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Where the Wild Things Are

The rubber Sasquatch head stared with glassy eyes from atop its pedestal. Beneath its gaze, Bigfoot Conference attendees milled about Tyler’s Caldwell Auditorium. Children peeked at the hairy visage from around parents’ legs. A pale man wearing black cowboy boots crossed his arms as a friend snapped a picture with his cell phone. Three teenage boys gave mocking thumbs-ups. Like the elusive or mythical creature that inspired it, the rubber Bigfoot was indifferent to the awe, curiosity and ridicule it provoked.

This was the vendor’s section of the ninth Texas Bigfoot Conference, held annually in the East Texas Piney Woods. Hosted by the nonprofit Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, the conference is dedicated to the large ape Gigantopithecus blacki that purportedly crossed from Siberia to North America via the Beringia land bridge during the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. The ape’s descendants—usually described as bipedal, hairy and standing 7 to 9 feet tall—are most often sighted in rural forested areas receiving large amounts of rainfall, like the Pacific Northwest. Bigfoot also is said to roam the 65-million acre forestland along the Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana borders.

The conference aimed to separate fact from fiction. Mentions of the 1987 schlock film Harry and the Hendersons—in which John Lithgow takes a bumbling Bigfoot into his Seattle home—were met with tight grins by conservancy members.

“A lot of us like to joke around, but we never play in the field,” said member Mike Street.

Attended by about 500, the conference mixed scientific presentations with folks hoping to make a buck off the creature’s legend. In the auditorium, American Museum of Natural History primate biologist Esteban Sarmiento lectured on great apes he’d studied in Africa, Sumatra and Borneo. National Book Award-­winning naturalist-author Peter Matthiessen described a possible Yeti encounter in Tibet and said academia needs to keep a skeptical, but open, mind on undocumented species.

In the adjoining vendor area, a former standup comedian sold Sasquatch-themed hiking DVDs. Nearby, a Hollywood production designer hawked the Sasqwatch, a timepiece enclosed in a large, brown plastic foot.

“Everyone’s always real nice at the conferences,” Sasqwatch-creator Yolie Moreno said. “I’m just happy that Bob Gimlin is wearing one.”

She nodded to a tan man with a white mustache, turquoise eyes and straw cowboy hat. He sipped from a McDonald’s coffee cup, talking with people. Along with Robert Patterson, Gimlin is famous for the only known filming of a Sasquatch. Shot on 16mm film in 1967, the footage shakily depicts a hairy creature walking upright like a man near a creek in Northern California. A regular feature on the History Channel’s Monster Quest, 78-year-old Gimlin is the Mick Jagger of Bigfoot conferences.

“I took so much ridicule over that for 40 years,” Gimlin said. “For a while I was really sorry that I’d ever been down there to see it. But since I’ve started meeting people at conferences like this one, I’ve enjoyed doing them.”

Another Bigfoot celebrity, Smokey Crabtree, scouted locations and starred as himself in the 1970s Bigfoot feature film The Legend of Boggy Creek, shot in Fouke, Arkansas. The movie’s YouTube trailer is replete with grainy Texarkana forestland footage and a Charlie’s Angels-style soundtrack. Crabtree self-published an account of the production, as well as the story of his real-life encounter with Bigfoot, Smokey and the Fouke Monster … A True Story.

“My son shot him three times with a shotgun,” Crabtree said, adjusting his cowboy hat and bolo. “It didn’t do him no harm at all, though. My son was 60 feet away and using squirrel shot.”

Crabtree pointed to a framed picture of a four-toed, 8-foot-long possible Bigfoot skeleton he discovered decomposing on a bed of Arkansas pine needles. “That’s not human,” he said.

He and his wife sold copies of his books and spoken-word CD, The Legend of Smokey Crabtree, next to a poster board covered with faded newspaper clippings. They depicted Crabtree’s other grapples with nature: a 200-pound alligator gar from the Red River in 1958, a 575-pound wild boar and a ­37-pound bobcat trapped with grandson Skeeter.

“One of the biggest mistakes was making that movie,” he said. “I used to shoot ducks in my underwear from the back porch. When the movie caught on, 5 million people came beating down my door. I had to give my property away.”

A young hipster couple next to Crabtree promoted their Web site, BelieveItTour.com. Their logo—“As a child you believe. What happens then?”—depicted a cartoon Bigfoot attempting to hitch a ride alongside a white-sheet ghost and a green alien.

Conservancy members do not appreciate having Bigfoot ridiculed.

“There is a stigma attached to saying you’ve seen a Bigfoot or are interested in the subject,” said conservancy President Craig Woolheater. He squinted through rectangular glasses. “People will laugh at you. It’s lumped in with the paranormal—ghosts, witchcraft, UFOs, voodoo. That’s where the Bigfoot books are in the library.”

It takes a certain type of person to earnestly study a creature that’s largely been dismissed by the mainstream scientific community. And, judging by the conference, men seemed more likely than women to possess that perfect mix of curiosity, stuborness and a predilection for elusive hairy primates. “My sweet wife won’t ever come to these things,” said Gimlin, who had sighted the creature along rural back roads. A few spouses worked the ticket booth with the resigned tolerance that might be shown for ­nascar or wrestling.

I understood their feelings. My wife Catherine had agreed to accompany me to the conference. In an Austin boutique, she’d bought a T-shirt depicting a Bigfoot holding an American flag among pine trees. At the last moment, fearing conference attendees might take her shirt as mockery, she decided to wear her jacket and scarf as cover.

“You don’t seem like a believer,” one man told her. “Did somebody drag you here today?”

Like Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts wary of a meathead jock, Bigfoot conference attendees and conservancy members sometimes hesitated to be interviewed. When I told them I was originally from Henderson, just down the road from Tyler, they became more at ease.

“Did you grow up hearing stories?” was a typical question.

I truthfully had to answer no. Most Bigfoot sightings occur around Texarkana and in the Big Thicket. Henderson falls between these two regions. I could think of only one person who, out of boredom, had spent nights searching for Sasquatch without ever discovering even a footprint.

Many conservancy members claim to have sighted the creature. Woolheater said he and his girlfriend saw Bigfoot walking beside a remote highway while driving from New Orleans to Dallas in 1994. Daryl Colyer sighted Bigfoot near the Trinity River in 2004, claiming the creature smelled “like a sweaty horse.” The conservancy maintains the creature has the population size of the jaguarundi (a medium-sized wild cat whose Texas population is estimated at less than 50) and the intelligence of an orangutan, and lives in the forest’s most remote sections.

