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Chasing Texas Legends

 

UNIVERSITY PRESS
The Newspaper of Lamar University and Lamar Institute of Technology

Friday, December 5, 2008; Vol. 85 No. 18

TBRC sets out to document ‘rare, but very real species’—Bigfoot
 

From the Yeti of the Himalayas to the Sasquatch of North America, legends of a large, hairy, bi-pedal primate have been told the world over for centuries.

The Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy seeks to prove the existence of the legendary creature and separate fact from myth.

The TBRC began in 1999 as a cyber network for people to share information and experiences about the creatures.

Lorena, Texas, resident and spokesman for the TBRC Daryl Colyer said the group was co-founded by Craig Woolheater of Mansfield after having a visual encounter with something he could not explain.

“All he knew was that he had an encounter with what fit the description of what people call the Bigfoot,” Colyer said. “It was he and his wife that had theThis is a UP artist rendering based on reports of bigfoot. encounter—at that time she was his girlfriend. They were driving down a highway in Louisiana near Alexandria—it was about 11 or 12 at night and they saw this large, hairy thing about 7 feet tall or so. As they put it, it had grey hair, from top to bottom. It was walking parallel to the highway in the same direction they were going. According to Craig, they had a good visual on it for five to six seconds — from the time they first saw it with their high beams on it until they actually passed it. It was about 15 feet or so off of the road. So they got a pretty good look at it.

“That changed Craig’s life and he began to seek out others with similar experiences. That led to him founding the TBRC, at that time called the Texas Bigfoot Research Center….From there it evolved into a team of amateur investigators including people from all professions. We have taken it much farther than that now. We are now a non-profit organization. We have a number of biologists in the organization.”

Colyer said the main objective of the TBRC is to verify and document the species so it can be officially recognized by governmental entities as well as mainstream science. “The main goal of the organization is to document what we believe is a very rare, but very real species of primate,” he said. “Based on credible eye-witness accounts — of which we have close to 300 in our database, our own accounts — which include visual encounters and trace evidence — tracks, hair, also based on ecological patterns that you can discern from analyzing those reports, we believe there is a real species out there.”

Colyer describes the creature as something like a large, upright great ape. “That’s what we think this thing is. Most of the data seems to indicate this is a rare, undocumented, bi-pedal great ape. A lot of the behavior that has been attributed to Sasquatch has been documented as being great ape behavior such as threat and intimidation displays, carrying off hogs,” he said.“ For the longest time hunters would report seeing a Bigfoot carry off a wild hog. A farmer once reported a Bigfoot stealing a 200-pound pig from its pen.

“If a 4-foot chimpanzee can carry off a 40- or 50-pound hog, surely a 7-foot, unknown great ape can carry off a 200-pound pig?

“There have been reports of Sasquatch fishing and using sticks to spear fish and we have documented reports of orangutans stick fishing. We underestimate how intelligent the great apes are.”

Colyer said Sasquatch is likely a descendant of the ancient, giant primate Gigantopithecus.

“There is a precedent for a large [possibly] bi-pedal great ape in the fossil record at least the size of what people call the sasquatch, Gigantopithecus, that existed up to about 200,000 years ago,” he said.

“Fossils have been found in Asia. Some people say that no fossils of it have been found in North America and that is true. But we have found fossils of animals that were contemporary with Gigantopithicus, like the red panda, thought only to have been in Asia. But now we have fossils of it in North America, too. If it was possible for the red panda to cross over to North America then it was probably possible for other species like Gigantopithecus. When you take all the data into account then the idea suddenly becomes a lot more plausible.

“Obviously, if it’s a real species that has remained at large and undocumented all this time, it has to be extremely intelligent — at least as intelligent as orangutans and chimps,” he said. “We think it’s nocturnal which is going to make it even more difficult to track, and we think it’s rare—which will make it even more difficult. So you have got your work cut out for you if you want to find one.

“I would say they are about as smart as orangutans, stealthy as cougars, rare as jaguarundis and have the brawn of a gorilla. I’m not ascribing supernatural qualities to it. I’m just saying that if it’s a real animal it’s pretty unique. If it’s that large and has remained at large this whole time then it has got to be pretty sharp.”

