Bigfoot Encounters

Bigfoot body imprint reportedly uncovered (Skookum Cast)  
Theo Stein for the Denver Post Environment Writer

he Denver Post, October 24, 2000 -- Researchers in the Pacific Northwest believe they've obtained the first clear body imprint of a sasquatch, evidence they hope will spur serious research on the ape of legend. The imprint was found by a team of researchers in a mud wallow near Mount Adams in southern Washington on Sept. 22, according to an announcement Monday from Idaho State University.

Skeptics dismissed the reported evidence of bigfoot, as the never-captured animal is also called. "All they have are anecdotes and anecdotal data," said one.

But impressions of what appeared to be a large hairy forearm, buttock, thigh and heel recorded in the mud were all roughly 50 percent bigger than a 6-foot tall man, said Jeffrey Meldrum, a physical anthropologist at Idaho State University who's one of the few active academic bigfoot researchers.

Meldrum said the sasquatch appeared to be lying on its side as it reached into the center of the wallow for apples and nectarines the team used as bait.

While it's not definitive proof of bigfoot, the cast constitutes "significant and compelling new evidence" that Meldrum hopes will stimulate further research into the possible presence of these primates in the mountains of the Northwest and elsewhere.

The anthropological establishment rejects theories that sasquatch, which has loomed large in Northwestern and Colorado lore, could exist. Most scientists steer well clear of even talking about Meldrum's work.

"If you believe bigfoot, it's most likely you believe in Loch Ness and the lost continent of Atlantis," said Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine and author of "Why People Believe Weird Things." Bigfoot advocates "are tapping into an open-mindedness that borders on gullibility," he said, adding that there is only anecdotal evidence of its existence.

But Walter Hartwig, a California anthropologist who specializes in fossilized South American monkeys, defended Meldrum's work.

"What Jeff does is bring science to bear on observations that relate to the concept of bigfoot," Hartwig said. "Professional anthropologists may sneer at this because they believe in their hearts that the concept of bigfoot is impossible."

Meldrum supervised the final cleaning of the mud-caked 200-pound plaster cast of the imprint, which was also examined by four other bigfoot experts. They agreed it could not be attributed to any known animal.

Several bags of hair plucked from the cast by Meldrum were examined by Henner Fahrenbach, an Oregon biomedical research scientist. Most came from elk, deer, or coyotes.

But one fragment matched unidentified primate hairs previously collected near other sasquatch sightings, he said.

"It wasn't a lot, but people are convicted in court every day on as much," Fahrenbach said.

The investigative team used a thermal imager loaned by a television production crew to track the animal and found its footprints, according to expedition leader Matthew Moneymaker, a lawyer who heads the Bigfoot Field Researcher's Organization.

The team also broadcast tape-recorded calls of a sasquatch into the night - and received replies, said Moneymaker.

One reply was uncomfortably nearby. "The guys closest to it were petrified," he said. "These are obviously loud noises, much louder than any other animal out there."

While Meldrum says the find "may represent an unknown animal," Moneymaker is certain it was made by a sasquatch.

"I'm 100 percent confident of that," he said. "It was clearly a hominid-shaped thing, except that it was 40 to 50 percent larger than a human, and it was covered by hair."

Page Caption: PHOTOS: Copyright /Pete Travers A drawing, top, depicts sasquatch in a reaching position that researchers believe the creature was in when the imprint was made. (Fruit had been set out in a wallow as bait.) Anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum, above, points to imprint made in southern Washington.

The Denver Post October 24, 2000 Section: DTW Page: B-01
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