“In my lifetime, I’d like to see credible evidence of this animal brought to light and public acceptance,” Woolheater said.

Representing a scientific organization that is largely shunned by academia, Colyer spoke indignantly about this treatment during his slideshow, “Bigfoot 101.” He mentioned University of Florida anthropologist David Daegling’s 2004 book, Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America’s Enduring Legend. Fellow believers in the audience grumbled. Among other debunkings, the book states there is no scientific proof supporting the creature’s existence and that its recent resurgence is mostly because believers share stories over the Internet.

“My question to Daegling is, ‘Who’s been looking?’ ” Colyer told the crowd. “Do we have any teams out there right now heavily funded by a university? TBRC members do the best we can, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to go back home and put food on the table. We need funding. Money talks.”

Until a Bigfoot is killed or captured, believers hope for other evidence. Bill Dranginis sold his “EyeGotcha” surveillance video equipment at a vendor’s table. Cameras covered in metal grates could be fixed to trees. “Hair snares”—triangular-shaped metal tubes whose inner walls were lined with stiff steel brushes—could be baited and hung from branches to snag a section of Bigfoot hide for DNA study. During one presentation, conservancy wildlife biologist Alton Higgins said the group had spent over $50,000 for surveillance equipment in the Piney Woods. So far they had procured many images of black bears playing with hair snares.

“Do you think Bigfoot can smell the batteries in the camera?” a man asked Dranginis.

“That’s a good question,” he replied.

Believers blame the lack of evidence on the creature’s remote habitat, seemingly nocturnal nature, and the fact that most animals crawl into a crevasse or tucked-away spot to die. “We have 40 cameras out now,” Woolheater said, referring to a Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas-Louisiana forestland roughly the size of Oregon. “Do the math. It’s very unlikely we’ll get a photo.”

As Dranginis explained the “Eyegotcha” method, American Museum of Natural History primate biologist Sarmiento began his afternoon presentation on the world’s great apes. With shoulder-length black hair, Sarmiento resembled Tarzan’s urban cousin. His slides, displaying many great-ape genitalia, resembled a college lecture. He said species were dying out as human populations encroached on their habitats. Neither negating nor confirming Bigfoot’s existence, Sarmiento said the Patterson-Gimlin footage was not of a great ape.

“The depicted creature’s large mammary glands are hairy, whereas those of humans or chimpanzees,” he said, clicking onto a new slide, “are clearly not.”

Squirming in their seats, a middle-aged couple glanced at each other over their young boy’s head.

Matthiessen, the keynote speaker, is a tall thin man with sunken eyes and gray hair. As late-afternoon attendees sat outside discussing college football or sightings, he leaned against a railing, scribbling on a legal pad. His 1978 National Book Award-winning travelogue, The Snow Leopard, recounts how Matthiessen saw what he believed to be a Yeti in the mountains of Tibet. He had been brought to the Texas Bigfoot Conference by his friend, John Mionczynski, a wildlife biologist who in 1972 encountered Bigfoot in the Big Horn Mountains, which stretch from Wyoming into Montana. Contemplating whether to write a book on the subject, Matthiessen paused to muse on Bigfoot and his worldwide brethren.

“People have a need for story and myth,” Matthiessen said, watching a crowd form around Gimlin. “Most scientists are very skeptical. And they should be. But they shouldn’t have a completely closed mind about it. Remember the coelacanth, a so-called fossil fish? It was believed to be 200,000 years extinct and then turned up 20 years ago off the Madagascar coast. I saw some myself in a tank while visiting the Comoros Islands. So, you know, stranger things have happened than Bigfoot.”

Matthiessen squinted into the humid afternoon sun. Two men with gelled hair, camouflage T-shirts, and fanny packs walked past.

“I’m all for mystery,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a very dull world when there’s no more mystery at all.”

Feeling trampled by Bigfoot, my wife decreed we put an end to the proceedings. After a stop at Starbucks, we sped away from Tyler. Office buildings and chain stores gave way to thick forest and red-dirt back roads. As Catherine unbuttoned her jacket, the T-shirt Bigfoot emerged from its hiding spot to stare at the quarter moon ascending the dashboard.

See the original article at the Texas Observer.

   

Bears Migrating into East Texas at Growing Rate

Mike Ford won’t forget the first black bear he saw near his home in Red River County, about 120 miles east of Dallas. It was the middle of a hot summer day in 2007. Ford, a former SMU quarterback raised in Mesquite, was driving along a dirt road when he noticed a black animal well ahead of his truck.

“I first thought it was a turkey because we’ve got lots of wild turkeys in this area and they’re pretty dark colored,” Ford said. "Then I saw that the animal was too big for a turkey and I figured it was a wild hog but that didn’t look right, either. As I got within about 200 yards, I thought I was seeing a black calf.

“Then it moved and there was no doubt what it was. I’ve seen lots of black bears while I was fishing and hunting in the Rocky Mountains, but I didn’t expect to see one in northeast Texas.”

As wild bears spread into eastern Texas from neighboring Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, more Texas residents can expect bear encounters. Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Ricky Maxey has logged reports of 14 bear sightings in the last year.

That’s a record number but Maxey wonders if it translates to more bears or merely a heightened awareness from the public, which understands the importance of documenting the animals. Most sightings are like Ford’s experience – from a vehicle at a distance.

Outdoor enthusiasts will just have to put up with the bears, protected from Texas hunters. Deer hunting season starts Saturday and with moderate temperatures conducive to increased hiking and camping, more Texans will be in the woods. Curious and intelligent with an insatiable appetite for almost any fruit, vegetable or meat, bears can be highly mischievous.

Nathan Garner, TP&W district wildlife biologist for the Tyler area, said he has two reports that were up close and personal, but both witnesses declined to be interviewed for this story. One encounter occurred not far from the Neches River near the proposed National Wildlife Refuge site in Cherokee County. The other was in the Sulphur River area. Garner said close encounters with East Texas bears are very rare.

Maxey credits habitat conditions for the erratic increase in bear sightings reported to the state agency. When conditions are lush and there’s plenty to eat, bears are less visible. In the 1980s, there were five East Texas bear sightings. That increased to 34 in the 1990s and 49 since the most recent turn of the century.

Since 2000, bear sightings were documented in 23 East Texas counties, and the bruins are showing up more often on remote game cameras used by hunters to monitor deer feeder activity.

“A black bear is essentially a 200-pound raccoon,” Maxey said. “Bears have a tremendous sense of smell, and most of their waking hours are spent following their noses to a food source. The food source is often corn or other bait that hunters use to attract deer.”