Colyer said the environmental conditions in East Texas share a common thread with other areas that receive numerous Bigfoot sightings.

“There are two areas that we are really focused on right now,” he said, “Southeast Texas, Southeastern Oklahoma and Southwestern Arkansas—the Washita Mountains, which extends from Arkansas and into Oklahoma, and we are also focused on what we call the ‘Primitive Big Thicket’ which includes Big Thicket National preserve and Sam Houston National Forest up to the Davy Crockett National Forest area. Those are the most prolific areas in terms of reported encounters.

“Both areas receive the highest amount of rainfall for each state. Southwestern Arkansas and Southeast Oklahoma receive between 60 and 70 inches of rain a year, they are extremely forested, rugged, remote, low human population density — and the same thing can be said about the Southeast Texas region. The Big Thicket gets anywhere from 60 to 65 inches of rain a year and there are pockets in there that are extremely remote and densely forested and very difficult for humans on foot.

Those seem to be the common threads — where there are few people, lots of woods and lots of water. Again, that’s an ecological pattern that would seem to indicate a living species that has no desire to have contact with people—much like gorillas, they go to the most remote areas, and they do that because they want to be left alone.”

Colyer said the TBRC relies on several methods when collecting data and evidence.

“Our main methodology begins with getting eyewitness reports, and we have a system whereby we evaluate those reports,” he said. “We determine whether we believe they are credible; and if we do, then we go on site and look for trace evidence. We don’t find it very often but we do on occasion.

“If there are enough reports and evidence from an area we go in and deploy camera traps for an extended period of time. That’s really our main focus is trying to get footage or photos. And that may not be enough to get the species listed, but we think if we can get some good, clear and compelling evidence that will lead to more interest, increased efforts and funding so that people can remain in the field for an extended period of time to research this thing.

TBRC investigators Paul Bowman, from left, Daryl Colyer, Brad McAndrews and Mike Mayes get their bearings somewhere deep in the Big Thicket in April 2007. Photo: Chris Buntenbah.

“There will still be a large group of skeptics who will demand nothing less than a body or specimen. And that’s fine. But we are hoping we can get people to take this more seriously if we can get good, clear photos that can be shown not to be manipulated. Maybe we can prompt a very serious investigation by mainstream science.”

Colyer said the group uses specialized equipment while in the field to aid in their search for evidence.

“We are in extremely remote places, so GPS is our friend,” he said. “We go out in the evening and night sometimes and we may use night vision. But I don’t know that any photos taken using thermal cameras and night vision cameras will be convincing enough to anyone at all. It might demonstrate to us that there’s one there. Then we can focus on more with the camera traps. But we do use night vision when we are out at night. We use thermal units that detect heat signatures off wildlife and you can see on the screen if there is an animal there.”

Colyer said the TBRC remains objective and fairly skeptical in the field, verifying every lead and bit of evidence before accepting it as truth.

“When we are out in the field we don’t accept everything that comes down the pipe,” he said. “For every one report that we think may be legitimate, we get 10 that we dismiss. We have about 300 reports in our database that we believe to be legitimate, and close to 4,000 total reports that the public will never see because we have determined them to be a hoax, fabrication, misidentification and those sorts of things.”

Colyer said the feeling of finding evidence or having an encounter while out in the field is unparalleled.

“The most exciting thing is when you are out there and things happen that you just can’t explain,” he said,”—big rocks being thrown at you and wood knocking sounds in the middle of the Washita National Forest and miles from civilization. We may play aggravated chimpanzee sounds throughout the day and then get a response from the thing by it knocking on a tree with a piece of wood. Yeah — you don’t see it, but no known North American animal does that besides humans and the hypothetical sasquatch.”

Colyer said he wants people to understand these creatures and dispel the view of them being science-fiction.

“The main thing is getting people over that it’s freaky looking,” he said. “It’s so much like us—it walks on two legs, but it’s big and hairy. It fits these childhood images of monsters, so people call it a monster — which of course, monsters don’t exist. Then when you tell people you are a Bigfoot hunter they say, ‘Well, are there more than one?’— well, duh?!”

