(Photo: Dr.'s Jane Goodall and John Bindernagel)
January 17, 1999 --VICTORIA BC, (CP) -- John Bindernagel is obsessed by a pair of huge footprints.
The wildlife biologist has been on the trail of the legendary -- many would argue mythical -- ape-like creature ever since he found a pair of 38-centimetre long footprints in a Vancouver Island park.
That's bigger than some of the biggest feet in the National Basketball Association.
Bindernagel, 57, is convinced the Sasquatch, also known as Bigfoot, is real and he's on a mission to turn the mystery surrounding the animal's existence into a science project.
When people tell Bindernagel about the big hairy beast they saw in the woods, he doesn't brush them off, he pulls out his notebook.
"I have no reason not to accept the reports," he said. "My language is the evidence is sufficient."
Bindernagel, who studied at the University of Guelph and has a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, said the Sasquatch deserves serious scientific study.
"The wildlife biologists should be taking this seriously," Bindernagel told about 200 people who recently attended a Sasquatch meeting at the University of Victoria just days after reports a sighting of the beast was a fake.
"There is another option to a bear on its hind legs. The option is North America's great ape."
Bindernagel said he corresponds with other scientists about his Sasquatch research, but it appears he hasn't had much luck with the academics close to home.
"It doesn't interest me," said Lisa Gould, a University of Victoria primatologist and the only one of several scientists contacted who would comment at all.
Bindernagel, who lives in Courtenay, about 200 kilometers northwest of Victoria, has spent the last two years writing a book about the Sasquatch.
North America's Great Ape: The Sasquatch documents Bindernagel's field work, including his discovery in 1988 of tracks in Strathcona Provincial Park. The book contains drawings by people who believe they've seen the animal. The mostly crude-looking drawings all depict a similar creature. It's about seven feet tall, stands on two feet, has long arms, broad shoulders, a flat face, short neck and it's hairy.
Bindernagel said the drawings portray the elusive Sasquatch. They are not bears. Bears, when standing erect, have slim shoulders, shorter arms and a pointed snout.
"This is not a bear," he said. "The fingers are the size of bananas or Oktoberfest sausages. One B.C. prospector said the hands were as large as canoe paddles."
Bindernagel said he has documented 380 cases of Sasquatch encounters in British Columbia and has heard about similar animals in Manitoba and Florida, where people report seeing a skunk ape.
He said there are enough photographs and plaster casts of Sasquatch footprints to begin including the beast in legitimate animal tracking manuals.
Bindernagel rejects reports last week that a 1967 film of a Sasquatch retreating into the California forest is that of a man in a monkey suit.
"The whole issue of the Sasquatch, whether it exists, is well beyond that film," he said. "We've got so much other stuff."
It's only a matter of time before a Sasquatch ends up as road kill or somebody shoots one or provides film evidence, Bindernagel said.
"I'm kind of hung up on this, that's fine," he said.
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