Twelve of the counties where bears have been seen in the last nine years border Oklahoma, Arkansas or Louisiana. Five others are one county removed from the border with those neighboring states, lending credence to the theory that bears are migrating into East Texas.

No confrontations between bears and people have been reported, but encounters are most likely during deer season, when hunters spend a lot of time in the woods. Maxey cautions hunters that bears are strictly protected by law.

Since black feral hogs are sometimes mistaken for bears, hunters must be absolutely certain of their target when hog hunting. It would be less expensive to travel to Canada and pay a hunting outfitter than to be convicted of killing a Texas bear.

Maxey said the bears in Red River County are probably young males forced out of Oklahoma by mature males.

Maxey added that the only bear killed by a car in East Texas was a young male run over on Interstate 30 near Mount Vernon in May 1999.

Texas officials have no idea how many bears have drifted into East Texas, but Chris Comer believes the number is small. Comer is an associate wildlife professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. For three years, he’s overseen graduate student studies designed to quantify bear numbers and habitat quality.

“We had a graduate student in Red River County who put out more than 350 hair snares to collect hair samples from a bear that brushes up against them,” Comer said. “He only got one hair sample. I suspect the number is much less than 100 bears and possibly no more than 20.”

East Texas black bears were common in the 1800s and Comer said a bear was reportedly killed in Sabine County near the Louisiana border as recently as 1964. Bears were hunted for meat, their fat was used as cooking grease and their hides were tanned. The large animals were also viewed as threats to settlers’ livestock and crops.

The Big Thicket of southeast Texas was the region’s last stronghold for bears. Still largely undeveloped, the Big Thicket is a vast expanse of bottomland hardwood forest north of Beaumont.

In Hardin County, “Uncle Bud” Bracken was considered the bear hunting champ, with 305 hides accumulated during his career in the 19th century. Two hunters in Liberty County reported killing 182 bears from 1883-1885. All their hunting occurred in a 10-mile radius of the Trinity River drainage. Another prominent Big Thicket bear hunter was Ben Lilley, who reportedly killed 118 of the animals in 1906.

Because of shrinking East Texas habitat, black bears will never return to those numbers, but the animals are thriving in southeastern Oklahoma. Joe Hemphill has been monitoring bears for Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for 20 years, and he conservatively estimates as many as 800 bears in the four-county area across the Texas border from Red River County.

Oklahoma had its first modern bear season in October with a strict quota of 20 bears. Archery hunters bagged 16 bruins during the initial 23 days of hunting. Then the season was expanded to muzzle-loading firearms. The biggest bear reported by an archery hunter weighed 345 pounds after it was dressed and quartered. Its live weight was more than 400 pounds.

Hemphill received more than 40 nuisance bear reports last summer. He managed to trap and relocate three of the problem bears.

“Most of the nuisance bears are young males,” he said, “but we’re trapping more nuisance females, and that seems to indicate an expanding bear population. People want to make pets out of these bears, and that’s a bad idea. Bears are powerful animals, and they can be very dangerous when they lose their fear of people.”

Part of the Red River County ranch that Mike Ford owns has been in his family for more than 100 years.

“It’s exciting to think that the bears were here when my family first owned this land and now they’re coming back,” Ford said. “The landowners that I’ve talked with are excited about it. They appreciate all the native animals, whether they’re turkeys or bears.”


BLACK BEARS AT A GLANCE

What: A large omnivorous mammal once native to most of Texas.

Size: Adult bears are five to six feet long and weigh 150 to 400 pounds.

Diet: Bears eat just about anything, including leaves, nuts, berries, roots, fruits, tubers, insects and meat. About 90 percent of their diet is vegetarian.

Habitat: Bears can survive from the deserts of the Trans-Pecos region to the deep forests of the Piney Woods. They den in hollow trees, brush piles, thickets, rock crevices or caves.

Personality: Intelligent, shy and secretive. Most bears work hard to avoid contact with humans. Mothers with cubs are protective of their offspring.

Reproduction: Females mature at 3 to 5 years. On average, they give birth to two cubs every other year.

Life expectancy: About 15 to 18 years.

Home range: About 20,000 acres for a male, 5,000 acres for a female.

Speed: A bear can run as fast as 35 mph for short bursts.

Texas status: Threatened. Bears are protected by state law. The fine for killing a bear is as high as $10,000 plus restitution fees.

Population trend: Bears are moving back into Texas from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mexico

IF YOU ENCOUNTER A BEAR

• Talk in a calm manner while backing slowly away. Do not make direct eye contact.

• Do not run. This may trigger a bear’s chase instincts.

• If a bear approaches you, stand your ground, raise your arms, backpack or jacket to appear larger. Yell at the bear.

• If attacked, fight the bear aggressively to let the animal know you are not easy prey. Do not play dead.

PREVENTING BEAR CONFRONTATIONS

• Never feed bears. Feeding teaches the bears to expect food from humans and is essentially a death sentence for the animal and potentially dangerous for any humans the habituated bear encounters.

• Keep your camp clean with food stored away from tent or trailer.

• Hunters should discard remains of processed game far away from the campsite.

• Hang automatic game feeders beyond the reach of bears.

• Deer corn in piles or open feeders attract more bears.

• Switch from corn to soybeans for wildlife bait to attract fewer bears.

BEAR INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET

www.bebearaware.org

www.bbcc.org

www.fws.gov/endangered/

www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TO REPORT AN EAST TEXAS BEAR SIGHTING

Call 903-679-9821 or 409-384-6894 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

EAST TEXAS COUNTIES WITH DOCUMENTED BEAR SIGHTINGS SINCE 2000

Angelina, Bowie, Cass, Cherokee, Franklin, Grayson, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Lamar, Marion, Montgomery, Morris, Newton, Orange, Panola, Polk, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Wood.

Original article featured in The Dallas Morning News.

   

Playing Hide and Seek with a Giant

Sasquatch illustration by Pete Travers.Fifty years ago construction worker Jerry Crew found his tracks; today biologists pursue him by high-tech means. We are talking about Bigfoot, America’s legendary creature.

People who have supposedly seen Bigfoot in various locales of the USA describe the creature as two to three meters tall, hairy and with ape-like facial features. Also notable are the gait and gigantic footprints left behind. This last feature prompted journalist Andrew Genzoli to coin the term Bigfoot. Nowadays, many prefer the term Sasquatch, a name of North American native derivation, originally meaning “Lord of the Forest.” Is it possible that such a creature can lead its life these days, hidden away from science?