“We aren’t looking for the tooth fairy or Santa Claus here. We are looking for what we believe is a real species of wildlife. And, of course, there has to be more than one for it to exist. They have to procreate. That’s our biggest hurdle is getting people over the fact that it’s not a monster.” Colyer said his involvement with the TBRC stems from his own encounter with a creature near the Trinity River on State Highway 105 some time ago.

“…The thing is—I have seen one, so I don’t care what people think. I have seen it, and I know it’s out there….Once you have seen something like that it changes a lot of things because suddenly another door opens. Something that you truly thought was myth or legend —once you’ve seen it—the whole game changes.”

Yes. The whole game has changed.

For more information go to texasbigfoot.org.

www.lamaruniversitypress.com

 

   

TBRC Visits St. Mary's University

St. Mary's University, One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, Texas. Photo: Craig Woolheater.

Thomas Woodruff, Ph.D., a professor and staff psychologist at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, nurtured an interest in the sasquatch phenomenon for many years. His interest led him to attend the Texas Bigfoot Conference, sponsored by the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, in 2007 and 2008. Following the 2008 October conference, he contacted the TBRC regarding the possibility of a TBRC presentation for his students.

Alton Higgins gave a presentation on the plausibility of the sasquatch as a legitimate but undocumented species. Photo: Craig Woolheater.

On Monday, 24 November 2008, Alton Higgins, a former wildlife biologist for the State of Arizona, and now a professor at Mid-America Christian University, located in Oklahoma City, accompanied by TBRC Chairman Craig Woolheater, made the trip to San Antonio and presented an overview to Dr. Woodruff’s class of the available body of information and support for the existence of an undocumented species of primate in North America.

After the lecture presentation, students were encouraged to view castings and ask questions. Photo: Craig Woolheater.
The hour-long PowerPoint presentation began with a brief survey of the various categories of references in Native American cultures that appear to pertain to large bipedal primates, sometimes perceived and represented as a tribe of huge hairy people. A short video produced by the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures, Hairy Man Among Native Americans, was also shown. A variety of apparently sasquatch-related historical references, including several newspaper accounts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, were shared, followed by a discussion of contemporary support and evidence. The names of several prominent scientists who support research and investigation into the sasquatch phenomenon were listed, and research activities of the TBRC were described, including a long-term camera trap project. The presentation concluded with a question and answer period and informal visiting.
 
St. Mary's student Katie O'Donnell holds the so-called "Elkins Creek" casting, taken by a Sheriff's Deputy in Georgia. Photo: Craig WoolheaterThe psychology department course is designed to stimulate and develop critical thinking skills. With the presentation of various topics during the course of the semester, students are divided into groups representing various perspectives, such as skeptic, investigator, and supporter. Students alternate between groups as new topics are addressed. In the days following the TBRC lecture, Dr. Woodruff wrote that the class “thoroughly enjoyed” the presentation and that “the students were wishing that we could have gone longer.”
 
Part of the TBRC’s mission is to “help further factual education and understanding to the public” regarding the existence of the species widely known as the sasquatch or bigfoot. The TBRC was honored to be able to give educational presentations to Junior High and High School students in the Jefferson public schools earlier this year, and was equally appreciative to have had the opportunity to contribute to the educational process at St. Mary’s University.

If you are an educator interested in augmenting or supplementing your curriculum by means of a TBRC presentation, please use the contact form to notify the TBRC of your interest. TBRC personnel, time, and resources are obviously limited, but extensive efforts will be made to cooperate with and assist educators and community groups as time is available.
 


From left to right: Alton Higgins, Sarah Hundley, Thomas Woodruff, Katie O'Donnell, Kimberly Vela, and Manny Vasquez. In front wearing the St. Mary's sweatshirt is Maria Jimenez. Photo: Craig Woolheater.

St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. Photo: Craig Woolheater.
   

The Great Ape Behavioral Parallel

A hunter claims that he watched a wood ape hunt, slay and carry off a wild hog weighing roughly 100 to 125 pounds.

