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


North Carolina Thermal Video

One of the primary tenets of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy regards the importance of being skeptical while keeping an open mind regarding the existence of the sasquatch. We critically evaluate reports and seek to determine validity of purported evidence, understanding that failure to debunk something does not mean it is necessarily genuine.

For example, at conferences and symposia over the years, TBRC Board Chairman Alton Higgins has presented evaluations of numerous photos purporting to show sasquatches. The vast majority turn out to be hoaxes or misinterpretations of natural features. Sound recordings, videos, hair, scat, casts and other forms of putative evidence, with exceedingly few exceptions, also fail to pass muster.

A few of the more prominent examples of purported evidence that were discredited soon after they were introduced to the public include the so-called Sonoma Video, the Biscardi “sasquatch hand” in a jar, the “Jacobs creature” from Pennsylvania, and the Georgia bigfoot body in a freezer.

However, an exception to this trend came in the form of thermal imaging video obtained in North Carolina by BFRO affiliate Mike Greene. While there are some questions regarding certain aspects of the subject in the video, nevertheless, TBRC investigators posit that the thermal footage may be legitimate and could be representative of a sasquatch.

The TBRC proposes that size, heat signature, and movement comparisons—using a human for example—be conducted for purposes of further solidifying the footage as validated evidence. We realize that Mr. Greene is firmly convinced that what he filmed is a sasquatch, but we suggest, in order to convince others in the scientific community who may be on the fence regarding the phenomenon, that documentation be demonstrated that leaves little or no doubt as to the identity of the film subject.

The video can be viewed at this link.


Take to the woods and you might find a hidden neighbor

The wildlife biologist was used to being alone in the woods.

His studies required him to spend weeks high up in the mountain solitude. So when a large upright figure collapsed his tent one night in the early 1970s, John Mionczynski knew it wasn’t another human.

He was studying bighorn sheep in the Wind River Mountains. From inside his tent, Mionczynski could see a distinct open hand with an opposable thumb, about twice the size of a human hand.

Mionczynski crawled outside and built a campfire. He could hear the creature breathing but couldn’t see it in the darkness. For 45 minutes it threw pine cones at him.

The biologist reported his experience to his boss. At least 25 stories of encounters with a large primate had come into the office that year.

Mionczynski’s boss asked: Do you believe in bigfoot?

I don’t think I do, he replied.

Mionczynski didn’t know what he encountered. It wasn’t a bear and it accurately threw pine cones, as a human would do. Mionczynski’s boss suggested he interview people who had made reports and start a file.

He would do so for the next 30 years, now spending eight to nine months of the year in the field studying the potential existence of a large North American ape. And Mionczynski isn’t alone.

To those who study the existence of bigfoot, or sasquatch, their dedication isn’t about belief. It’s a matter of science, evidence and objective research.

“To ignore data that’s coming in saying something is here, to ignore it is unscientific,” Mionczynski said.

The researchers

Before Mionczynski and Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State University even met, their research crossed paths. They had visited some of the same people, a mountain man and a U.S. Forest Service patrolman in Washington who had encountered a sasquatch and found footprints in the woods. The researchers had the same approach to their studies; they worked in facts, not emotions, Meldrum said.

Mionczynski has worked as a government wildlife technician and as a consultant and instructor. Habitat studies are his expertise, and he has extensively researched both grizzlies and bighorn sheep. He has worked with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team and developed the concept of goat packing to transport scientific equipment into remote research areas.

Meldrum is an associate professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University. He is an expert on primate evolutionary biology, the evolution of human locomotor adaption and bipedalism, the way in which we walk on two feet. He co-edited the book “From Biped to Strider: the Emergence of Modern Human Walking, Running, and Resource Transport.”

In 1996, Meldrum was visiting family in Boise, Idaho, when he decided to make a trip up to Washington with his brother to visit Dr. Grover Krantz, an anthropologist and leading sasquatch researcher. Meldrum examined Krantz’s collection of alleged sasquatch footprint casts, which Krantz would eventually give to Meldrum for his research years later.

