Bobbie Short's Bigfoot Encounters
Predictability of Homin Behavior
By Will Duncan (© 2002)
The study of Hominology needs to pursue predictive strategies if we intend to act proactively in pursuit of our subjects. We are well past the stage of simply collecting reports and standing amazed at their implications. We need to formulate some theories about what homins are, and what their likely behaviors are. Hopefully, we can then act to intercept them as they participate in these behaviors.
The theories, which I propose here, are my own, and may or may not be correct. I favor them because they are consistent with the evidence, as I see it. Someone else's modeling may result in different conclusions, and that is as it should be. We should look at the available evidence, formulate theories, and attempt to act on them.
What are they?
I think the evidence suggests that we are dealing with a species, or several species or sub-species, of living hominids. Whether the evidence arises from North America or Eurasia, we have a consistent picture of these creatures. The written information is extensive and I won't try to recapitulate it all here. Generally, we're talking about hairy, bipedal and heavily muscled creatures of various statures that are seen occasionally and generally avoid people. Recent studies by Wolf H. Fahrenbach, using data from western North America, and Craig Heinselman 2, using data from the eastern United States, demonstrate a remarkable consistency of descriptive information. People are reporting creatures of the same size, weight and coloration independently from both sides of the continent. Reported behaviors, a few examples of which include vocalizations, speed of movement, sleeping positions, hunting methods and swimming ability, are ubiquitous and come from every part of the world where they are seen.
Are they apes?
While there may be unknown apes extant, I don't think they are responsible for most of these reports. Simply put, apes are quadrupedal, don't swim, and don't live in the wide range of climates that homins do. Several scientists, including Dr. Grover Krantz and Dr. John Bindernagel have emphasized the ape-like qualities of sasquatches. Certainly, they may have such characteristics (nest building, threat displays, fear-odors, swaying, hair standing on end, throwing objects, and so on). The same can also be said for human beings, however, and are probably ancient characteristics, which existed in the common pongid/hominid ancestors. Having these qualities does not exclude homins from the human family tree. Indeed, bipedalism and swimming makes them more likely to be in it. If we go a little further out on a limb and accept the Patterson-Gimlin film as genuine, and attempt to learn something from it, the identity of homins becomes clearer yet. As I pointed out in my article "What is Living in the Woods and Why it isn't Gigantopithecus,'' the visible jaw morphology of the film subject is suggestive of a hominid, not a pongid. The low position of the ear is non ape-like and indicates a larger brain size than an ape would have.
What does this mean?
All known hominids, and by that I mean fossil hominids, tended to be larger brained than pongids. Even the australopithecines had marginally bigger brains than chimpanzees. This suggests that all hominids were characterized by higher intellectual capacities, however humble, than any of their closest relatives. Therefore, perhaps we can portray hominids as smart, bipedal apes. With that starting point, we know that hominids evolved, over millions of years, into us. Any species or sub-species along our line of ascent could be presumed to have bipedalism and a greater brain size than the apes. Further, the jaw morphology of the subject in the Patterson-Gimlin film is very post-australopithecine. It most closely resembles the very robust fossil jaw called the Matter Jaw. This jaw belonged to an erecms-type hominid and is about half-a-million years old. It would seem that living homins must have substantial brainpower, by any standards except those of Homo sapiens.
We have a paradigm problem
In attempting to understand our long-extinct ancestors, anthropologists have necessarily had to speculate about how they behaved. These speculations have generally fallen into two broad camps. One school of thought holds that our ancestors, beginning with Homo erectus, were quite human. There has been much speculation about language, medical knowledge, theology, use of fire and culture in general. The other school believes that they were much less human, with no language and little or no culture at ail. These arguments include ail the major fossil groups, including the Neandertals. I think that we need to look at this problem from two perspectives. First, we know that throughout the history of the hominid line, different species have coexisted. Homo heidelbergensis, to whom the Mauer Jaw belonged, existed at the same time as more lightly built Homo erectus types. Heidelbergensis fossils have shown signs of being butchered with some stone tools. This means that, despite being a very smart and strong creature, Heidelbergensis sometimes fell victim to other hominids with more intelligence and with weapons. So it may not be a question of either/or, but of how much, and whom.