A farmer claims that he watched a wood ape pick up and attempt to carry off one of his domestic hogs, a 400-pound boar, before he fired at the creature, causing it to drop the hog.

Wood apes that carry off calves. Wood apes robbing chicken pens. Are such claims outrageous? At first glance, perhaps so.

However, when one considers that such behavior has parallels among the known non-human great apes, such activity no longer seems so outlandish.

Chimpanzees, for example, are known to be omnivores. They eat meat, sometimes hunting and eating monkeys and other small animals.

Now there is photographic evidence that chimps also hunt, slay and eat wild pigs.
 

Frodo, a 121-pound male chimpanzee, refuses to share what remains of a wild pig that he hunted and killed. Photograph: Cyril Ruoso/Wildlife Photographer of the Year


What is particularly interesting is that reports of wood apes hunting, killing, and/or carrying off hogs, calves, deer, goats and other large animals, all originated well before chimpanzees were known to engage in comparable behaviors. For example, an 1851 Arkansas newspaper account described "a wild man of the woods" seen "pursuing a herd of cattle, who were flying in a state of great alarm, as if pursued by a dreaded enemy."

The "animal bearing the unmistakable likeness of humanity" ran away from his observers "with great speed, leaping from twelve to fourteen feet at a time." The footprints measured thirteen inches each; the wild man was "of gigantic structure, the body being covered with hair." The "singular creature" pursuing the cattle clearly met the description of a wood ape. 

A fully-grown male chimpanzee usually ranges in size from 120 to 140 pounds, and averages between four and five feet in height. The average reported height for wood apes in the TBRC data base is roughly seven feet in height. Given the muscle density of the known great apes, it seems reasonable to propose that a seven-foot wood ape might easily carry a 200-pound hog or two, especially if chimpanzees can hunt, kill, carry and eat wild pigs.

Other wood ape behavioral characteristics have been reported well before similar behaviors were documented among non-human great apes. In general, such correlations can be seen as lending credence to this form of anecdotal evidence.

Source: National Geographic News.

Other interesting links: Nature.com; Smithsonian.com.

   

Another Conference Under the Belt (more photos)

TBRC Investigator John Morley (off-center in all brown and camo cap) greets the public at the 2008 Texas Bigfoot Conference. Photo: Alex Diaz

Dana Holyfield and Terral Evans discuss the so-called Honey Island Swamp Monster. Photo: Alex Diaz

Henner Fahrenbach talks about putative sasquatch behavior. Photo: Alex Diaz

Jeff Meldrum talks about his recent trip to China and the Chinese "Yeren." Photo: Alex Diaz

Kathy Moskowitz Strain talks about bigfoot and Native Americans. Photo: Alex Diaz

Monica Rawlins and Dalinda Colyer have a brief respite from the rush at the admission table. Photo: Chris Buntenbah

Alton Higgins takes a question about the necessity to obtain a sasquatch specimen. Photo: Alex Diaz

Daryl Colyer presents data derived from the TBRC's data base of reports. Photo: Alex Diaz

Rick Noll films the conference. Photo: Chris Buntenbah

The audience waits in anticipation of the first speaker. Photo: Alex Diaz
Another Conference Under the Belt
   

Another Conference Under the Belt

Preparations for an event on the scale of the Texas Bigfoot Conference begin many months in advance. Obviously, speakers have to be contacted, and arrangements for flights and lodging must be arranged. The conference committee also has to secure a venue, select an artist for the conference artwork, approve a tee-shirt design and place the order, arrange for sound and presentation equipment, deal with caterers and restaurants, organize setting up tables, chairs and displays, sort out media requests, and on and on. Inevitably, last minute glitches sprout up. This year the committee had to scramble to find a substitute for Peter Byrne after his unexpected cancellation.