On the way home, Meldrum made a surprise visit to Paul Freeman, once a Forest Service patrolman, who claimed to have encountered a sasquatch and made footprint casts.

Freeman said he had just found fresh tracks, too. Would Meldrum like to see them?

“The coincidence of it was disconcerting at first,” Meldrum said. Did Freeman somehow find out they were coming?

But Meldrum was astounded by what he saw. The tracks were fresh and clear. They were either the real deal or a clear hoax, he thought.

Meldrum and his brother got supplies to make casts. They remain some of the strongest prints in Meldrum’s collection of 200 casts and some of the most compelling evidence, Meldrum said. What he had captured was skin ridge detail. Just as we all have individually unique fingerprints, we have distinct footprints.

“There are a few other mammals that have texture to their pads, but typically that’s a primate characteristic,” Meldrum said.

What he captured was a real print, he believes.

“It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.”

One of Meldrum’s students was familiar with Mionczynski’s research and suggested they meet. The two spoke on the phone and met in Meldrum’s office. Meldrum knew footprints; Mionczynski knew habitat. They’ve been working together for the past ten years.

Sasquatch, a profile

Meldrum and Mionczynski’s research, often under the title of the North American Ape Project, has taken them from Canada down to Texas, including the Pacific Northwest, northern California and even Wyoming. Meldrum has also travelled to China, where he compared casts there to those taken in North America. The dermal ridges followed the same pattern, suggesting the existence of sasquatch in the mountains of western China.

The researchers have interviewed countless numbers of people who have reported sightings, but they don’t rely on that testimony alone.

“Visual sighting of brown and black fur isn’t a credible sighting,” Meldrum said.

Based on field research, Meldrum’s footprint expertise and Mionczynski’s studies of animal habitat and behavior, they’ve developed hypotheses about the North American ape:

  • Meldrum and Mionczynski hypothesize the population size in North America to be 500 to 1,000 individuals. They guess that an individual male has a 1,000-square-mile home range, which overlaps with several females and their young, who have smaller home ranges. The researchers have observed a repeated appearance of the same footprints in the same home area.
  • Males are estimated at 8 to 9 feet tall in stature, when standing upright on two feet. Females would be about 7 feet tall, adolescents 4 to 6 feet tall. Weight is estimated at 700 to 1,000 pounds, based on a model for grizzly bears. Mionczynski hypothesizes that the creature travels on both two legs and all fours. Meldrum has made casts of 16-inch footprints.
  • The North American ape is likely an omnivore, eating fish, meat and plants. Sightings increase around elk season, which suggests to Mionczynski that the animal is particularly drawn to elk meat left behind by hunters. Mionczynski also believes it is a hibernating creature.
  • No evidence suggests the use of tools or structured living space. They have language and are reclusive and highly intelligent. Mionczynski said the researchers have found evidence of sasquatches covering their tracks, literally brushing over their footprints with pine bows so as to stay hidden.

Perhaps the most interesting research lies in the food. Mionczynski identified a plant he believes attracts the animal. The berry-producing shrub is not common in Wyoming and is unique in the fact that it occurs after the first hard freeze of the year, in September. (He said he would not identify the plant for fear people would start looking for it.)

Meldrum found a distribution map for the plant. They overlaid it with a map of credible sightings from September and the following months.

“We found a correlation,” Mionczynski said.


Both Mionczynski and Meldrum have caught flak for their work.

Mionczynski went underground for a period of time. After Meldrum appeared in the Discovery Channel documentary, “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science,” for which he also wrote a companion book of the same title in 2006, an Associated Press article quoted Idaho State University professors who lambasted his research. One even asked if Meldrum intended to research Santa Claus, too.

It upsets Meldrum when other scientists won’t even examine the evidence.

“As scientists, we’re obliged to consider this,” Meldrum said.

Funding for their research can be a challenge. Mionczynski said they will receive money from individual academics who recognize their research, but “much of the time we’re working on our own time and funds. … If we’re all out (of money) for the year and we get a compelling report, we’re not going to leave that alone.”