Humans, among all the animals except some birds, are spectacular mimics. It is entirely reasonable that australopithecines developed mimicry skills that allowed them to communicate with each other, misdirect predators, and lure prey. Indeed, life on the savannah without the jungle's shelter and with the impressive array of predators then living certainly required some special ability to enhance survival. Vocal abilities and mimicry may have proved the winning tool for survival, and it persisted in all subsequent hominids, evolving and developing until it culminated in full-blown human speech. We can therefore look for some evidence of this ability in living homins.
We've had successes and failures
The imprint for the now famous Skookum Meadow cast was made when proactive-thinking investigators managed to locate a probable sasquatch area, lure one in, and set a fruit trap in mud, hoping to get some footprints. The sasquatch in question, demonstrating a typical sasquatch aversion to leaving tracks, lay across the mud to reach the fruit. Again, smarter than an ape (it avoided making footprints) but not as smart as a human (it left a big body imprint). This is a great example of a predictive study. As a side note, despite study of the cast by reputable scientists, and a very positive position paper issued by Idaho State University, the scientific press did not report this event at all. National Geographic made no mention, except for a small frivolous piece in their children's publication. This illustrates the problems hominologists face, and the need for solid research.
Likewise, audio recorders positioned in likely wilderness areas have had some success. Sasquatches don't seem to mind vocalizing in the general vicinity of tape recorders, but have so far diligently avoided going close enough to similarly positioned cameras. I believe that they know these devices are in place and avoid going close to them despite not understanding what they are (smart, but not brilliant).
Ubiquity is important
In the United States, sasquatches have been reported in every state except Hawaii. It is important that many are reported in Ohio and in North Carolina, two states where I've personally looked for them. Ohio has vast populated areas in the north and wooded hills in the south. Both areas get plenty of sightings. This suggests that the sasquatches don't mind living in proximity to people, and feel confident about avoiding them most of the time. In North Carolina, by contrast, there are huge areas of woods, hills, swamps and mountains, and very few sasquatch reports. I think they are there, but have so much room to easily hide that almost nobody sees them. Any prediction of total sasquatch numbers resumes more knowledge of their nature than we presently have. They seem to be able to live all over the country, often in close proximity to people, and yet remain unproven. Apes would not be capable of this.
We need to realize that our paradigm for how the natural world functions and what it is composed of is not complete or correct. The homins possess physical and behavioral qualities that straddle the line between humans and animals, as we presently understand them. This suggests that they routinely rely on their physical strength, agility and endurance to avoid us, but that they have other resources, too. Cunning, stealth, and a strong inclination to avoid people also play a part. Beyond that mimicry, misdirection and their ability to communicate with each other without alerting us probably also plays a role. These potent combinations of attributes, and others as yet undescribed, have kept the homins in the netherworld between fact and fantasy.
1) Fahrenbach, Wolf H, Sasquatch: Size, Scaling and Statistics, Cryptozoology, Vol. 13 General version available online at http://www.bigfootencounters.com/biology/henner.htm
4)Bindernagel, John North America's Great Ape: the Sasquatch, Beachcomber Books, Courtenay, 1998
Will Duncan has investigated Bigfoot events in North Carolina, California, Ohio, North Carolina, Tennessee and Colorado since the 1970's. He acts as a committee member of the website http://www.cryptozoology.com and resides in North Carolina with his family. Duncan has authored a number of articles in the past, including "A Childhood Encounter? - Why I Pursue this Enigma" in the Bigfoot Co-Op of February 1998, "Bigfoot: The Question of Humanness" in the Bigfoot Co-Op of December 2000 and "What is Living in the Woods, and Why it isn't Gigantopithecus" in the Hominology Special Number I (Crypto, Francestown, 2001) and this article published in CRYPTO Hominology Special Number II.
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