Craig Woolheater and Dalinda Colyer work the admission table as the doors open for the 2008 Texas Bigfoot Conference at the Jefferson High School. Photo: Alex Diaz

Once arrangements have been finalized, the results are left to fate. The 2008 conference ran smoothly and featured a wide variety of compelling speakers. While gross proceeds did not allow the TBRC to realize its lofty fundraising goals, the conference once again provided excellent opportunities for meeting others and establishing foundations upon which to build ongoing relationships. That is the true benefit of attending conferences, and in that sense, the conference was a huge success.

Conference tee-shirts await a new home. Photo: Chris Buntenbah

In addition to their conference day presentations, some speakers shared their knowledge with students in the Jefferson Independent School District. This year Henner Fahrenbach and Jeff Meldrum spoke to students in two high school science classes, and Alton Higgins presented an ecology lesson to seventh grade students. That lesson was recorded to show to other classes. Such activities enable the TBRC to fulfill the part of the mission statement indicating the objective of helping to "further factual education and understanding to the public regarding the [sasquatch]."

This three-foot tall hand-crafted sasquatch was donated by Design Toscano (www.designtoscano.com), and was won in a raffle drawing by Sandy, the Alaskan over-the-road truck driver who attends most of the bigfoot conferences across the continent. Photo: Alex Diaz

Daryl Colyer kicked off Saturday's conference with a wide-ranging review of encounters-related data derived from the TBRC's incident-report database, compiled by the TBRC's Corporate Accountant, Ken Stewart. Perhaps no other bigfoot-related organization has done as much to organize and share information with other researchers and the general public. Colyer also unveiled a new feature of the TBRC website, Report Explorer, developed by ideapark, the marketing and web design agency that developed the TBRC website. Report Explorer enables users to search the TBRC sightings database and visually display the results, using a limited set of criteria. Additional search criteria will be included in future updates.

Dalinda and Daryl Colyer photographed at the TBRC Annual Meeting Friday Night at the Riverport Barbeque. Photo: Bob Yarger

Alton Higgins wrapped up the morning session with a discussion of costumes and criteria that can be used to disclose potential hoaxes and misidentifications. Normal human body proportions were compared to costumed individuals as well as possible sasquatch hoax photographs. Some highly publicized photos were closely examined, including the Georgia hoax and the Pennsylvania Jacobs photo of a misidentified black bear.

Alton Higgins gives an interesting presentation about hoaxes and misidentified photos. Photo: Alex Diaz

After lunch David Paulides discussed his recent book, The Hoopa Project, featuring drawings by forensic artist Harvey Pratt. Paulides emphasized that he always insists that witnesses sign an affidavit before he will interview them regarding alleged sightings. In his opinion, the accounts he researched from the Hoopa tribe, along with the drawings prepared by Pratt based on witness descriptions, indicate possible interbreeding between humans and sasquatches.

David Paulides signs books for buyers. Photo: Chris Buntenbah

Dana Holyfield and Terral Evans discussed the so-called Honey Island Swamp Monster. Holyfield showed a trailer from her documentary and Evans described some of his sightings and experiences in the Louisiana swamps.

Brian Brown was the event's emcee. Photo: Alex Diaz

Evans extended an invitation to anyone interested in the subject to visit him and explore areas where the Honey Island Swamp Monster has been allegedly encountered.

Tod Pinkerton shares a laugh with friends. Photo: Chris Buntenbah

Kathy Moskowitz Strain discussed her lavishly illustrated new book, Giants, Cannibals and Monsters: Bigfoot in Native Culture. Many Native American tribes have artwork, ancient legends and songs that may have been derived from experiences with creatures known in today's popular culture as bigfoot or sasquatch. Strain, a professional anthropologist who serves as the Forest Heritage Resource and Tribal Relations Programs Manager for the Stanislaus National Forest, spent decades developing relationships with tribal leaders and researching archival literature to unearth accounts from a wide range of cultures.

Kathy Moskowitz Strain sells her new book Giants, Cannibals and Monsters. Photo: Chris Buntenbah 

The next speaker, Robert Swain, provided one of the unexpected delights of the conference. Swain is a talented cartoonist who created Laughsquatch, a single frame cartoon series that he is attempting to syndicate. Conference attendees responded very positively to the sample cartoons and Swain's amusing commentary.