Yes, the two researchers encounter hoaxes. But they can usually dismiss them outright. People will often use woodcuts to make footprints, but Meldrum can see they are not anatomically correct. Some have even used casts of potentially legitimate prints to make tracks, but Meldrum can spot those, too.

In Meldrum’s book, which is endorsed by Dr. Jane Goodall on its cover, he explains the field of cryptozoology, the study of hidden animals. Some creatures — the unicorn, griffin, mermaid — have proven to be legends. Others once thought to be imaginary are now commonplace, including the leopard, giraffe and crocodile.

The concept of sasquatch can’t be considered total myth. Man did once live alongside a giant ape, Gigantopithecus blacki, which has been estimated at 10 feet in height and 1,200 pounds in weight. Actual teeth and a mandible have been found in Southeast Asia. The extinct species existed for 1 million years, up to several hundred thousand years ago.

Where are the bones?

If sasquatch exists, then where are the bones? Why has a body not been found?

Meldrum asks you to stop and think for a moment. He has two reasons for you to consider.

Birth and death are rare events for an ape. If the animal lives more than 50 years on average and females only have a few young in their lifetime, your chances of finding a body are pretty rare, Meldrum explains. And animals that die naturally tend to hide themselves away, following instinct, he said. They don’t plop dead in the middle of an open field.

Consider the habitat, too. Wet, coniferous forests where sasquatches may live have acidic soil — soil that is not kind to bone, Meldrum said. Bone that hasn’t corroded away would draw the attention of small animals, which gnaw on bone for the calcium.

If that’s not enough for you, let’s return to Gigantopithecus. It lived for 1 million years, that much is fact.

“And yet what do we have to show?” Meldrum asked. “We have a few jaws and a few isolated teeth.”

Meldrum and Mionczynski continue their research, most recently in Canada earlier this month. It will take DNA evidence to unequivocally prove the existence of sasquatch, and the scientists continue to search.

A Charles Darwin quote that hangs in Meldrum’s office serves as a reminder of the need for their work: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

Copyright 2010 All rights reserved. This material was published on the TBRC website with express permission of the Casper Star-Tribune. Any other organization or individual may not publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute this article without the express permission of the Casper Star-Tribune.

Link to original story.


The Discovery of the Sasquatch According to Bindernagel


As anyone with more than a passing interest in the subject knows, of the many books addressing the sasquatch phenomenon, few have been written by Ph.D.’s, much less Ph.D.’s who accept the possibility of a species of great ape inhabiting North America. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to the release of one of those rare tomes, written in this case by wildlife biologist John Bindernagel, a man of unimpeachable character and exemplary qualifications.

Read more: The Discovery of the Sasquatch According to Bindernagel


Skookum Film Crew Coming to Conference


The TBRC is pleased to announce that a crew from MDM Productions LLC will be attending the 2010 Texas Bigfoot Conference to interview and possibly film witnesses. The independent motion picture, entitled Skookum, is currently in pre-production.

Read more: Skookum Film Crew Coming to Conference


Area X Field Research Operation Report from March 2010


From 16 to 23 March 2010 the TBRC had one or more members present at a remote mountainous location in southeast Oklahoma. Wildlife biologist John Mionczynski—at the behest of the TBRC—traveled from Wyoming specifically to join the team during the field research operation. TBRC investigators present included Alton Higgins, Paul Bowman, Chris Buntenbah, Jerry Hestand, Mark Porter, Ken Stewart, Mark McClurkan, Alex Diaz, Bob Yarger, Bill Coffman, Phil Burrows, and Brad McAndrews.

Read more: Area X Field Research Operation Report from March 2010


2010 Conference Lineup and Schedule

The 2010 Texas Bigfoot Conference will be held in Tyler, Texas, October 30, 2010, 8:30 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. To pre-register and pre-pay for the Conference, click here. The conference will be at the Caldwell Auditorium, located at:

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

The fundraiser banquet dinner will be from 7:00 P.M to 9:00 P.M. with a special presentation by Bob Gimlin, who was with Roger Patterson when the so-called "Patterson-Gimlin footage" was taken in 1967. The dinner will be held at the Tyler Discovery Science Place, located at:

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

General admission is $15.

