Bigfoot Encounters

Data on sasquatch piling up
Sightings, tracks, hair consistent over the years

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 (Photo Left) Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum displays what he describes as a casting of a footprint from a Bigfoot creature, taken in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Washington, in his laboratory at Idaho State University in Pocatello in this 2006 file photo. In his book, "Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science," Meldrum writes, "The nature and extent of the evidence fully justifies – in truth, demands – the serious attention of scientists." (Associated Press file photo )

Stephen Lindsay, Correspondent May 12, 2007

Second of three parts

Bigfoot. Sasquatch.

It is understandable that people are skeptical anytime they hear of something associated with those names. It seems incomprehensible that an 8-foot-tall, apelike animal could, in this day and age, remain hidden, even in the wilderness areas of the West.

However, in the past 50 years, an impressive body of evidence has been gathered that purports to demonstrate the existence of a native North American ape. Even lacking an actual body of a sasquatch, a lot of this evidence looks awfully good to a lot of people who are in a position to critically evaluate it.

Last week, I mentioned three Ph.D.-credentialed scientists in the Northwest – a biologist and two physical anthropologists – who have been or are actively collecting and analyzing data.

Foremost among them is Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University, who writes in his 2006 book, "Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science": "The nature and extent of the evidence fully justifies – in truth, demands – the serious attention of scientists."

So, what is the "nature and extent" of this evidence that demands scientific scrutiny?

Well, along with highly publicized sightings, movies and videos purporting to show an apelike creature, there is physical evidence of the type you'd expect if one of the "CSI" TV programs were investigating the issue. And there is a startling amount of supporting data.

In discussing sasquatch behavior and ecology based on hundreds of sightings reported by highly credible observers – including wildlife biologists, foresters, field geologists and law enforcement officers – John Bindernagel, in his 1998 book, "North America's Great Ape: the Sasquatch," states: "Many people are unaware of just how many reports of sasquatches or sasquatch tracks exist, for how long they have been reported and over how large a geographical area they occur."

Bindernagel goes on to note "a remarkable consistency in physical features and (apelike) behavior" of the creatures described. In some areas, such as Walla Walla's Blue Mountains, recognizable individuals, based on sightings and footprints, have been recorded over several decades.

Bindernagel also notes that reports from the early 1900s in Washington and British Columbia are surprisingly similar to recent reports and to the legends going back centuries.

While some sightings and footprints have been demonstrated to have been frauds, most have not.

The famous 1967 Patterson-Gilman film purporting to show a walking female sasquatch never has been shown to be a fake, even with today's digital tools. And, believe me, people have dissected it, looking at all the details, expecting to prove a hoax. None has succeeded.

In addition, the film has held up to critical evaluation by experts in the biomechanics of locomotion. So, if not bogus, what do you call the creature in the film – or the creatures in more recent videos?

As for physical evidence, of what is it composed?

Among the least convincing would be nests and dens, oddly twisted-off treetops of a thickness and height difficult for a man to accomplish, and recordings of calls that are uniform, yet from different areas, and were not made by any known animal.

The exciting findings, though, consist of forensics-type data.

Footprints have been found that have fine skin ridges, called dermatoglyphs, which are equivalent to fingerprints. A former FBI fingerprint expert, who also studies skin ridges in zoo apes, has identified dermatoglyphs in plaster casts of purported sasquatch prints that are neither human nor from any known ape but are quite apelike. He even has found scars that show the unique healing pattern of primate skin.

Footprints have been found to be biomechanically accurate for weight and stride of an 800-pound biped – and quite different from those of a human foot. The dynamics of these footprints, based on soil and terrain variations, would be impossible to fake without an extensive knowledge of foot anatomy and function.

Furthermore, these details have been consistent over the years and in far-flung locations.

Probably most astounding of all, however, have been the analyses of hair found in areas associated with sasquatch footprints and sightings all over the West. While these hairs do not match human, ape or any other known hair for morphology, they are amazingly similar among themselves and are more apelike than anything else.

Keep in mind: These disparate forms of evidence have not come from one source, one place or one period of time. These data represent too many uncontrollable variables to all be a part of some larger hoax.

Yet, these data are remarkably constant in pointing to a large apelike animal living in the wilderness areas of California, the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia and down the Rocky Mountains into Colorado.

Meldrum has staked his career on his confidence in this evidence. In an Associated Press article that appeared in The Spokesman-Review last Nov. 6, headlined "Bigfoot research stirs up ISU," Jesse Harlan Alderman pointed out that Meldrum's fellow researchers at ISU are "hostile" and call his research "pseudo-academic" and a "joke," with "some even calling for the school to revoke his tenure."

Despite the ridicule, Meldrum does have his supporters in the scientific community. His dean at ISU calls him "a bona fide scientist," and Jane Goodall, the ground-breaking chimpanzee researcher who, according to Alderman, "believes in the legend," wrote for the jacket of Meldrum's book that he "brings a much-needed level of scientific analysis to the sasquatch – or Bigfoot – debate."

As I finished writing this column, I contacted Meldrum to confirm his conclusion as quoted in Alderman's article that "Bigfoot exists." He reaffirmed for me his certainty of the data:

The body of evidence includes repeat appearances of identifiable sasquatch individuals over successive years.

Examples of footprints that appear to preserve fine dermatoglyphic details have been regarded very seriously by a number of professional fingerprint examiners.

Hair samples have stood up to scrutiny, indicating a primate of indeterminate identity.

The persistence of this evidence, although remaining contested and controversial, warrants long-overdue consideration by the scientific community.

So what do you think? Could there be an 8-foot-tall, apelike, upright-walking animal in this day and age in the forests of the West? In the forests of North Idaho or Kootenai County?

There have been purported sightings and footprints here. Furthermore, a lot of the evidence that Meldrum and others refer to comes from the Blue Mountains near Walla Walla.

Next week, I'll take a look at what's been going on just outside of Walla Walla as well as here in North Idaho.

Sasquatch could be just that close.

Source: The

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