Published on June 17, 2016
Two NAWAC Investigators find interesting trackway. Read more...
In releasing the Ouachita Project Monograph (OPM) to the public, we have found that certain questions often come up regarding our approach, observations, and conclusions. In an effort to more efficiently address these questions, we've created this FAQ. It will be added to when necessary. These questions are listed in no particular order.
Where is "Area X?"
"Area X" is in a remote section of the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma. It is on private property embedded within large stands of protected and National Forest timberland (OPM, page 4). It can be difficult to get to and is rarely visited by people who don't know where it is. In addition, due to the nature of the surrounding terrain, access to the area is controlled and only those on foot can get near it unobserved or undetected. This is one reason it makes an excellent research area. ↩
Why don't you reveal "Area X's" location?
The NAWAC is able to operate there at the invitation of the landowners and, through our arrangement with them and at their wishes, we have agreed not to publicly disclose its exact location. Even though it is difficult to get to, especially for those who don't know exactly where it is, the NAWAC, due to the nature of the field of study we're in and the kind of work we're doing, has a vested interest in keeping as many outsiders away as possible (whether they be simply curious or intending to disrupt or make mischief). ↩
How do you know you're not being hoaxed by other people?
We have been operating in the area for fifteen years (OPM, page 9), to one degree or another, and have been very active there for the past four years (OPM, page 16). We spend several continuous months on-site and many in the group hope to be able to collect a type specimen of the animal (OPM, page 21) in order to establish it as an extant species of novel primate (which we hypothesize it is — OPM, page 19). We have recorded activity we ascribe to wood apes at all times of the day and at any time of year (even in winter, though not as frequently). In order for the NAWAC to be the victims of a hoax perpetrated upon us by outside actors, they would have to be resident before we arrive and stay in place, undetected, until we leave. They would have to have the ability to operate in near or total darkness over difficult terrain and through thick vegetation. They would need to be able to do this, occasionally in full-body bigfoot costumes, while remaining incredibly sure-footed and fleet in movement. Much more than the average person in such situations. Finally, they would need to accept an occasional shot being taken at them from high-powered rifles equipped with high-resolution thermal optics (OPM, page 97 and 139).
In our considered opinion, the idea that such a task force exists for no other reason presumably than to keep our group interested and committed to the area, and with the very real threat of bodily harm resulting from their activites, seems much more far-fetched than the notion that an undescribed species of primate inhabits the region. ↩
How do you know you're not being hoaxed by people in your group?
Over 60 people have been involved in recent years with our operations in "Area X." The data suggest no correlation to those present and the activities observed. Neither is it often the case that the encounters or observed behaviors happen in areas where any members are or could be present. For the same reasons we do not seriously consider outsider involvement (primarily, that several members are armed and willing to take a shot should it present itself), we believe any member willing to engage in hoaxing could potentially be taking their lives in their hands (most obviously during supposed hoaxes involving visual encounters).
In fact, the sheer number of involved members and the revolving and rotating nature of the teams and their rosters combined with the unpredictable nature of when and in what way we observe animals or their behavior makes an internal conspiracy difficult to imagine. ↩
Why don't you take skeptics into "Area X?"
In fact, we do. Every member of the group is encouraged to exercise their faculties to the fullest extent and find mundane explanations whenever possible to events that other more excitable enthusiasts would ascribe to unseen apes. In short, we are skeptics. The difference between many of our members and an outside skeptic is many of us have had direct visual encounters and other interactions that provide personal satisfaction to the question of whether wood apes are an extant species of animal and not a campfire tale. We are skeptical within the bounds of that knowledge whereas the traditional "bigfoot skeptic" questions the very existence of the creature. We are simply unable to do that based on our experiences and observations.
With regard to taking any outsider into the area, we only do so if the individual can provide some value to the group or our work. Biologists or naturalists or primatologists, for example, would be welcome to come regardless of their relative position on the scale of bigfoot skepticism because they could further our work or deepen our understanding of wild primates. There is no value to the group to take someone who requires to "see to believe" with no applicable talent or specialty. ↩
How do I know you're not lying?