Enormous and Black

Alton Higgins belongs to a growing group of persons who have encountered Bigfoot. And he isn’t just anybody: Alton Higgins is a biologist and teaches at Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City. “Theoretically, I can’t claim to have seen a bigfoot, in that the existence of this creature has not been proven.” Nevertheless, Higgins claims to have seen an animal in 2002 in Oklahoma that is not contained in any guide to mammals. “I saw a gigantic, black animal, which ran away from me with great speed on two legs,” says the 57 year-old. He observed the animal from a distance of about 40 m under perfect viewing conditions.

Higgins has pursued Bigfoot for 10 years. In 1998 he found a 40 cm long footprint in Washington State. “I couldn’t assign it to any known animal.” Today he is a member of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, a group of scientists and outdoor enthusiasts who operate under the banner of the documentation and protection of Bigfoot. “We have installed roughly 30 camera traps in the wilderness of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.” To date, no Bigfoot has crossed the infrared beam to trigger one of the traps.

Search by a Swiss Researcher

For 50 years people like Alton Higgins have searched for proof of the existence of Bigfoot. At the end of the fifties construction worker Jerry Crew found gigantic footprints in the vicinity of the California town of Willow Creek and cast them in plaster of Paris. The photo of him posing with the cast was publicized around the world. It was the starting bell for the search for Bigfoot. Always at the forefront of these efforts was the Swiss René Dahinden. He immigrated from Luzern to Canada in 1953 and spent his life searching for the creature.

From colonial days through to the present day, people supposedly encountered the big-footed creatures time and again; even the native Indians reported the sasquatch. But what, in fact, is a sasquatch? For Jeff Meldrum, an anthropologist at Idaho State University, the answer is Gigantopithecus, a gigantic ape that lived in prehistoric Asia. “Giganto” is considered to have immigrated to North America by way of the Bering land bridge. That sounds reasonable to Alton Higgins: “Gigantopithecus is a good candidate, but what that theory demonstrates above all is that the sasquatch is not a biological absurdity. Such an animal thrived at one time, and there are no biological or ecological reasons why it couldn’t exist today.”

Believers and Fakers

Higgins and Meldrum are among the few scientific advocates of Bigfoot. In 2002 they received prominent support from the well-known chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall. She revealed in a radio interview that she believes in the existence of Bigfoot, stating, “I am sure that it exists.” Discussions with American Indians had convinced her.

However, many of Goodall’s colleagues think otherwise. David Daegling, an anthropologist at the University of Florida, seriously doubts the existence of Bigfoot. “How can such a large animal remain undiscovered, when it has been looked for for decades? To date, nobody has found bones or other remains of Bigfoot. But that should have happened.” For Daegling, Bigfoot is not a biological phenomenon, but a sociological one: “It is basically an interaction of, on the one hand, Bigfoot believers, for whom it has profound significance – for example as a symbol of raw nature – such that they can’t dismiss it as a myth, and, on the other hand, of fakers, who lay down Bigfoot prints and fake other evidence.” Thereby arise mistaken and imaginary details.

Why no Remains?

It is clear to Alton Higgins that his sighting was not imaginary. “It was no bear and it wasn’t a man,” said Higgins. “Many people in that area have similar reports.” Higgins has explanations why no remains have been found in 50 years. “The sasquatch is rare, it has a long life span, and it decays rapidly after death.” The latter argument holds for other animals as well. “In the USA there are millions of white-tailed deer, but you hardly ever find their bones.”

It is questionable whether Bigfoot will one day leave the realm of legend for that of biological reality. Conversely, it is a fact that new species are constantly being discovered. Recently, the World Wildlife Fund published a report about discoveries in the Mekong Delta area. Over 1,000 new species of plants and animals were found there, including a new species of deer. Even among primates, major discoveries are rather recent: The first scientific description of the Mountain Gorilla was provided only in 1903. Prior to its discovery it was considered to be a myth, a product of the imagination of adventurers.

This article was originally published on 3 May 2009 in the Swiss newspaper Zentralschweiz am Sonntag (Central Switzerland on Sunday).

REFERENCES

Daegling, David. (2004). Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend. 276 pp. AltaMira Press. Walnut Creek, California.
Meldrum, Jeff. (2006). Sasquatch: Legends Meets Science. 304 pp. Forge Books. New York, NY.
The Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, www.texasbigfoot.org.

   

The Great Ape Behavioral Parallel 4

It seems that new and surprising discoveries regarding the behavior, intelligence, and ingenuity of the great apes are being made on an astoundingly regular basis. This past week scientists revealed a startling discovery regarding chimpanzees. In a study published in the International Journal of Primatology, scientists in the Republic of Congo reported that wild chimpanzees arm themselves with large clubs crafted from branches to pound the nests of bees in order to gain access to the honey inside. In addition, these same chimps also put together “toolkits” made up of different sized wooden implements to help in their quest for the sweet treat.

A chimpanzee wields a limb in an attempt to extract honey from a tree. Source: BBC News.Primatologists have long been aware that chimps love honey and will go to great lengths to get it. Previous studies have noted how these apes fashion and shape sticks to dip into or pry open nests; however, until now, no one knew just how far chimpanzees would go to gain access to honey. Dr. Crickette Sanz, of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said, “It seems these chimps in central Africa have developed more sophisticated techniques for getting at the honey than populations in eastern and western Africa – maybe it is some kind of regional feature.” He added, “These nests are tough to get into – they can be at the top of the forest canopy, at the end of a branch – and the chimps will go up there and hang at all sorts of precarious angles to get to the honey, using these clubs in any way that they can to access it.” Video footage, taken during four years of observation by researchers, shows chimpanzees pounding concrete-hard nests over 1000 times. Researchers observed some chimps take well over 1000 swings in the morning, stop and rest several hours, and then return in the afternoon to take another 1000 or so swings before finally breaking through and gaining access to the honey.

The chimpanzees of the Congo are also using tools of a more subtle type in their beehive raids. David Morgan, one of the co-authors of the study, from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, said, “One of the most exciting aspects is that they are using multiple tools to access the honey that is in these hives.” Morgan and the other researchers noted the use of “toolkits” made up of the large pounding clubs, smaller and thinner “dipping wands,” and smaller sticks used for gaining enough leverage to open a hive. Researchers observed the chimps fashioning these tools and then setting them aside for later use. “They cache them in the canopy,” said Dr. Morgan. This behavior seems to point to forethought and an understanding, at least of some level, of the future. A comparable behavior was reported a few weeks ago in a study of a captive chimp, housed in the Furuvik Zoo. The chimp, named Santino, was observed collecting and fashioning throwing-sized rocks in the morning, creating a hidden cache of these rocks, and then accessing and throwing them at zoo patrons in the afternoon. It seems evident that great apes evaluate the future in ways that are much more complex than previously thought.

