Bigfoot Encounters

The fur in furtive

An Alberta filmmaker says he's found a colony of Bigfeet in the Rockies
By Heath McCoy, for CanWest News Service
Published: Monday, June 25, 2007

CALGARY - Todd Standing's experience with what he believes to be Bigfoot, the infamous ape-like creature of North American folklore, is the sort of tale that might inspire a Hollywood movie -- a supernatural thriller written by the likes of M. Night Shyamalan.

Standing, 33, an Alberta documentarian, says he has "the most significant piece of video evidence" ever captured about the existence of the primate, also known as Sasquatch, that -- as legend has it -- roams deep in the forests, in largely uninhabited regions of North America.

And yes, he's serious.
Of course, such claims have been made and then debunked for years, pushing the story of Bigfoot into the bizarro world of curious and Ripley's Believe It or Not. Since there is no conclusive scientific evidence that Bigfoot exists, most scientists consider the legend a matter of legend, perpetuated by a series of kooky eyewitness accounts and hoaxes.

Yet Bigfoot still manages to capture the imaginations of many, including Standing, who says he originally set out to debunk the story. After several expeditions over the last three years into the northernmost regions of the Rocky Mountains, however, Standing says he has seen the creature and has evidence to back up its existence.

Standing claims to have found and studied a "Bigfoot domicile," or "a Sylvanic" -- an area in the forest that he's convinced a large group of the creatures were inhabiting. But where, exactly, is this domicile? Standing's not talking about that part. He says he wants to protect the beast and its territory, but the rest of his research is laid out in his documentary, The Origins of Sylvanic, which screened at the University of Calgary last week.

"As hardcore a skeptic as I was, I have to believe that what I saw was real," says Standing, a former University of Alberta student whose scientific background includes having worked as a chemist.

During his expeditions -- which took him and his crew on a gruelling 10-day hike "into the middle of nowhere" -- Standing claims he captured three animals on video. One was believed to be a female Bigfoot (breasts were spotted), and another, a male caught bounding up a wooded mountain front at unnatural speeds from about 40 metres away.

"I took that raw footage to a kineticist and he says the fastest man on the planet couldn't have [covered that distance] in 24 seconds," says the documentarian. "That animal ... moving bipedally ... did it in 17."

That night, Standing says, the forest was alive, rustling frantically with the frightening sounds of what he believes was an entire tribe of the animals moving to a new location, knowing they had been spotted by interlopers.

"I have never been so scared in my whole life," he says.

Standing has concluded that the species he encountered is nocturnal and travels in herds. During the day, he is convinced the herd sleeps while select "day-watchers" station themselves at a high point near the group, standing guard and watching for any signs of danger. He believes what he filmed were the day-watchers. The initial plan was to tranquilize one of the animals, in order to study it, but now, Standing is relieved that didn't happen. "When I shot that third video, I was actually happy it didn't run by me, because I was going to run. I was terrified," he says. "I'll tell you this, this is a primate species that stands together. They're devoted to each other. If you go out and tranquilize one of these animals, you will die. They're going to think you tried to kill one of their own ... and if you attack them, I believe they'll defend themselves. "I don't want to be out there when 1,100 pounds of fury comes from 10 different directions."

Standing has hypothesized that Bigfoot is actually a species of ape thought to be extinct for about 100,000 years, called Gigantopithecus. Regarded as the largest primate that ever lived, this animal roamed southeast Asia for nearly a million years. It also co-existed alongside humans during the Pleistocene period, according to the findings of Jack Rink, a geologist at McMaster University.

Standing thinks Gigantopithecus could have migrated, along with humans, across the Bering land bridge, which joined present day Alaska and eastern Siberia at various times during the Pleistocene Ice Ages, to find itself in North America.

Rink, however, is not convinced. "You can't claim any new species has been discovered unless you have the body," he says. "That's the corporeal evidence you need."

Gigantopithecus has been equated with the legends of both Bigfoot and his Himalyan cousin, the Yeti, in the past, and Rink believes this may be traceable back to the period when humans shared the earth with the primate.

"There's a possibility of an oral tradition regarding this giant ape that humans interacted with," he says. "Legends tend to promulgate themselves within a people's oral history ... particularly if it's been a fearful experience. Perhaps the sightings of Gigantopithecus on the ancient landscape have been passed down ... and it's still stalking the corridors of the human mind ... That doesn't mean there's a real continuation of the actual animal."

Standing himself believes that Big-foot's numbers must be dangerously low. That's why he won't reveal where he found the animal's domicile. He's afraid that if mankind knew, they'd hunt and kill the creature, wiping out the species. At the showings of his documentary he's collecting signatures for a petition he plans to take to the House of Commons in the hope that the government will vote on species protection for Bigfoot.

© National Post June 2007 published on Canada dot com

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