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.


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?


The Great Ape Behavioral Parallel - 2

Lately it seems that every other month brings forth new enlightenment about great ape behavior. With each new and exciting observation, a question comes to mind: “What next?”

The answer may lie in the thousands of reports of alleged wood ape, aka "bigfoot," encounters.

In a paper published this month in Primates, Dr. Serge Wich, Dr. Karyl Swartz and Dr. Rob Shumaker; Madeleine E. Hardus and Adriano R. Lameira, doctoral candidates at the Utrecht University in The Netherlands; and Erin Stromberg, an animal caretaker at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., reveal new documentation of a non-human primate mimicking a sound from another species without being specifically trained to do so. Bonnie, a 30-year-old female orangutan living at the National Zoo, began whistling after hearing the animal caretaker make the sound. The authors of the paper go on to provide anecdotal information regarding Indah, another orangutan observed whistling.

The documentation of such behavior is obviously an extremely important discovery; its implications for the study of great apes’ learning capacities in the auditory domain cannot be understated. But perhaps even more fascinating, and most certainly overlooked by mainstream scientists, is the fact that the mimicking and whistling behavior of the orangutans can now be added to a growing list of other great ape behavioral traits that have long been ascribed to the putative wood ape.

The list of such behaviors that were previously reported by alleged wood ape observers includes swimming, throwing rocks and/or vegetation (limbs, branches, nuts, pine cones), fishing, eating omnivorously, carrying and eating swine, intimidation displays, marking trails, eating fish, building nests, making loud vocalizations, whistling, mimicking, among others. Such descriptions, when attributed to the wood ape, were always greeted with derision and cynicism; however, it is now clear that these descriptions have been uncannily accurate suggestions of great ape behavior. The more we learn about great apes, the less incredible alleged wood ape behavior becomes, especially when realizing that such descriptions of wood ape behavior came long before such behavior was documented in the known great apes.

For clues to what other behavioral traits may be observed in the future regarding great apes, perhaps a crash course in wood ape sighting reports is the first order of business.

Sources: Great Ape Trust of Iowa; Great Ape Trust of Iowa (video of whistling orangutan); Primates: A Case of Spontaneous Acquisition of a Human Sound by an Orangutan.


Chasing Texas Legends


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



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:;


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 (, 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. TxDOT Has a Plan. The Banff Wildlife Crossings Project Report, 2002.


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: Science Daily. BBC News - Science/Nature. 

Page 6 of 8

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