Considering this new information, the “wood knocking” behavior sometimes proposed for the wood ape seems all the more plausible. Even though there have been no visual reports of a wood ape hitting a large limb against a tree, this should not be surprising, given that chimpanzees, a species long known to exist, have only recently been seen whacking limbs against trees for purposes of extracting honey. It is suspected by some that wood knock sounds heard in remote wooded areas may be attributable to the wood ape; such sounds have been reported, and recorded, many times. These sounds are said to be distinctly different than the sounds of even the largest woodpeckers. Further, the sounds are often identified at night. Members of the TBRC have heard and recorded such knocks in the woods of East Texas, generally in the middle of the night in extremely remote areas where the involvement of other humans was considered highly unlikely.

The most common theory put forth by researchers who believe the wood-knocking sounds are attributable to the wood ape centers on communication as the purpose. Others have hypothesized that it is actually an attempt to intimidate and drive off intruders. Perhaps a new theory can now be offered: it is possible, after observing chimpanzees of the Congo pounding bee hives in search of honey, that the wood knocking reportedly heard on occasion in the deep woods of North America is actually an aspect of some sort of food searching activity. Could wood apes be pounding on trees in an effort to get to some sort of food source like termites or other insects? Porcupines, bears, and other animals strip bark from trees in searches for food. These animals have the benefit of claws to remove bark. Assuming the wood ape is at least as intelligent as the known great apes, and has no claws, it is not difficult to imagine individuals of the species using crude clubs to hit trees so as to gain access to whatever resources might be found inside. 

With every revelation of newly observed great ape behavior and their incredible cognitive abilities, the plausibility of a rare and elusive species such as the wood ape inhabiting remote pockets of North American forests becomes increasingly augmented.

Source:

BBC News/Science & Environment.

   

The Great Ape Behavioral Parallel - 3

A widely publicized study, authored by Mathias Osvath, a Ph.D. candidate at Lund University, seems to indicate some startling information about the intellectual capacities of the chimpanzee. In particular, Osvath studied the territorial displays of a captive chimpanzee named Santino. The observed behaviors of this particular chimpanzee seem to prove that apes are very much aware of the future and can plan ahead for it just as humans do.

According to a report on Osvath’s work in the journal Current Biology, Santino, a chimpanzee residing at Sweden’s Furuvik Zoo, collected a stash of rocks during periods of calm, stashed them away, and then hurled them at unsuspecting zoo visitors who gawked and laughed at his daily territorial displays. Because the enclosure is relatively rock free, and many of the stones Santino launched at visitors were covered in algae, it was inferred that he initially collected many of his stones from the waters of the moat surrounding his enclosure. However, in looking to supplement his arsenal, Santino went so far as to probe the artificial concrete “boulders” in his enclosure seeking weak spots. Once located, the chimp knocked off chunks of the material to add to his weapons cache. If the collected concrete was too large to easily toss, Santino worked at breaking it into more manageably sized pieces. Even more impressive is that Santino did all of his collecting in the morning hours before the zoo opened and waited until midday before raining down his collection upon zoo patrons.

“These observations,” Osvath said, “convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way.” Osvath also stated, “It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events.” Osvath based his findings not only on his own observations, but those of three zoo caretakers who followed the chimp’s behavior for 10 years at the Furuvik zoo. He added, “It is very special that he first realizes that he can make these (throwing sized projectiles) and then plans on how to use them. This is more complex than what has been showed before. The fact that the ape stayed calm while preparing his weapons but used them when he was extremely agitated proves that the planning behavior was not based on an immediate emotional drive.”

Joseph Call, author of a 2006 study of orangutan and bonobo behaviors conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, did say that it is unclear as to how typical this level of intelligence might be in chimpanzees as a species. “It could be that he is a genius, only more research will tell.” He did add, “On the other hand, our research showed the same (awareness of the future and ability to plan ahead) in orangutans and bonobos. So, he is not alone.” Studies by Susan Savage-Rumbaugh, on the language abilities of the bonobo, also seem to indicate a greater deal of awareness and planning among the great apes than humanity had assumed.

The connection to wood ape research is fairly obvious. There have been many reports of wood apes throwing sticks or rocks at witnesses, including some of the earliest recorded reports. For instance the famous Mt. Saint Helen’s area Ape Canyon incident of 1924, reported by prospector Fred Beck, included reports of rocks hurled at the cabin where Beck and his companions bunked. While some retellings of the story have the attackers dislodging boulders, which undoubtedly adds to the drama, Beck himself disputed these claims. As Beck noted in his short book on the incident, “Most accounts tell of giant boulders being hurled against the cabin, and say some even fell through the roof, but this was not quite the case. There were very few large rocks around in that area. It is true that many smaller ones were hurled at the cabin, but they did not break through the roof, but hit with a bang, and rolled off.” Going back further still, the diary of Elkanah Walker (an early missionary to the Spokane people), relates stories he heard from natives about a “race of giants” inhabiting “a certain mountain off to the west.” It is believed by many that the mountain Walker was referencing was Mt. Saint Helens. However the most intriguing part of Walker’s entry on the “giants” isn’t which mountain they lived on, but their behavior toward their human neighbors. “It is not uncommon for them to come in the night,” he wrote, “and give three whistles and then the stones will begin to hit their houses.”

This type of reported behavior has often been scoffed at by many in the media and even the scientific community as being too fantastic to be believable. However, now that this behavior has been observed in several different species of great apes, accounts of witnesses having rocks rained down upon them, their cabins, tents, or vehicles seem much more plausible.

Of even more interest though, is the notion that great apes seem to have an understanding of how possible future events may play out and, therefore, make contingency plans for them. While to Walker such reports were so fantastic that he labeled them “superstitions,” and Beck was so shaken by the capacities of the apes that attacked him that he came to believe they were supernatural or spiritual beings, it could very well be that the behaviors these men heard of and experienced were so disconcerting because, to their minds, they were outside the realm of possibility for known animals of any kind, including primates. Could it be that, rather than encountering “mountain devils” as Beck would contend, hikers, campers, and fishermen who have had rocks rain down on them have simply stumbled too close to the actual nest or breeding area of a wood ape? Perhaps these types of reports should be examined more closely than a typical sighting report (if, indeed, there is such a thing as a typical sighting report). Based on the behaviors observed in Santino the chimpanzee, it may not be so far-fetched to think it possible that a wood ape might stash rocks or limbs in several locations around its true home to be used in the event an intruder wanders just a bit too close.