The schedule for the 2010 Texas Bigfoot Conference:

Doors open at 08:30.

08:30 – 09:30: Meet and greet

09:30 – 09:40: Brian Brown – Official Greeting, Announcements

09:40 – 10:25: Daryl Colyer – TBRC Investigator

10:30 – 11:15: Alton Higgins – TBRC Investigator, wildlife biologist

11:20 – 12:00: Chad Arment, author

Noon – 1:30: Lunch Break

01:30 – 1:50: Robert Swain – Artist

01:55– 2:35: Jimmy Chilcutt, primate dermatoglyphics specialist

2:40 – 3:15: Daniel Falconer – Artist

3:15 – 3:25: Break

3:25 – 4:10: Kathy Strain – Anthropologist, Author; Bob Strain – veteran researcher

4:15 – 5:00: Jeff Meldrum – Anthropologist, primate anatomist

5:00 – 6:00: Panel discussion, featuring all conference speakers, moderated by Brian Brown

7:00 – 9:00: Banquet with featured speaker Bob Gimlin

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 sasquatch mystery.

The host hotel for the 2010 Texas Bigfoot Conference is the Tyler Sleep Inn and Suites, located at 5555 South Donnybrook Avenue in Tyler (903-581-8646). For those planning to attend, it is recommended that hotel rooms be reserved well in advance. In order to qualify for the discount price, the hotel needs to know that the person or group is in town for the 2010 Texas Bigfoot Conference. The Sleep Inn and Suites will provide a complimentary hot buffet breakfast and a meeting room for Conference attendees. The overflow hotels are: Comfort Suites (903-534-0999); and Holiday Inn Select (903-561-5800).

Refund Policy: If you are unable to attend the conference after submitting your advance registration, we humbly and regretfully must acknowledge that there is a no refund policy and will be considered donations made to the organization in support of the advance planning and preparation that is being put into this event.

We reserve the right to refuse admittance to anyone.

Rude, disruptive, or confrontational behavior will absolutely not be tolerated and will result in immediate removal from the premises by law enforcement.

For additional information, contact us here.


Low Energy Output Documented in Orangutans

altA recent article on the ScienceDaily website discusses the results of a study on the activity level of orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). It seems that Homo sapiens sapiens is not the only species to have “couch potato” tendencies.

The article, written by Neil Schoenherr, looks at a study conducted by Washington University, located in St. Louis, in which researchers studied the activity levels and energy output of orangutans living in a large indoor/outdoor habitat located at the 230-acre campus of the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa. What they observed was fascinating. The researchers found that these captive orangutans used less energy, relative to body mass, than nearly any other eutherian mammal ever measured. This would include comparisons to sedentary humans. What makes the results even more interesting is that the activity level of the orangutans studied is very similar to that of their cousins living in the wild.

Herman Pontzer, PhD, is the assistant professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University and was the lead author of the study. He is quoted in the article as saying, “It’s like finding a sloth in your family tree. It’s remarkably low energy use.”

Dr. Pontzer and his team studied the daily energy expenditure of these great apes for two weeks and discovered an extremely low rate of energy use not previously observed in primates. The results seem to dovetail nicely with the slow growth and reproductive rates of orangutans. Dr. Pontzer speculated that this low metabolic rate might be an adaptation in response to severe food shortages in the orangutan’s native habitats. It is pointed out that the rain forests of Southeast Asia, Borneo, and Sumatra all go through periods where the availability of ripe fruit—the orangutan staple—drops drastically. The study suggests that orangutans have adapted over time to become the ultimate low-energy specialists, decreasing their level of activity, and thus, the number of calories required to function, to avoid starving during these forest cycles when food is scarce.

Once again, a discovery regarding a known great ape species may make an argument moot that is often proposed by skeptics to refute the existence of the sasquatch. These skeptics have a pretty standard arsenal of talking points which they use to refute the existence of the species. They claim that if the sasquatch were real it would have to spend nearly every waking minute eating in order to sustain its huge bulk. This study should surely give pause to those who subscribe to this theory. If the sasquatch is a type of great ape, it is not outlandish to think that they could share certain characteristics with their orangutan cousins; maybe this ability to slow down metabolism and limit energy output to the bare minimum is one of them. The ability to do so would be very valuable and could explain occasional sightings of the sasquatch in atypical locales, like the arid scrub land of West Texas, where food would be much more difficult to come by than regions where rainfall and vegetation are more plentiful.