Robert Swain presents his drawings from Laughsquatch. Photo: Chris Buntenbah

Dr. Henner Fahrenbach described sasquatch behaviors based on his evaluations of thousands of reports and, in particular, his own witness interviews and encounters investigations. He suggested that long-term habituation situations could hold the key to eventual documentation efforts.

Monica Rawlins and Henner Fahrenbach enjoy a quiet conversation at the McKay House Bed and Breakfast in Jefferson. Photo: Chris Buntenbah

A panel Q & A rounded out the regular sessions of the conference. Conference host Brian Brown moderated the event featuring David Paulides, Daryl Colyer, Jeff Meldrum, Craig Woolheater, Dana Holyfield, Henner Fahrenbach, Kathy Moskowitz Strain, and Alton Higgins. Rick Noll videotaped the panel discussion, along with all the other conference presentations (except for the Hoopa Project discussion by David Paulides).

Alton Higgins, Kathy Moskowitz Strain, Henner Fahrenbach, Dana Holyfield, Craig Woolheater, Jeff Meldrum, Daryl Colyer and David Paulides take questions during the panel discussion, moderated by Brian Brown. Photo: Alex Diaz

An evening banquet, featuring crawfish and chicken etoufee, was highlighted by an extraordinary presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Jeff Meldrum. He discussed his trip to China to meet with scientists and amateur investigators involved with researching the Yeren, the Chinese equivalent of North America's sasquatch. A side benefit of his trip was the healing of a longstanding rift between the academic community and lay investigators. Meldrum met with witnesses and spent a little time in the remote mountainous region where recent sightings have been reported. Most significantly, he was able to examine casts of footprints that bore a remarkable resemblance to sasquatch tracks, indicating a possible relationship. Efforts are underway to secure copies of the casts for inclusion in Meldrum's university collection.

Jeff Meldrum displays casts and sells his book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. Photo: Chris Buntenbah

On Sunday, the day after the conference, a small group consisting of conference attendees, speakers and TBRC members, gathered at the local high school and traveled a short distance to meet on site with a young man who experienced a remarkable face-to-face encounter with a bigfoot in 1989.
 
Craig Woolheater and Rick Noll outside the McKay House. Photo: Chris Buntenbah
Another Conference Under the Belt (More Photos)
   

Could Bigfoot Live Here?

In conjunction with the 2008 Texas Bigfoot Conference, the TBRC was asked to present a science lesson on the morning of October 17, 2008, to seventh-grade students at the Jefferson Junior High School, located in Jefferson, Texas. The lesson was videotaped for presentation to the remainder of the seventh-grade science classes throughout the day. The TBRC lecture was the opening lesson in an ecology module that includes the bigfoot connection as a way of engaging students. The teaching event was coordinated by the Collins Learning Academy, also located in Jefferson.

Professor Alton Higgins gives his presentation to seventh grade students in the Jefferson Independent School District, located in Jefferson, Texas. Photograph by Chris Buntenbah.

A set of specific Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards had to be addressed, including the following Seventh Grade Science standards:

The student knows that there is a relationship between organisms and the environment. The student is expected to
  1. identify components of an ecosystem;
  2. observe and describe how organisms including producers, consumers and decomposers live together in an environment and use existing resources;
  3. describe how different environments support different varieties of organisms; and
  4. observe and describe the role of ecological succession in ecosystems.
The Collins Academy is sponsoring an essay contest to answer the question, "Could bigfoot live here?" The essay will serve as part of the summative assessment of the ecology module. Students are expected to either refute or make a case based on their understanding of ecological principles. Judging will be based on how well students used these concepts to make their case. Winners will receive cash prizes, starting at $100. Dr. Jeff Meldrum donated a copy of his book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science to go to the winner of the essay contest.

Essay contest form and science textbook. Photograph by Chris Buntenbah.

This event may represent the first time that an organization such as the TBRC, dedicated to substantiating the existence of the sasquatch, has been invited to help a public school with its science curriculum.