By far the most commonly reported response of the wood ape to human interlopers is simply to walk away. The stick or rock throwing is a very different, and apparently more aggressive, behavior. What could elicit such a seemingly atypical response? If the inferences we draw from Santino’s territorial displays and associated rock throwing apply to the wood ape, it could be that the intruder was too close to the animal’s home, young, or main food source. If true, such areas might yield positive results if monitored closely over long periods of time.

And what if a rock strikes a researcher? Well, if it results in definitive documentation, a bump on the head might just be a small price to pay for the discovery of the century.

Sources:

BBC News/Science & Environment.

Beck, Fred; told to Ronald Beck. (1967). I Fought the Apemen of Ape Canyon, Mount St. Helens, WA.

Drury, Clifford. (1976). Nine Years with the Spokane Indians: the Diary, 1838-1848, of Elkanah Walker. The Arthur H. Clarke Company, Glendale, CA

ScienceDirect.com: Current Biology. Volume 19, Issue 5, pages 190-191, 10 March 2009. Spontaneous planning for future stone throwing by a male chimpanzee.

Susan Savage-Rumbaugh. Apes that write, start fires and play Pac-man.

   

BIPcast 4: Sasquatch on the Oklahoma Prairie

The itinerant Brian Brown talks with TBRC biologist Alton Higgins on location in Oklahoma and Texas regarding a multi-year investigation of sasquatch activity near a rural Native American community.

This podcast, entitled BIPcast 4: Sasquatch on the Oklahoma Prairie, is the fourth in a series of podcasts, and features TBRC biologist Alton Higgins as well as private investigator Roger Roberts of Tulsa. The interviews were conducted in mid-2007.

BIPcasts are made possible by The Bigfoot Information Project.

Listen to BIPcast 4: Sasquatch on the Oklahoma Prairie.

Also, be sure to catch BIPcast 5: Bigfoot in the Big Thicket.

   

Yeti Evidence Convincing?

In a brief Daily Mail (U.K.) article, revered wildlife expert Sir David Attenborough is quoted stating, “There is very convincing evidence that yetis exist.” He goes on to say, “I am baffled by the Abominable Snowman – very convincing footprints have been found at 19,000 feet. No one does that for a joke. I think it’s unanswered.” Attenborough made the comments during the BBC program Friday Night with Jonathan Ross on 27 February 2009.

Attenborough is not the first prominent wildlife expert to go on record saying there is convincing evidence that undiscovered large primates may exist in remote areas of the planet. Renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall said in a 2002 interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday with Ira Flatow, “You will be amazed when I tell you that I’m sure that they (bigfoot/yetis) exist.”

It is encouraging to see established wildlife experts like Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Jane Goodall going on record and acknowledging that compelling evidence that such species exist is out there and warrants a closer look. Hopefully the positions of these two well known, respected, and established scientists will serve to interest others in the scientific establishment to look into this mystery. The TBRC takes the position that these animals could be documented if properly trained and funded teams were given enough time. Unfortunately, few established scientists are willing to go out on the “sasquatch limb.” Perhaps it is no coincidence that Attenborough and Goodall waited until this point in their careers to make their proclamations. Making public their thoughts on the sasquatch and/or yeti at earlier points in their careers, assuming they have held these opinions for some time, could have endangered the funding for their life’s work and irrevocably damaged their reputations within the scientific community.

Perhaps, with the help of respected researchers like Attenborough and Goodall, the tide can be turned and this subject will no longer represent career suicide for interested scientists. More than any photo or DNA sequence, a greater willingness to risk curiosity may be the breakthrough that must occur before the “discovery of the century” can take place. It may also prove to be just as difficult to achieve.

Source: The Daily Mail Online; NPR's Talk of the Nation with Ira Flatow: Sasquatch Legends Meets Science.

   

Black Bears in Illinois?

Recently, an article appeared in the Kewanee, Illinois Star-Courier documenting the capture of a black bear (Ursus americanus) near Neponset. It is believed to be the first black bear sighted in the state of Illinois in over 40 years and the first black bear ever caught in the state’s history.

The manner in which the story has unfolded is a familiar one. The wildlife officials in Illinois have automatically assumed that the bear is an escaped pet. Although it is possible that such an assumption is correct, it seems to be an automatic assumption of all wildlife officials in all states when it comes to animals turning up in places outside of their known habitat zones.

In Texas, such assumptions are pervasive among wildlife officials regarding cougar (Puma concolor) and black bear sightings. If no picture, tracks, or other hard evidence is present the officials will invariably claim that the witness was mistaken. If tracks, a photo, or other evidence is present proving that the witness actually did see the cougar or bear, officials will normally state that the animal is merely an “escaped pet.”

Such stock assumptions, in many cases, seem in defiance to reason; however, the basis behind such seemingly unreasonable assumptions and statements may simply boil down to a management/money issue. Official acknowledgement of a species in an area where it was previously not known to inhabit, may indeed ultimately lead to expended resources, time and money that must be devoted to management of that species. Further, certain industries in a region may fear that they could be adversely impacted by the discovery of threatened or endangered species.

If the sasquatch were documented it would more than likely have to be considered endangered or, at the very least, threatened. Those who would be likely tasked with implementing such a management plan may be less than enthusiastic at that prospect. Developers and the timber industry would probably not welcome the news. These industries have historically had a powerful voice.

It is possible that the Illinois wildlife officials are right; the black bear captured there may very well be an escaped pet or captive. However, just once, it would be sweet and welcome music for a wildlife official to say, “We have no idea where this guy came from, but we intend to find out.”

Source: Star-Courier.

   

MonsterQuest: Swamp Stalker

To learn more about MonsterQuest: Swamp Stalker and other new season three episodes, go to www.history.com/monsterquest.

The third season for the immensely popular History television show MonsterQuest commenced on February 4, 2009. On March 4, 7:00 P.M. (CST) the episode entitled Swamp Stalker, featuring investigators from the TBRC, will air again, with a repeat showing later that evening at 11:00 P.M. (CST).

Swamp Stalker
features two MonsterQuest teams comprised largely of TBRC investigators, as they work to try to solve the enduring mystery of the “Swamp Stalker” in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas-Oklahoma region.