There have been more than 60 members involved in our annual operations over the past several years and not all of those people are still in the organization. If our accounts and assertions were the result of an organization-wide conspiracy to dupe the public into believing us, it's hard to imagine why these former members would continue to participate. Further, with nothing to sell and no boisterous appeals for money or material donations, a motive for this complicated multi-year and extensive lie is difficult to see.
That said, and as we admit in the OPM (page 4), until such time as we obtain concrete and irrefutable evidence that establishes the North American wood ape, there is no way for us to prove our assertions. ↩
Doesn't saying you're trying to prove wood apes exist while at the same time saying you know they do make your efforts unscientific?
Not at all. The foundation of science is observation of phenomena. Through the decade and a half of our observations in "Area X" many in our group have had personal experiences sufficient to establish for ourselves the existence of what we call the North American wood ape. If we were to stop there and say our personal accounts amount to proof, that would be entirely unscientific. But we aren't saying that. We've used our field observations to form the Anthropoid Hypothesis (OPM, page 19). We are attempting to validate our hypothesis through the collection of a wood ape holotype.
In short, we are following established techniques of field biology in order to prove a hypothesis based on observation. We are being more scientific than many (if not all) of those who take the position "bigfoot" is not and cannot be real and who dismiss out of hand those who say the opposite. ↩
Why don't you think the rocks aren't just falling down the nearby mountainside?
The mountain slope located about 20-25 yards behind the cabin has no cliffs or overhangs; it varies in incline from (estimated) 30 to 50 degrees at different locations. The slope is heavily covered with dense forest, vines, briars, an abundance of downed logs, and big rocks. With extensive testing, NAWAC team members long ago ruled out any remote chances of rolling rocks that could conceivably roll down the slope any significant distance simply by force of gravity. Any rocks that roll or become dislodged only roll or tumble down the slope perhaps 10-15 feet at the most. The odds of any rock rolling down the slope only by force of gravity, making minimal contact with vegetation and debris on the mountain slope, and then defying gravity to propel upward into the air, and strike buildings with roofs that are 10-20 feet high is absolutely impossible.
In addition, we often hear what appear to be rocks striking outbuildings far removed from the slope on flat land and will find rocks on those roofs. ↩
How do you know apes are making the "wood knock" sounds?
Early on, we were skeptical that "wood knock" sounds were a result of ape activity (OPM, page 13). However, after several years of observation, we came to the conclusion that apes were responsible (OPM, page 167). While we have not yet witnessed an ape striking a tree or making a wood knock-type sound, we have observed a wood ape in the immediate vicinity of a wood knock seconds after hearing it (OPM, page 32). ↩
Why don't you just shoot one if they're around all the time?
Hard visual sightings are somewhat of a rarity (OPM, page 162). When we do have a confirmed sighting, they happen very quickly. Shots are only fired if we have a clear visual and a clean shot is available. When you have two to three seconds to fire a clean, safe shot on an animal that is fleet of foot and stays mostly hidden, the trigger will not be pulled the majority of the time. Also, as any hunter can tell you, not every shot results in the collection of one's objective (OPM, page 97).
Additionally, our protocols require that a member taking a shot from Overwatch (OPM, page 21) has made a positive ID that what they're shooting at is a wood ape. These positive IDs are not always possible due to the animal's use of foliage as cover (thermal imagers cannot see through plant material). We often only see small patches of heat that may or may not be a wood ape. In one case, a clear visual of an obvious wood ape was made through the sights of a thermal scope, but the shot fired was deflected by foliage that could not be seen through the scope (OPM, page 139). ↩
Why don't you take a picture of one if they're around all the time?
