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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.

   

"There Are Some Who Doubt Their Existence"

The title of this news article is actually a quote from Jose Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Junior, of FUNAI, the Brazilian government's Indian affairs department: "This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence." Meirelles was referring to recent aerial photographs that substantiated the existence of a tribe of humans in a remote quadrant of the Amazon forest in Brazil near the Peruvian border.

Even the president of Peru, Alan Garcia, had denied the existence of the tribe. The photographs and the public outcry that resulted provoked the Peruvian government into altering its position from one of denial to one of consideration and further investigation.

The tribe is said to be one of the world's last "uncontacted" aboriginal people.

Survival International, founded in 1969, and the "only international organisation supporting tribal peoples worldwide," estimates that there are likely 100 such tribes of uncontacted peoples in the world. There are many who remain skeptical of such a claim.

Such skepticism is in large part based on the mindset that the planet holds no more surprises, no more secrets; there is nothing left to discover and humans have recorded most everything there is to know regarding our planet.

In light of recent events, this is clearly not the case. 

The world was quite shocked by the recent photographs which showed the group of barely-clad Amazonian tribespeople raising their primitive weapons in defiance as the aircraft flew over them.

In the immediate aftermath, the Peruvian government received an abundance of letters from stunned and surprised people around the world demanding the protection of the uncontacted tribe, who are threatened by disease and illegal logging.

It is now clear, or it should be, that the planet indeed continues to guard mysteries and hold secrets; such shocking photographs should provide substantial illumination for anyone.

The same mindset is pervasive among those who cannot entertain the possibility of the sasquatch's existence. There is nowhere in North America, it is argued, that has not been trampled by humans. Therefore, it is impossible or highly unlikely that anything such as a higher-order primate could remain at large and unrecorded in the modern age in North America, or in the world for that matter.

However, the consistent rate at which thousands of new species of wildlife are discovered every year clearly indicates that humans are far from knowing all there is to know about our planet and its inhabitants. The recent photographs of the Amazonian tribe provide further substantiation that there are still unknowns on our planet.

Source: Survival International: Uncontacted tribe photographed near Brazil-Peru border. Uncontacted tribe photos spur government into action. Uncontacted tribe pictures provoke public outrage. 
   

Fishermonkeys?

Recently we learned about some orangutans that showed a proclivity for swimming and fishing.

Now we have another example of fishing primates.

Researchers recently observed a group of long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) engaging in fishing behavior. The species had been known to occasionally forage for crabs and insects, but never for fish.

The macaques were observed along rivers scooping fish and eating them with their hands.

Researchers were amazed not only by the behavior, but that it had gone unobserved in the species until just recently. Also, the behavior obviously indicates an ability to adapt to an altering environment and food supply.

Cynics have often scoffed at reported accounts of sasquatches exhibiting similar behavior, declaring that such behavior is outside the behavioral scope of non-human primates. Recent observations of non-human primates (chimps, baboons, orangs and now macaques) engaged in fishing behavior clearly indicate that such thinking is flawed.

Source: AP News - My Way 
   

The Bigger Thicket Update

The Big Thicket Association recently published another brief update regarding the six-term Congressman Kevin Brady (R - 8th District of Texas) and his efforts at enhancing the 100,000-acre Big Thicket National Preserve. According to the piece, the congressman has filed HR 5891 with three primary goals: connect, expand and preserve the Big Thicket. 

Last month, the TBRC published a news item about the congressman's efforts with a link to the Big Thicket Association's website. 

Apparently, Congressman Brady is not only interested in protecting the special area, but is seeking ways to spur "family-friendly eco-tourism," which would bring in perhaps a million visitors a year as well as increase interest in the area and its surrounding communities. 

Congressman Brady recently presented the Big Thicket National Preserve with a check for $1.25 million for land acquisition and has asked Congress to increase that amount by another $4.75 million. 

The TBRC applauds the honorable congressman's efforts.

Source: The Big Thicket Association

Read HR 5891.

   

Baseball and Bigfoot

This year, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, a new minor league baseball AA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals,  proudly announced the arrival of their new mascot, "Strike," a baseball-loving bigfoot from somewhere in the Ozarks.  

As explained on the team's website, the six-foot nine-inch "Strike" or "Ozark Howler" apparently was encountered on a road near the park by two of the park's groundskeepers. The creature was so excited that baseball had finally come to Northwest Arkansas that it decided to take up residence in the woods just south of the team's Arvest Ballpark. 

Since it was baseball that enticed "Strike" out of his reclusive hiding, perhaps the TBRC should consider using baseballs as bait with camera traps? Or maybe just build a baseball park in the Big Thicket?

Source: Northwest Arkansas Naturals

   

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