NY state biologists throws water on bigfoot

I was a kid during what I think was the first really big Bigfoot craze in the 1960s and 70s.

I lived in those years in the Midwest and I remember walking anxiously through fields of corn stubble, scrutinizing distant windbreaks in fear of seeing a big, lumbering figure haunting the forest.

Since arriving here in the Adirondacks, I’ve heard occasionally from Sasquatch believers.  One guy very kindly sent me a photograph of a lumpy chunk of stuff that he claimed was the mold of a footprint — a really big footprint, as you might imagine.

The issue surfaced again earlier this month, when state Conservation biologist Gordon Batcheller dispatched a letter to folks organizing a bigfoot convention in New York.  (A convention for believers, obviously, not actual critters…)

“The mythical animal does not exist in nature or otherwise,” Batcheller wrote, in a letter which you can read here in full.

“I understand, however, that some well organized hoaxes or pranks have occurred, leading some people to believe that such an animal does live. However, the simple truth of the matter is that there is no such animal anywhere in the world. I am sorry to disappoint you. However, no program or action in relation to mythical animals is warranted.”

There is actually a really fun video of a purported bigfoot sighting in the Adirondacks on Youtube.  Check it out.

This comes as a woman is making headlines, including in Time magazine, for her claim that she has sequenced the DNA of sasquatch.

So let me acknowledge a clear bias:  I side firmly with the bigfoot deniers.

The idea that some kind of shaggy man-like critter still haunts the wilds of North America — let alone the Adirondacks — is fun but fanciful.  It’s flat earth stuff.

That said, I think the lingering power of this story speaks to its enduring elements.

We humans are drawn for some weird, Jungian reason to the idea of “wild men” haunting the untamed spaces at the edge of our world.

Source: Wikipedia

Perhaps it’s a hard-wired legacy of that long-ago time when Homo sapiens really did co-exist nervously with more primitive and powerful Neanderthal cousins.

Even now, when “wilderness” is confined to scraps of dwindling park land, we are thrilled by the notion that bogeymen still lurk at the edge of our towns and suburbs.

As stories, I think these figments are useful and cool.

There is real mystery and power to the idea of wildness, to the notion that something important exists in the vast non-human realm that surrounds us.

Embodying that mystery in a shaggy, shadowy, half-glimpsed figure at the edge of a field is an understandable human impulse, a kind of shorthand or symbol.

The great failing here — again, this is my bias — is literalism.

People who want Sasquatch to be “true” and “real” in the same way that, say, a cross-town bus is real, or a DMV clerk is real, are sure to be disappointed.

Bigfoot’s power is that he is a myth, a story.   You won’t capture him on film.  You won’t find a scrap of his DNA, or a clear print of his foot.  You’ll never put him in a cage at a zoo.

Whenever you reach the treeline where you think he’s hiding, the shadowy figure will have crept away to the next treeline, or the far ridge of hills.  Which is exactly where Sasquatch belongs.


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45 Comments on “NY state biologists throws water on bigfoot”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    Brian, I know this is funny but do you really need to waist the In Box with nonsense.

  2. Brian Mann says:

    Pete – Obviously you’re part of the conspiracy.

    –Brian, NCPR

  3. Martha Foley says:

    Hilarious video. My vote? A silver back male gorilla. Also, check out the video titled “Adirondack Hunting Lodge Bigfoot.”

  4. George Nagle says:

    “waist the In Box” My waist keeps expanding, so perhaps the In Box’s can as well to accomodate all sorts of goodies.

  5. michael coffey says:

    I recognize that guy. Last spotted at the Belvedere eating a pickled egg.

  6. Brian Mann says:

    The idea of a dude with pickled egg breath haunting the woods of the Adirondacks is actually far, far scarier than the idea of a hairy wild man lurking out there. Robert Garrow, anyone?

    –Brian, NCPR

  7. @tourpro says:

    I won’t stop believing.

  8. Mervel says:

    There are still many many species in our world not yet identified or known about. Most of them are insects, but STILL who knows. There have been several new larger mammal discoveries made in the past 40 years. Plus remember we still found those Japanese soldiers hiding out on islands in the South Pacific well into the 1960’s. The concept of the unknown is pretty strong.

  9. Ellen Rocco says:

    Brian, this reminds of me of my first few months in the north country, winter 1971. I was CONVINCED that the footprints in the snow around my barn were from the world’s largest bear. I marched into town, purchased a shotgun, and later learned about the cows that had been wandering around…hoof prints expanding as the snow settled and melted a bit. (The gunshop proprietor in Gouverneur is still telling all of his customers about the city slicker who planned to shoot a bear with a shotgun. Years later, I got the joke, too.) But, the point is this: I really wanted some kind of wild force to be living that close by. There is a human yearning for–as well as fear of–the “freedom” of the wildest on this planet.