Confirmed visual sighting lasts two to three seconds on average (OPM, page 162). It's important to note that confirmed visuals do not come by very often. From 2011-2014, there have been 49 confirmed visuals of the animal. In that four year span, the NAWAC employed dozens of teams to the field, all of which added up to approximately 48,000 man hours. Divide that by the 49 visuals, and it equals out to 980 hours between every two to three second sighting. In that short second span, there is hardly enough time to have a camera at the ready. Wood apes, like many wild animals, are stealthy, elusive, and fast. Many of the collected visuals were unexpected, and happened in an instant. With all of those factors added together, it becomes apparent that taking a photo of a wood ape is an extremely difficult task.
That being said, capturing photo evidence of a wood ape is not the NAWAC's primary goal. We believe there to be good photographic and film evidence of wood apes already in existence, but they have done nothing to further the recognition of the species. The best evidence (The Patterson Gimlin Film) is still under debate nearly 50 years after the film was released. The NAWAC believes the only way to prove the existence of wood apes is to provide a type specimen. Only then will the species and it's habitat be conserved and protected. ↩
How can they get so close and not be seen?
In fact, we have seen them. It just doesn't happen very often (OPM, page 162). "Area X" has not been commercially logged for over 100 years (OPM, page 5). The old growth forest and heavy underbrush make for dense foliage in the Summer; so dense that it's often hard to see ten feet in front of you. Because of this, even an 8 foot tall animal has the ability to stay hidden, just like deer and bears do. Based on our observations and experience, wood apes are creatures of incredible stealth. They use the foliage as camouflage, and it's rare for a wood ape to fully reveal itself for longer than a few seconds (OPM, page 162). ↩
How many apes do you think there are in "Area X?"
No idea! We have seen brown, black, and grey apes (OPM, page 128). We have documented what look like small chimps and baby gorillas (OPM, page 147). Based on our experiences and observations, there appears to be a troop of apes living in the immediate area of our research base. The number of animals present cannot be known.
However, it is our assumption that they are endangered based on destruction of habitat. This makes our goal of providing a type specimen and proving the existence of wood apes to the scientific community an increasingly urgent matter. When the argument over their existence is finally put to rest, we can start working on protecting them and their environment. With more resources and attention, questions about the population size and health can be properly answered. ↩
Why do you call it "Area X?"
During Operation Forest Vigil (carried out from 2006-2011) the NAWAC placed and maintained dozens of high-end wildlife camera traps in three locations designated as Areas X, Y, and Z. "Area X" is on private land in the Ouachita Mountains while "Area Y" was in the Big Thicket National Preserve and "Area Z" was in the Sam Houston National Forest. At the conclusion of Operation Forest Vigil the decision was made to switch tactics (OPM, page 12) from short-term stays revolving around maintaining camera traps to long term field studies. At this time and for a variety of reasons, "Area X" was the only remaining active research area. Regardless, its secluded and private attributes made it the best location for the kinds of extended operations in which the group meant to engage.
Had the naming scheme been reversed, "Area X" could easily have been "Area Z" (or Area 3 or Area C, etc.). ↩
"Wood knocks" and thrown objects sound like accounts of poltergeist activity. Why not consider that?
There's an old saying: Horses, not zebras. While we haven't yet directly observed a wood-knock being made, we've gotten very close (OPM, page 176). An ape has been seen throwing a rock (OPM, page 74). And, of course, we have seen wood apes in the valley several times (OPM, page 128) so we know they're there. Rock throwing (OPM, page 170) and making percussive sounds against things like trees (OPM, page 168) are both observed primate behaviors. There is no need to consider a paranormal source for activities that are well within the bounds of those expected from primates. ↩
How is "Ouachita" pronounced?
Although it's often mispronounced Oh-ah-cheetah, Oh-ah-sheetah, and WAH-sheetah, it's actually officially pronounced "Washita" (WAH-shi-taw).
According to Wikipedia, its etymology is...
The word Ouachita is composed of two Choctaw words: ouac, a buffalo, and chito, large. It means the country of large buffaloes, numerous herds of those animals having formerly covered the prairies of Ouachita.
According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, the name comes from the French spelling of the Caddo word wishita, meaning "good hunting grounds." ↩
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