Another typical argument used by skeptics is that if the sasquatch were real the species would be seen more often. The findings of Dr. Pontzer and his team might help explain the paucity of sightings as well. If the sasquatch does possess this low energy output trait then they probably are not moving around much at certain times of the year when food is harder to come by. The less an animal moves around, the less likely it is to be seen by humans. Also, it is implied in the study that the low-energy output seen in orangutans helps explain their slow rate of growth and low reproductive rate. If true, and if the sasquatch shares the same trait, then it is reasonable to assume that it has a low reproduction rate as well. This would keep the population of this rare animal low. Obviously, the fewer of them there are the less likely they are to be seen.

It seems the more we learn about the documented species of great apes, the less fantastic the possible existence of the sasquatch becomes.

This article was originally published at the Texas Cryptid Hunter blogsite. It has been modified for the TBRC website.

Read the ScienceDaily article here.


Jerry Hestand and the Bigfoot Bounty Hunters

Jerry Hestand dropped a 25-pound sack of plaster of paris over his shoulder and set a brisk pace for the Red River. The Bigfoot Bounty Hunters had no problem keeping up on an early spring day. They were a pack of kids on mission: Search for the legendary beast and along the way capture footprints of the many critters inhabiting the rolling hills of North and East Texas.

Biologist and science teacher Jerry Hestand teaches kids in ways that they will not soon forget.

The tasks of the day were to make plaster casts of as many different animals as they could find, retrieve pictures from a camera trap, and replace the camera’s batteries and memory card. The 16 fourth grade students, some parents and younger siblings hiked a mile or so into the field for the operation.

Hestand is a 14-year veteran fourth grade science teacher at Bells Elementary School. And this is not your typical science club. When Hestand uses the words field trip, he’s being literal. These young scientists sport boots and jeans, or camo, and heft buckets of plaster and sacks of sardines (bait not snacks.)

Hestand carried eco-scientist type high-tech gear in a backpack. A giant smile on his face and binoculars draped around his neck, Hestand watched as his students explored the nature as they came upon it. Periodically, one would exclaim “Wow!” “Look!” or “Ehew, yuck!” and an excited group would form around him or her to examine the find.

The more traditional science and math takes place back in the classroom where the students will measure their specimens and calculate the critters’ sizes. They also research what type of animals’ tracks they’ve captured and information about their habitats and habits.

Before loading the outdoor-skids into cars for the trip to the field, Hestand gathers them into his classroom. This is the scene for the ever-necessary lecture on rules of safety in the out of doors.

“What are the rules?” he asked.

“Stay together. Stay within a grownup’s sight. Wear long pants (some didn’t heed this warning and were sorry). Take water and a snack.” “Watch out for poison ivy.”

And he asked them what were they were looking for?

“Animal tracks!” the students yelled.

“And where will we find them?”

“In the mud,” came their reply in unison.

“Any other rules?”

“Don’t climb over any fences.”

They chose companions for the car trip to some land along the Red River, just a little north and east of their school. A private property owner allows Hestand and his young scientists to use his land. On this field trip day, someone forgot to unlock the gate, so the hike in was a lot longer than planned. That might have meant some anxious moments for parents who expected to meet their children an hour or so later.

The event was closer to three hours. Some of the parents who helped with the transport left early to return students who had siblings in track meets or other events themselves — and reassure other parents that everything was fine, just an unavoidable delay. The remaining team seemed relieved when a dad showed up at the end with a truck and empty flatbed trailer to drive them back to the main road.

But first the group fluttered across the landscape, finding tracks, carcasses, ant hills and many prickly plants. They hit the mother lode when they reached the Red River. They found a place where the animals gathered to take a drink where the river slowed but wasn’t stagnant. The wildlife had worn away the plants and provided the perfect mud field. Hestand demonstrated how to mix plaster of paris to the perfect consistency for casting tracks.