TBRC board member Alton Higgins, a biology professor at Mid-America Christian University, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, prepared and gave the presentation. Henner Fahrenbach and Jeff Meldrum, both TBRC advisors, and TBRC board members Craig Woolheater, Chris Buntenbah and Daryl Colyer accompanied Higgins.

Scientists Jeff Meldrum (foreground) and Henner Fahrenbach observe the presentation as they sit among the students. Photograph by Chris Buntenbah.

Later that same day, Meldrum and Fahrenbach gave presentations related to putative sasquatch ecology to Jefferson High School science classes.

An attentive student with the bigfoot essay form. Photograph by Chris Buntenbah.



   

BIPcast 5: Bigfoot in the Big Thicket

Listen to the unrelenting Brian Brown, as he accompanies the TBRC in June/July 2007 during an Operation Forest Vigil camera-trap maintenance trip in Southeast Texas.

Brian turned his field-recorded interviews from the event into a podcast entitled BIPcast 5: Bigfoot in the Big Thicket. This podcast is the fifth in a series of podcasts. The podcasts are made possible by The Bigfoot Information Project.  

Brian constructed an extremely accurate portrait of the event and he successfully captured the essence of the grueling field work that the TBRC is involved in.

Since the interviews were conducted last year, the TBRC has augmented and upgraded its camera trap arsenal with the addition of over a dozen Reconyx RC55 and RC60 high-speed cameras. Also, instead of the laptop computers that were in use at the time of the interviews (which were not designed for field use), the group now employs Epson P-3000 field viewers.

This BIPcast features interviews with TBRC investigators Daryl Colyer, Dr. Ken Helmer and Chris Buntenbah.

Listen to BIPcast 5: Bigfoot in the Big Thicket
.

You may also want to download BIPcast 4: Sasquatch on the Oklahoma Prairie, featuring the TBRC's Alton Higgins. 
   

Why Did the Wildlife Cross the Road?

To a great number of Texans, the mere mention of the "Trans-Texas Corridor" evokes a strong reaction. Indeed, it's not uncommon when driving along a Texas highway through rural communities in Central and East Texas to see large signs posted on farms and ranches informing the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) that their proposed "Trans-Texas Corridor" is not welcome.

Due to dramatically-increased population and motor vehicle numbers for Texas over the last two decades, and prognostications of even greater growth and transportation demands, the Trans-Texas Corridor project involves the creation of a "21st century, multi-modal transportation system" primarily for reducing congestion, among other things.

Some did not take it too kindly when they learned that such a project would likely be carved through rich Central Texas farmlands or precious East Texas critical-habitat timberlands. Congressman Kevin Brady (R) led several other Texas congressmen and women in urging TxDOT to abandon the Trans-Texas Corridor in favor of pursuing the original I-69 Project, which first began 15 years ago, long before the Trans-Texas Corridor was proposed.

The I-69 Project would involve upgrading already-existing US Highway 59 (through East Texas), US Highway 77 (through South and Central Texas) and US Highway 281 (through South and Central Texas) to interstate highway standards.

It now appears that TxDOT heard the call from Congressman Brady and his cohorts, as well as 28,000 comments from concerned Texans. On June 11, 2008, TxDOT announced that it would recommend to the Federal Highway Administration to use existing highways wherever possible in the development of the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor.

TxDOT could take the project one step further toward respecting critical wildlife habitat and travel corridors by incorporating wildlife passage structures into the project. Such structures are in use elsewhere in North America.

The wildlife crossings serve to minimize the disruption of wildlife movements, reduce the number of collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife and also help to connect parceled wildlife habitat zones. Such wildlife crossing projects have proven successful in other areas of the continent.  There is no reason why they could not work in Texas as part of the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor.

Perhaps Congressman Brady will once again show leadership by encouraging TxDOT to consider incorporating a substantial wildlife crossings project into the I-69/Trans-Texas Corridor.   

Sources: Texas Department of Transportation. KBTX.com. TxDOT Has a Plan. The Banff Wildlife Crossings Project Report, 2002.
   

16,969

The father sat across the table from his daughter and her husband. The three were enjoying a lively discussion about recent news of uncontacted tribes, when the father, changing to a different but still relevant subject, asked his daughter and son-in-law, "How many species do you think were newly discovered in 2006?"

