September 5, 2006 -WHITERIVER, AZ - For centuries Native people have been telling stories about a large ape-like creature seen from time to time in sparsely populated regions of the world. It is known by many names including Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest, Yeti in the Himalayas, Yowie in Australia, and Bigfoot in the USA.
Descriptions of this secretive creature are remarkably similar. Adults have been described as 6-8 feet tall, 200-800 lbs., with long dark hair and a strong, unpleasant smell. Footprints are from 16-19 inches long with a distinctive ridge humans do not have.
These creatures have been seen by thousands of people. Plaster casts have been made of their footprints, hair samples have been examined, a few blurry photographs have been taken, yet no one has ever found a live Bigfoot, or the carcass of a dead one.
As it is with UFOs, crop circles, "Nessie" and other legendary phenomena, people don't give sightings much credence because there have been so many hoaxes. However, Bigfoot, curious critter that he is, refuses to go away. Just about the time everyone has forgotten about him, he shows up somewhere, running through the woods or peeking in a window.
For many years sightings of Bigfoot have been reported on the Fort Apache Reservation, mostly by loggers and people who work in the woods. White Mountain Apache Police and game rangers with the Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Division have collected evidence of these sightings over a long period of time. The hair samples that have been sent to the DPS lab for testing have come back "non-human animal origin," leaving a lot of room for speculation.
Last year there was a sighting in the Paradise Creek area, and tribal Game and Fish officers were able to make a good cast from the footprint. Hundred of casts of footprints have been taken around the world, including one body cast where a large animal had lain on its side near a mud hole in Washington State. It is known as the Skookam Cast.
The most recent sighting on the reservation was called in the night of Aug. 31. A.K. Riley, who has been investigating reports of Bigfoot for the White Mountain Apache Police Department, said, "We have had five or six calls this month. Three of them were in the Diamond Creek community. We have to take them seriously and investigate all of them." He said there was a toe print, but not good enough to make a cast.
Police want information. Riley said, "People who see it should give the police a call and we can go and investigate it. A lot of people have seen it, but they are embarrassed to come forth."
Most of the calls received by the police have been after midnight. Riley said the creature, whatever it is, has done no harm that he knows of.
Responding to a 911 call about a prowler at approximately 2:30 a.m. Aug. 14, Officer Katherine Montoya pulled into the driveway of a residence and, in her headlights, saw a tall black creature standing between two pine trees. As reported in the "Fort Apache Scout," Montoya and Lt. Kahn saw it duck down beside a truck, crouch, then crash through a wooden fence and run off.
Montoya got a good look at the creature, who at one point was about 30 feet away. She described it as "6'7" tall, 220 lbs. or more. "It had exceptionally long arms. It did not appear to be wearing any clothes and just appeared black ... The skin around his eyes was a lighter color than the rest of the face. It appeared almost white while the rest of the suspect was black. I could smell a distinct odor, like a stink bug."
The Aug. 14 sighting led Collette Altaha, public relations director for Vice-Chairwoman Margaret Baha-Walker, to contact Tom Biscardi. Biscardi heads an organization called Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. dedicated to ferreting out Bigfoot. His website, www.searchingforbigfoot.com, offers news, memberships, and commercial products to Bigfoot buffs.
Biscardi and his team came to Whiteriver Aug. 17 and were welcomed by tribal officials and others who believe Biscardi lends credibility to the sightings on the reservation. Altaha told Biscardi that sightings have occurred over at least 25 years, but the tribe was hesitant to share the information with those who might make light of it.
Apache police and Game & Fish officers gave Biscardi access to the evidence they had accumulated so he could add it to his database. According to Biscardi, Altaha told him the tribe would like his help in explaining what had been seen in their communities, and said they were ready to go public with the information. Biscardi's team was also given permission to search for Bigfoot anywhere on the reservation.
Biscardi's team left for Oklahoma, but they plan to come back to Whiteriver.
Dr. Jeff Meldrum, professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University, was quoted in "National Geographic News" in a 2005 article by Stefan Lovgren: "Given the scientific evidence that I have examined, I'm convinced there's a creature out there that is yet to be identified."
Chimpanzee researcher Dr. Jane Goodall said in a Sept. 27, 2002, interview on National Public Radio she was sure that a large undiscovered primate exists.
On the other hand, professional skeptic Michael Dennett of the "Skeptical Inquirer" said, "The monster thing is a universal product of the human mind. We hear such stories from around the world."
One interesting theory is that a giant ape that lived in China and Southeast Asia 2 million year ago, and is thought to have been extinct for 500,000 years, may have survived and migrated to and from North America during the Ice Age.
Who is to say? Nothing new is ever discovered without an open mind.
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