From History’s website regarding MonsterQuest: Swamp Stalker:

In the marshy swampland of Texarkana a legendary beast has hunted the residents of a small Arkansas town. Their story was immortalized in a well-known movie The Legend of Boggy Creek. The real events were a series of violent nocturnal attacks that left behind not only fear and panic, but also remarkable tracks. But the evidence is not just confined to history. Scientific clues continue to this day, and point to a malevolent monster that stalks the Deep South, with physical encounters by trained trackers and discoveries of tracks and scat. The strongest evidence will be examined using the latest scientific testing and two MonsterQuest teams isolate the search using both kayaks and horse-back, penetrating deep into territory that may be the home of the swamp stalker.



Marty Halgrimson, Audio Engineer, Video Arts Studios; Jerry Hestand, Daryl Colyer and Mark Porter of the TBRC; Troy Parkinson, Field Producer, and Mitch Lee, Director of Photography, Video Arts Studios; and Ken Stewart of the TBRC on location in Southwest Arkansas.

TBRC Investigators Jerry Hestand and Mark Porter kayaking through Mercer Bayou in Arkansas.

Aerial view of the Sulphur River Wildlife Management Area in Southwest Arkansas.

 
   

Bird Beaks, Bible Belt Biology, and Bigfoot

On February 12, 2009, the world observes the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. By any accounting, Darwin must be included with the most influential thinkers in the history of science. The young naturalist’s five-year voyage on HMS Beagle gave him an extraordinary opportunity to examine rich fossil beds and explore the diversity of life on many distant shores. Upon his return to England, Darwin spent the next forty-plus years contemplating his observations and writing books on a variety of subjects, including a four-volume set based on his eight-year study of the natural history and classification of barnacles, sessile marine crustaceans living in shallow water. In 1859 he published his landmark work, often abbreviated as On the Origin of Species. Contrary to popular opinion, the seminal premise presented in his book was not the concept or theory of evolution; the idea of descent with modification had been discussed for centuries. Darwin proposed a process, natural selection, by which populations might change. It continues to represent a central tenet of biology.

As almost any schoolchild can relate, variation in the beaks of Darwin’s finches, birds living on the Galápagos Islands, is one of the most prominently portrayed examples illustrating the influence of natural selection. Interestingly, at the time of his visit to the islands, Darwin was not overly concerned with the birds, which were largely collected by his servant, and comprehended little evolutionary significance to their characteristics until they had been studied by ornithologist John Gould. Gould’s opinions regarding the number of species collected and their relatedness surprised Darwin and played an important part in the formulation of his ideas regarding species change and differentiation and, by 1839, the full development of his concept of natural selection.

Initially, the publication of Darwin’s views regarding the role of natural selection in evolutionary change received only modest support from the scientific community, although this response is seldom acknowledged in contemporary assessments. Indeed, as noted by Harvard evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr in his introduction to a facsimile edition of On the Origin of Species, more papers were published in opposition to Darwin’s ideas in the first fifty years following its appearance than in support of it.

Although little appreciated now, Darwin’s work represented a radical departure from the approach and methods traditionally used by scientists. For example, his arguments were placed entirely outside the purview of the opinions of philosophers. According to Mayr, this was almost unthinkable, if not unforgivable, stating, “No other work advertised to the world the emancipation of science from philosophy as blatantly as did Darwin’s Origin.” In addition, Darwin used a model-making strategy, revolutionary for its time but commonly employed today, whereby experiments are used to test the validity of concepts or hypotheses. Even without his ideas regarding natural selection, these two achievements alone represent significant contributions to the advancement of science.

Textbooks and popular treatments often portray the church as rising up in opposition to Darwin’s Origin of Species and his (perceived) attack on faith. Mayr notes that, through much of the nineteenth century, evolutionary concepts actually appealed most strongly to laymen. Darwin’s target audience was his scientific peers, not the church. Mayr insists that Darwin went to great lengths to avoid offending people of faith. Indeed, as documented in his book The Post Darwinian Controversies (1981), author James R. Moore states that many of Darwin’s strongest supporters and most attentive correspondents, those “who most readily accepted Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection,” were Protestant ministers and Christian laymen, men who would today characterize themselves as conservatives, evangelicals, and even fundamentalists (Aulie, 1982). In some ways Darwin’s ideas regarding the equality of all the human races, as presented in his book The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, mirrored the monogenesis beliefs of Christian abolitionists, standing in stark contrast to the theories of mainstream anthropologists and other influential scientists of the day, who considered some races inferior and argued for the separate creation as distinct species of the races of mankind.

Still, one cannot deny that some religionists objected strongly to Darwin’s writings. Mayr concluded that “nearly all the denunciations of Darwin’s ideas on natural selection were based on an incomplete knowledge of the Origin and on misunderstanding,” but concern or outright rejection of evolutionary concepts grew to be widespread among laymen in the twentieth century. On the other hand, with the integration of Mendelian genetics into Darwin’s take on evolutionary change, acceptance by scientists of this “synthesis” became pervasive and was seen as a way to unify the branches of biology and anthropology, in addition to other fields of science.

In the U.S. the focus of these disparate viewpoints came to rest in the public school arena. Laws and/or standards were adopted in some states that served to limit the teaching of naturalistic evolution. Other states, including Texas, adopted more generalized policies encouraging discussion of various perspectives regarding scientific theories as well as their problems and weaknesses. Many opponents viewed such policies as encouraging faith-based perspectives. In response, legal and scientific organizations fought back with increasing success to eliminate any kind of religious reference or activity in the public schools, based primarily on the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In January 2009 the Texas State Board of Education met to review science standards, a process undertaken every ten years. The National Center for Science Education, an institution dedicated to “defending the teaching of evolution in public schools,” spearheaded the effort to eliminate the “strengths and weaknesses” clause from the current standards. NCSE executive director Dr. Eugenie Scott argued that requiring students to critique the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories would lead to the adoption of “textbooks that contain pseudoscience and inaccuracies,” causing Texas students to suffer as a result. The recommended wording under consideration states, “The student is expected to analyze and evaluate scientific explanations using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing.”

The new recommended wording certainly appears to retain the ability of students to examine possible weaknesses of theories, including naturalistic evolution, as they “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations.” The greater concern is the apparent attitude of proponents for change that seems to imply that it is not possible for theories or “scientific explanations” to have problems. For example, Kevin Fisher, a past president of the Science Teachers Association of Texas, said the “strengths and weaknesses” language is “an attempt to bring false weaknesses into the classroom.” David M. Hillis, a University of Texas biology professor added, “Every single thing they are representing as a weakness is a misrepresentation of science … These are science skeptics. These are people with religious and political agendas.”

