch is omnivorous and has a diet similar to that of bears. If so, they may be doing just fine as the river bottoms, forests, and swamps of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma are incredibly rich in food sources. Populations of black bear (Ursus americanus) have exploded in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Bears are beginning to make significant headway in East Texas as well. If the sasquatch does have a highly varied diet like that of U. americanus then the chances of the species surviving increase dramatically.

Primates continue to surprise us with their intelligence and resilience. Each study that comes out seems to reveal something remarkable or validates claims about primates—particularly great apes—that were once deemed outlandish. Although not adequately documented yet, the TBRC's position is that the sasquatch is undoubtedly a primate (the debate over whether it is human or ape is one for another day). As such, it is among the most intelligent and resourceful creatures on the planet. This is good news if we are talking about the survival of the species. It is, however, going to make it that much tougher on the few who seek to document them.


Source: National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) (2010, December 2). Primates are more resilient than other animals to environmental ups and downs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 13, 2010, from here.

This article first appeared on Texas Cryptid Hunter as a blog. It is has been slightly modified for the TBRC website.

   

A Word From the Chairman

Few subjects, it seems, produce as much controversy among those with an interest in the wood ape phenomenon as the documentation question. The NAWAC has proceeded for years with the conviction that suitably compelling video and/or photo evidence can suffice to establish the existence of an unknown species of primate in North America. This is the rationale behind the NAWAC’s Operation Forest Vigil. However, images alone cannot form the basis for naming or officially classifying a new species. A type specimen is required.

Unfortunately, regarding the question of obtaining a specimen, a spirit of elitism seems to separate those with differing opinions into irreconcilable, mutually dismissive, camps. Although there have probably always been individual members of the NAWAC who supported the concept of shooting or capturing a wood ape, the organization did not ever publicly advance the idea of collecting a type specimen and was generally viewed as supporting a “no-kill” position.

In the wake of a recent NAWAC internal poll indicating overwhelming approval of the membership regarding the collection of a type specimen, the Board of Directors addressed the documentation issue anew. While stressing that Operation Forest Vigil remains the organization’s priority undertaking, the Board decided, after some months of discussion, to adopt a position of neutrality; that is, while the organization will not have as its stated objective the pursuit of a type specimen, it will not stand in opposition to individuals—within or outside the NAWAC—or groups supporting and/or actively pursuing efforts to obtain a specimen.

This should not be taken as an indication that the NAWAC will sponsor or approve large-scale “hunts" in the fashion of some groups. Within the organization, protocols regarding firearms in the field are now stricter than they have ever been: anyone wishing to carry a firearm on a NAWAC operation must be well-trained and legally licensed. The safety of NAWAC members is a paramount concern.

Speaking now outside of my Chairman role, as a field biologist I have always indicated that I supported collecting a specimen for documentation and study, although I have not personally pursued that objective. I don’t think wood apes are people. Biologists are trained to think in terms of, and to care about, populations. Collection of a voucher specimen is a way of protecting the population, from my perspective. It is not immoral, even if there are those who disagree for various emotional reasons. Since this would be a new species to science, there is little question but that a specimen is justifiable. Here’s a link to guidelines and policies that have been worked out in the scientific community regarding the collection of voucher specimens.

Hopefully this note provides some clarity regarding the perspective attained by the NAWAC Board of Directors; it does not represent a modification of the organization’s mission statement: “To investigate and conduct research regarding the existence of the unlisted primate species we refer to as the wood ape, also known as the sasquatch or bigfoot; to facilitate scientific, official and governmental recognition, conservation, and protection of the species and its habitat; and to help further factual education and understanding to the public regarding the species, with a focus mainly in, but not necessarily limited to, the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.”

Alton Higgins
Chairman, NAWAC

   

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