  10. Paul says:

    Obviously it exists there is a picture of it above!

  11. Paul says:

    Ellen, it is not legal to shoot a bear in the winter (even the world’s largest)!

  12. Paul says:

    We have had the “mountain lion” discussion here in the past. It was interesting I was at a hunter safety class with one of my sons this past October. The DEC game warden spoke to the class. He said that for any issues you have call and he promised he will call you back. The only exception he said was “if you called to report seeing a mountain lion”. He made it clear that in that case he would not call you back. Funny thing to say now that we have confirmed that a mountain lion did travel through NYS on its way to CT and it’s early demise. If they can’t take that seriously don’t expect any help with something more strange.

  13. Mervel says:

    Consider our wolf-coyote mix that we have. There are all of these shades of gray in this area.

    I am not saying I agree that a bigfoot exists, I don’t; you would have sign and you would find a dead one sooner or later, the adirondacks are wild only to a certain degree, its simply not big enough to hid one of these things over any long period of time. The same goes for mountain lions, we may see them passing through, but if they are living and breeding here we would find concrete signs that they are here, not just sightings.

    The only place you could have one of these would be northern Canada or Alaska. No way in the lower 48.

  14. tootightmike says:

    I have a few neighbors that I’m sure would qualify as Neanderthals….

  15. G.M. says:

    Brian, thanks for the humorous and insightful article. I agree that the important aspect here is the power of myth. As a culture, we have been fascinated by zombies and vampires as of late, and it seems to me that sasquatches are making a bit of a ‘comeback’ that is spurred on by the show on Animal Planet (which is so bad, it’s good). I’ve seen an increase in online articles about bigfoot, and I’ve wondered what this reveals about us. If the popularity of zombies reveal our fear of some apocolyptic collapse of society and the excesses of consumption, what does a sudden resurgence of bigfoot interest reveal? I think you and Ellen say it well when you point to our desire to believe that a true wildnerness still exists — a place untouched, undiscovered, and inhabited by fellow primates, shy and fleeting, who demand only basic needs. If zombies remind us of who we are becoming, bigfoot reminds us of who we were (and where we lived) a long, long time ago.

  16. Paul says:

    Well Mr. Smartypants if Bigfoot does not exist how did this company sequence its genome!


  17. Bill Haenel says:

    I have one in my house. He’s sixteen years old, wears a size 13 boot, and has a really bad attitude. I’m certain he comes from the wild lands.

  18. Paul says:

    And catch this:

    “Our data indicate that the North American Sasquatch is a hybrid species, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens.”

    It looks like Bigfoot is the result of a little hanky-panky between perhaps some female hiker and a strange visitor in her tent one evening!!

  19. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    In Texas. I guess that says it all.

  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’ll be cotton swabbing my chimney in about a month. Let’s see if the state biologist wants to take on Santa Claus too.

  21. Paul says:

    I think this is a great quote from the article where I saw that link:

    “In the end, Coltman said that it’s next to impossible to prove that something doesn’t exist.”

    That just about says it all!

  22. Paul says:

    BTW the article where I saw that link also had this same silly picture above of the guy in the gorilla suit.

  23. Walker says:

    Did everyone catch the part about the DNA being from a clump of strange hair found in the woods?

    Then there’s the related story: Man killed while trying to create Bigfoot sighting

    KALISPELL, MT – A man who was apparently trying to provoke reports of a Bigfoot sighting in northwestern Montana was struck by two cars and killed.

    The Montana Highway Patrol says the man was wearing a military style “Ghillie suit” and was standing in the right-hand lane of U.S. Highway 93 south of Kalispell when he was hit by the first car Sunday night. A second car hit him as he lay in the roadway.

    Flathead County officials identified the man as 44-year-old Randy Lee Tenley of Kalispell.

    Trooper Jim Schneider tells the Daily Inter Lake that Tenley’s motives were ascertained during interviews with friends.

    The patrol says Tenley was struck by vehicles driven by two girls, ages 15 and 17, who were unable to stop in time.

    Read more: http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/local_news/water_cooler/man-killed-while-trying-to-create-bigfoot-sighting#ixzz2Ddwt00Qy

  24. Mervel says:

    Well now we find sea creatures once in a while that were presumed to be long extinct. Why not other primates?