The daughter and son-in-law jointly shrugged their shoulders, as if they had rehearsed and choreographed the response.

The father prodded, "Go ahead. Just guess. Take a wild guess."

The son-in-law offered, "200?"

The father's smile increased to a grin.

Then the daughter guessed, "500?"

The father chuckled, "Good guesses."

Then he told them about the report from Arizona State University. They were totally amazed.

The daughter said, in disbelief, "That's insane!"

According to the report, issued this year, there were 16,969 species (of fauna and flora) discovered in 2006, amounting to roughly 50 new species per day. While most of the species were invertebrates and vascular plants, approximately 200 were mammals (to include fossils). Several hundred more included reptiles, birds and amphibians.

2006 was not atypical.

Every year, like 2006, thousands of new species are discovered. Scientists estimate that the planet is home to between 2 million and 100 million species, with many still deeply hidden behind nature's curtain, yet to be discovered.

Recent years have seen a handful of discoveries involving undocumented primates: Homo floresiensis - 2004; the Highland mangabey (Lophecebus kipunji) - 2005; the Bili ape - 2002; the Arunachal macaque (Macaca munzala) - 2004.

Source: Mongabay.com. Science Daily. Primates.com. BBC News - Science/Nature. 
  
   

Illusion of Reality

In an interesting June 2008 BioScience paper, authors McKelvey, Aubry and Schwartz, USDA Forest Service scientists, liken anecdotal evidence to an illusion of reality. Specifically, they suggest that anecdotal statements regarding the occurrence of rare or elusive animal species, sometimes reported by trained and experienced biologists and "often accompanied by inconclusive physical evidence, such as castings or pictures of tracks, fuzzy or distant photographs, or nondiagnostic acoustic recordings," are "inherently unreliable." This unreliability factor increases with the rarity of the species, leading the authors to propose adopting a "gradient of evidentiary standards for occurrence records that increases in rigor with species' rarity." They argue that, in the case of undocumented species, the only acceptable evidentiary standard is a specimen. Three case studies were presented in support of the authors' contentions: the fisher (Martes pennanti) in the northwestern states, the wolverine (Gulo gulo) in California, and the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in southeastern states.

There seems little in this paper that is objectionable, although some may find some of the authors' statements to be debatable. For example, concluding that "the ivory-billed woodpecker probably became extinct in the southeastern United States by the middle of the 20th century," based on the failure, to this point, of researchers and volunteers to secure definitive evidence, could be construed as a bit presumptuous given the expertise, background and reliability of those Cornell and Auburn researchers who are convinced that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is indeed not extinct.

The paper provides no alternative explanation for the fact that many sighting reports of rare or elusive species "are located in areas where the sighting is plausible, according to historical information on the organism's distribution and ecological relations." Minimizing the significance of such correlations potentially obscures the reality that some rare species may, in fact, exist as indicated by occurrence data. Such appears to be illustrated by the case of the Pacific states fisher as presented in the paper. Follow-up surveys, based on anecdotal reports, documented population pockets scattered throughout the indicated range. While the probable extent of the species' distribution was evidently overestimated, the range and habitat and existence of fishers was corroborated.

Not all anecdotal accounts of rare or elusive species are valid. That cannot be argued. The same thing is true of undocumented species reports, at least with regard to the sasquatch. However, the TBRC takes great care to sort out information that is dubious. Posted reports from reliable witnesses, including biologists and comparable professionals, demonstrate ecological relationships that cannot be reasonably dismissed as coincidental. The TBRC maintains that compelling photographic/videographic images can serve to document the existence of an undocumented species. Prominent scientists have endorsed that position. Upon recognition of the validity of the photographic/videographic evidence, additional efforts would then be necessary to secure the kind of indisputable physical evidence to enable the formal classification of either a new species or the rediscovery of a species thought extinct.

Source: BioScience. Vol. 58 No. 6.
The Use of Anecdotal Occurrence Data for Rare or Elusive Species: The Illusion of Reality and a Call for Evidentiary Standards.

   

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