While acknowledging for the sake of argument the possibility that misguided skeptics have attempted to undermine education in Texas, one should not presume to suggest that the scientific enterprise is perfect. There are weaknesses in some, probably most, scientific explanations. Although practitioners in all fields of knowledge may tend toward intellectual imperialism, scientific knowledge should never be confused with truth. Scientists pursue truth, but explanations for observations should always be seen as tentative. Little pleases a scientist more than disproving some aspect of the work of another scientist.

Science is a process. Charles Darwin is acknowledged as a great scientist, but not all of his ideas stood the test of time, or more importantly, stood up to testing. Pangenesis, his proposal for a hereditary mechanism and part of his effort to describe population variation, was an erroneous explanation. Darwin’s theory was discarded while Gregor Mendel’s superior model for variation and inheritance was eventually accepted. Teachers do their students a service when they encourage critical analysis of theories and illustrate how paradigms shift or are discarded over time in the wake of new discoveries. Even natural selection, the dependable old saw of evolutionary processes, has shown some explanatory weaknesses.

Recently, for example, researchers at Uppsala University suggested that a nonadaptive process (i.e., unrelated to natural selection) “has made a significant contribution to human evolution.” Many human genes appear to have evolved rapidly; the “process increases the rate at which certain mutations spread through a population.” Matthew Webster, one of the authors, concluded, “The research not only increases our understanding of human evolution, but also suggests that many techniques used by evolutionary biologists to detect selection may be flawed.” Would proponents of the Texas proposed standards object to this portrayal of the weakness or insufficiency of natural selection as an explanatory process in human evolution?

Clearly, controversy can stimulate scholarship, so long as it is partnered with a genuine openness to the unforeseen. Eugenie Scott, of the aforementioned National Center for Science Education, recently propounded on the subject of Bigfoot and Other Wild Men of the Forest. One portion of her talk concerned the question, “Could Bigfoot Live in Texas?” Some of her comments may relate to a perspective regarding the primacy of scientific knowledge.

For example, at one point in her Texas-related comments, Scott said, “If you’re going to look scientifically at bigfoot” the first question you want to ask is, ‘How do these observations fit with everything else we know from science?’” While this may sound logical, it hearkens back to the conflict Darwin encountered in emancipating the scientific process from previously stated opinions of philosophers. Certainly scientists should be familiar with the applicable research of their fields, but if they deliberately discredit observations that run counter to prevailing wisdom, progress would never take place.

Near the conclusion of her presentation, Clark made another interesting comment: “And like I say, either bigfoot exists, or we have to throw out an awful lot of our knowledge of natural history.” It seems reasonable to infer that what she meant to imply was that, if the sasquatch or bigfoot exists, scientists would have to rewrite much of what is currently understood regarding natural history. However, taken as presented in the context of an either/or choice, such dichotomies have little applicability in scientific discourse, whether they come from scientists or young Earth creationists. Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, writing in Wonderful Life, argued that such choices should be avoided and indicated that, “More fruitful perspectives often require that we step off the line to a site outside the dichotomy.” Just because one is presented with two options does not mean that either of the options is correct or that no other options exist.

Fortunately, scientists don’t have to choose between “Either the sasquatch exists and we have to throw out what we know about natural history, or the sasquatch doesn’t exist and we are safe in our preconceptions” (as we might rephrase Scott’s dichotomy). In spite of the efforts of the media or some skeptics to disparage or sensationalize the subject, at its root the sasquatch phenomenon simply appears to be derived from the presence of a rare and reclusive bipedal primate. The ecological and biological and anthropological sciences will continue to flourish when and if the sasquatch is ever documented.

In the meantime, the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy will continue to pursue its mission and documentation efforts. Part of that mission includes education. TBRC speakers have been privileged to give presentations in a variety of settings, including universities and public schools. Students benefit when they are exposed to and participate in the free exchange of knowledge and ideas. Educators should be granted academic freedom and trusted to act responsibly in pursuing goals of scholarship. The TBRC welcomes the opportunity to continue to play a small part in that process.

Without question, science plays an important role in society. Many historians maintain that modern science is a product of the Protestant Reformation. In the spirit of the reformers, modern science is shaped and driven by controversy and the questioning of standing precepts. As exemplified by Charles Darwin and his Christian correspondents, science, as a way of knowing, should not be seen as a threat to faith, properly understood. Science education should embrace this legacy and encourage students, in as many ways as possible, to pursue wonder, curiosity, discovery, and the exploration of the unknown. It is an exciting enterprise.

Sources:

Aulie, Richard P. (1982). The Post-Darwinian Controversies: An Extended Book Review Essay (Pt. 1). Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. March, 24-29.

Gould, Stephen Jay. (1989). Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. W. W. Norton and Co.

Mayr, Ernst. (1964). In: Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species: A Facsimile of the First Edition with an Introduction by Ernst Mayr. Atheneum reprint (Harvard University Press).

Moore, James R. (1981). The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870-1900. Cambridge University Press.

Natural selection is not alone in driving evolution.

What’s next for Texas science standards?

   

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Occurred 5/7/2016 in Atoka County, OK

Published on June 17, 2016 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Two NAWAC Investigators find interesting trackway. Read more...

Occurred 1/4/2016 in Walker County, TX

Published on March 22, 2016 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Husband and wife observe massive upright animal in Sam Houston National Forest on FM 1375 Baker Bridge at Lake Conroe one hour apart. Read more...

Occurred 6/8/2014 in Gonzales County, TX

Published on July 8, 2014 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Couple has an encounter while hiking in Palmetto State Park. Read more...

Occurred 12/20/1983 in Walker County, TX

Published on December 21, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Hunter has close encounter in Sam Houston National Forest near Stubblefield Recreational Area. Read more...

Occurred 12/24/1976 in Tyler County, TX

Published on March 11, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Close highway encounter on Highway 287 near Woodville. Read more...

Occurred Fall 2003 in Polk County, TX

Published on March 7, 2013 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Couple has highway encounter near Big Thicket National Preserve. Read more...

Occurred 4/3/2012 in Liberty County, TX

Published on April 21, 2012 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Man out walking for exercise at local track has unexpected encounter with upright hair-covered subject. Read more...

Occurred 5/15/2009 in Burnet County, TX

Published on April 11, 2012 Icon-photo Icon-video-off

Motorist has late-night encounter near Balcones Canyon Lands National Wildlife Refuge. Read more...

Occurred 5/1981 in Travis County, TX

Published on November 15, 2011 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

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Occurred Winter 1979 in Angelina County, TX

Published on August 26, 2011 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

Hunter reports night-time encounter while hunting rabbits. Read more...

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