  25. Walker says:

    Well the oceans are a lot more unknown than the dry land is, and remains of critters aren’t as easily found. It’s true that we found a new monkey in the Congo this year, but that’s an area where monkeys are common, so it’s not hard to imagine one being overlooked. But a large, unknown primate in North America? Seems like skepticism is well warranted. Not quite utterly impossible, maybe, but…

  26. Mervel says:

    Exactly walker! We can’t rule it out. The only area that possibly work would be northern Canada Alaska. It would have to be isolated enough that over hundreds of years they could die and no one would find the body. Unlikely in most of north America.

  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    As everyone who knows anything is aware of, Bigfoots collect the bones of their dead and bury them in shallow caves on mossy boulder tumbled north facing mountain notches where the bones quickly deteriorate and percolate away I with the melting snows of spring.

  28. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The “I” above was a simple typo and not some sort of Freudian slip. I blame Steve Jobs for not making the iPad keyboard more friendly to clumsy furry fingers.

  29. Paul says:

    Mervel like the man said it is almost impossible to prove something doesn’t exist!

  30. Paul says:

    It is funny I type better on an iPad than a regular keyboard? Took some getting used to. Don’t like that auto correction thing. I suppose I can turn it off somehow.

  31. Paul says:

    “Unlikely in most of north America.” Lots of places in NA to get lost and not found. I am afraid that may be what happened to that poor kid over near Tupper Lake last year.

  32. Paul says:

    Problem is to have a breeding population and actually exist for some time it does take some number of individuals in the population.

  33. mervel says:

    Well Paul so you are saying that maybe 20-40 could exist and no one would know? Maybe.

    I just think that in the Adirondacks yes you can get behind some tree or in a ravine back there and no one will find you. However over time with any small amount of these creatures, one would be found sooner or later.

    But as long as we are still finding animals that existed hundreds of thousands of years ago, little changed and we were unaware of those animals up until recently, then I think this is a possibility.

  34. mervel says:

    Yes you cannot prove something does not exist, I am just making the case that it could exist although with a low probability. The low probability exists due to lack of existing evidence, not because it is impossible genetically or biologically for an animal thought to be extinct to still exist.

  35. TomL says:

    True story. About 25 years ago, I lived in southern Indiana. There were regular reports in the local paper of people seeing an ‘ape-man’ or ‘sasquatch’ or ‘neanderthal’ in western Kentucky. People claimed it stole their chickens in the night, or else they saw it cross a road and run into the deep woods. Lots of different descriptions, but usually centered on wild wooly hair all over the body, naked, bones in the hair, and bad smell. Like the journalists reporting the story, I thought it was a silly hoax or case of people’s overactive imaginations.

    Then one night, it crosses the road in front of a KY State Trooper. He decided to chase it down and catch it. Called in support. And caught it they did.

    Alas, it was a poor mentally-ill man who had lived in the woods for years, and who wanted to be alone. He did, indeed, have bones in his hair.

  36. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    You are sooooo wrong. The fact that there is absolutely no solid evidence is proof positive that Bigfoot exists! Otherwise there would be some random clues which could be interpreted as evidence but on closer inspection it would be shown that they were a false lead.

    Consider the possible existence of intelligent life on Mars. After years of random speculation that a great civilization built canals, because they could be seen from Earth, eventually we determined that they were naturally occurring features. And speaking of features, there was that giant face on Mars seen staring out into space. But it turned out not to be an enormous temple sculpture but just a set of craters that really looked like Mick Jagger.

    So see, the lack of false leads indicates that Bigfoot must indeed exist and is roaming through your back yard in the middle of the night.

  37. jeff says:

    Yer guvment xpert, Mr. Batcheller, is from the same organization that has told us there are/were no wild mountain lions in the New York.

  38. Newt says:

    There were Bigfoot-type creatures in the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, a few years ago during their annual migratory swim to Vermont, all were devoured by the Lake Champlain Monster.

  39. Mervel says:

    I am not a big foot expert but how far back does the mythology go? I would be more inclined to believe this if there were some consistent myth’s-stories coming from Native American or Innuite tribes who have been in North America longer than anyone else.

  40. Paul says:

    The Indians did not start seeing Bigfoot till we gave them booze.

  41. Newt says:

    Ditto the palefaces.

  42. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Good point Jeff. There are no Mountain Lions, our coyotes were really feral dogs and they had no wolf in them, there’s no moose, bald eagles or turkeys either. The experts told us so for years.

  43. mervel says:

    The experts are right, until they are not.

  44. mervel says:

    There is no scientific principle or law that would rule out different human life species from surviving and existing today of not going extinct like we believe.

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