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. 


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


Great Apes That Swim?

The great apes, particularly orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus - Bornean; Pongo abelii - Sumatran), continue to exhibit behavior that is truly amazing. Recently, orangutans were observed by naturalists swimming across a river to gain access to their favorite fruit. Orangutans, like the other non-human great apes, were long thought to be non-swimmers.
Observers thought they had seen it all until they observed the orangutans, thought to be almost exclusively herbivorous, spearfishing with sticks and eating the fish. The orangutans even went so far as to steal fish from fishermen. The observers thought that the orangutans had learned the behavior from watching humans. The unexpected behavior has been caught in photos featured in the book Thinkers of the Jungle, by Gerd Schuster, Willie Smits and Jay Ullal.

These acts would not be the first incredible stunts performed by the amazingly intelligent orangutan, an ape that many contend is actually the second most intelligent species on the planet. Orangutans, known to animal trainers and primatologists around the world as the best escape artists that nature has to offer, are frequently known to pick locks, break out of cages and set other orangutans free. They are also seen stealing boats and paddling across rivers. 

The more that orangutans are observed exhibiting such intelligent and human-like behavior, the less contrived that putative wood ape behavior sounds. Cynics have long dismissed the reported swimming, fish-eating behavior of the wood ape as products of overactive human imaginations, because, among other reasons, such behavior had no precedent among non-human great apes.

Sources: Timesonline. Can Animals Think, Time Magazine Online. Orangutan (Sheppard Software).

86 the Choppers

In the April 2008 As the Woodpecker Flies update from Cornell University, researchers involved with the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBW) report that aerial surveys proved to be an unproductive approach to documenting large woodpeckers. 

As stated in the article, "Aerial surveys depend on the woodpeckers being flushed by the approaching helicopter so the birds can be spotted as they fly away. But few of the woodpeckers along the flight path of the helicopter actually flush, making this an ineffective way to search." Researchers estimated that the survey team missed 90% or more of Pileated Woodpeckers.

Project scientist Martjan Lammertink said that ground teams of six searchers were just as efficient as the helicopter crew at finding Pileated Woodpeckers. However, an advantage of ground teams is that they "can do other things - conduct playbacks, look for cavities and feeding sign, and count other bird species of interest."

The TBRC often receives recommendations to use a variety of unconventional approaches to document the sasquatch. Perhaps this experience from the IBW research effort provides a lesson in the value of traditional techniques.

Source: As the Woodpecker Flies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 


East Texas' Prodigal Son

Texas has historically been home to the American black bear (Ursus americanus), with several subspecies found in different parts of the state:  U. a. eremicus (Mexican Black Bear) and U. a. amblyceps (New Mexico Black Bear) in West Texas; and U. a. luteolus (Louisiana Black Bear) in East Texas.

The Louisiana Black Bear ranged over most of East Texas, but was ostensibly extirpated from there in the early 1900s. While at one time its population thrived, it seemed likely that the Louisiana Black Bear in East Texas had finally succumbed to overhunting.

Through the years, federal, state and academic lists of wildlife did not include any mention of black bears in East Texas except perhaps as once having thrived there. A small population of the black bear in the Trans-Pecos region in far West Texas was acknowledged by state and federal authorities, but the rest of Texas was officially devoid of any remaining black bear population. In spite of this, rumors persisted among hunters and rural citizens of the Louisiana Black Bear's continued existence in the most remote parts of East Texas, especially along the Louisiana-Texas state line and in the Big Thicket.

In recent years, there has been a gradual and growing movement of acknowledgement of the black bear's eventual return to East Texas as populations in bordering states seemed to be thriving. It had to be just a matter of time, it was reasoned, before East Texas would once again be home to the black bear, even though a growing number of East Texans (and South Texans) were already claiming personal familiarity with black bears.

Texas Parks and Wildlife began to take reported sightings of the black bear in East Texas seriously, developing a sightings report form for encounters with the species.

Well, it now appears that tomorrow is today; take a peek at Texas Parks and Wildlife's brochure Bear Safety in Mind (pdf).


Like Tom Slick, We Just Want to Know

"He won't quit because you know there's no such word as 'fail' to Tom Slick."

To the generation growing up in the late sixties and early seventies, those words may evoke memories of the cartoon hero and his versatile Thunderbolt Greaseslapper, but they could just as easily have applied to the real life, but little known, Texas millionaire Tom Slick, Jr.

Among the many interests pursued in his short but very adventurous life, Tom Slick sought to validate the existence of the sasquatch and the yeti. Considering his other noteworthy accomplishments, one must wonder what might have been.

The author of a recent article about Tom Slick in Country World, a Texas online publication, suggests that were he alive, "Slick might have hooked up with or even founded the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, which carries on Slick's interests."

Quite a compliment.


Today the Wolverine - Tomorrow the Sasquatch?

A fascinating article appeared on Wednesday, 5 March 2008, regarding the documentation of the first occurrence of the wolverine in California since the 1920s. Oregon State University graduate student Katie Moriarity obtained a photograph using a camera trap in the Tahoe National Forest, in northern California.

This stunning news has generated great excitement in many quarters. In other circles, however, the reaction has been less enthusiastic. Tahoe National Forest public affairs officer Ann Wrestling indicated that U.S. Forestry Service officials in Washington, D.C., told her not to comment about the wolverine.

The TBRC conducts searches for sasquatch evidence using camera traps such as those employed in the Sierras. As with the wolverine, highly credible witnesses report seeing large bipedal primates; the absence of evidence does not necessarily mean a species does not exist. Given enough time, equipment, and luck, perhaps another unexpected discovery will soon be announced. 

Read the full story here.

See the photo here.


Page 7 of 8

Incident reports by region

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Recent incident reports


Occurred 7/9/1988 in Sebastian County, AR

Published on November 3, 2017 Icon-photo-off Icon-video-off

Fisherman has close encounter on lake in western Arkansas. Read more...

Occurred 5/7/2016 in Atoka County, OK

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

Two NAWAC Investigators find interesting trackway.

Occurred 1/4/2016 in Walker County, TX

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

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

Occurred 6/8/2014 in Gonzales County, TX

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

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

Occurred 12/20/1983 in Walker County, TX

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

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

Occurred 12/24/1976 in Tyler County, TX

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

Close highway encounter on Highway 287 near Woodville.

Occurred Fall 2003 in Polk County, TX

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

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

Occurred 4/3/2012 in Liberty County, TX

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

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

Occurred 5/15/2009 in Burnet County, TX

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

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

Occurred 5/1981 in Travis County, TX

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

Airman reports night-time encounter on Bergstrom AFB.

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