They mixed the white slop enthusiastically, so much so that their clothes were decorated with it.

Their excitement obvious by the hopping up and down and nervous chatter, the youngsters contained their enthusiasm enough to keep from stepping on tracks at the edges. By the end of the day, they successfully had cast “beaver, raccoon, possum, turkey and large water birds, probably blue heron,” Hestand reported in an e-mail Monday.

Students on the field trip were far too busy exploring the wonders of nature to submit to any interviews. But their interest was evident.

After their exercise of casting prints by the river, the group hiked east across a field to a ravine that held a tributary creek to the Red River. This was the site of their first camera trap. Hestand and some of the fathers helped students negotiate the steep bank, about 25 feet high, to reach the camera location. Some found it necessary to test their waterproof capability of their field boots in the creek. Others explored “better” routes up the embankment.

Students who had picked up skeletons and poked at carcasses, showed total disgust as they opened the tins of sardines used to bait the camera traps. The bait has drawn families of wild hogs, a large boar and a doe and her fawn in front of the camera’s lens, Hestand said.

Bigfoot Bounty Hunters came about when students found out Hestand had appeared on the television show “Monsterquest” which airs on the Travel and History channels. The series features scientists investigating mythical creatures and tales. Hestand said he has been a Bigfoot investigator since 2001, when he became a member of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy. His non-fiction interest grew from his love of classic horror tales, in this case “Legend of Boggy Creek” and “Creature from Black Lake.”

When students heard of his television fame, they often asked him about what he had seen on his trips into the woods and swamp lands.

“I told them a few stories during free time and some of them started to look up some of my investigations and contributions to the TBRC,” Hestand said. “Some of them wanted me to take them on an investigation, so I decided to have them meet me after school one afternoon so they could start their own group with my help.”

About 25 students showed up for the first meeting and they’ve gathered every Monday ever since. The students named their group The Bigfoot Bounty Hunters. They had a contest to design a logo, which now appears on T-shirts. The Bounty Hunters set some goals: They want to find an undiscovered animal, be on television, go on campouts and visit different places where Bigfoot sightings have been reported, learn to hike and canoe.

“We want to learn how to use a GPS, use the Internet to research, learn animal sounds and learn how to make a fire,” Hestand said.

Some of the students have accomplished almost all of their goals — and more. On numerous field trips, they have collected dozens of plaster casts of animal prints. They have set up camera traps (digital cameras with night vision lenses that capture images of animals drawn to the area with bait.) They have watched and helped replace batteries and download pictures from the cameras to laptop computers.

“Three students went with me on a trip to Fouke, Arkansas (Bigfoot sighting central and the setting of Legend of Boggy Creek.) and traveled the bayou at night,” Hestand wrote recently. "We found two huge alligator carcasses that poachers had probably shot for fun (lesson in ecology). We have started a skull collection and we go to the Internet to identify the animal. So far we have found coyote, deer, cow and horse.

“We are working on a Facebook page and we plan to have an end of year camp out.”

Parents support the effort with seven accompanying one field trip and others designing the T-shirts. One father on the field trip said he is just so happy to see his kids out in the fresh air and excited about learning.

The students are selling their T-shirts and field guides called “Critters of Texas,” pocket-size books picture animals and their footprints. The funds go to buying camera equipment and other implements for their scientific inquiries.

“We are planning to award ‘merit badges’ next year, example: Bone patch for finding and identifying bones,;(a) track badge, casting excellent track and identify animal; report badge, write an interesting report about a subject related to our research including pictures or illustrations,” Hestand wrote in an e-mail.

Hestand said the fourth graders, as they prepare for promotion to fifth grade, were worried they could no longer be Bigfoot Bounty Hunters.

“I assured them the group would be open to students interested in nature and they would continue to be junior investigators as long as they were willing to spend their time learning about the world around them,” Hestand said.

What are the limits to learning when the whole world is your classroom?

Original article in the Sherman Herald Democrat.



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