Monday, September 15, 2014

Bigfoot Facts and Theories for Skeptics

Is Bigfoot real?  For hundreds of years Bigfoot facts have been hard to come by.

Is Bigfoot real? For hundreds of years Bigfoot facts have been hard to come by.
Source: MorgueFile
Bigfoot is the most famous of the world’s mysterious creatures, and a real celebrity among cryptids. Known as Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest, Skunk Ape in the South, and various other monikers across North America, Bigfoot is also the most widely dispersed creature of cryptozoology. In fact, the beasty is so popular that certain cable television networks have even found it worth their while to film reality programs about Bigfoot researchers.

With all of this fame you’d think Bigfoot would be living the good life, but the Big Guy has a little problem: Despite all of this recent attention, a lot of people still don’t believe he exists.

It’s his own fault, really. All of that skulking around in the dark of the woods and refusing to stand still for a proper photo has taken its toll on his public image over the years. Fact is, the Bigfoot non-believers make some pretty good arguments for why our favorite bi-pedal man-ape is probably nothing more than a figment of our collective imagination, perhaps spurned on by the misidentification of known animals mixed with a dab of wishful thinking. They say Bigfoot is not real, and its tough to argue without solid evidence.

Are they right? Here we’ll take a look at some of the valid questions Bigfoot skeptics put forward, and see if any theories help to alleviate their concerns.

Why Hasn’t Anyone Found Bigfoot?

Obviously, this is the most glaring problem that cryptozoologists and Sasquatch researchers face when trying to prove the point of their work to the general public. Bigfoot is supposedly eight feet tall or more, and weighs perhaps a thousand pounds. How in the world has such a massive creature remained hidden for so long? It’s a fair question, but perhaps there is an easy answer. In short: He hasn’t, really.

Bigfoot is spotted all over the place. From Washington State to Florida, and from Maine to California, there are dozens of reported Bigfoot sightings in the United States alone each year. There are usually a few pieces of visual evidence that crop up annually as well, along with plaster casts of footprints, scat and hair samples.

And these are the only the reported incidents. We can only speculate about how many more people have experiences but are hesitant to speak up. If these people were to come forward, would that double the number of alleged sightings? Triple it? Who knows.

So, Bigfoot really isn’t sneaking under our radar at all. He’s seen all the time, but we are talking about an extremely rare animal, so sightings will not be as common or predictable as we might like.
Bigfoot sightings occur around the world. Biologists and scientists have had hundreds of years to locate and study this critter, yet they have failed. Why?

Why is Bigfoot So Rare?

We know there are or were many animals in the United States that had been decimated or killed off completely since Europeans came to the continent hundreds of years ago. Back then, at a time when there was far less communication and fewer people were able to read and write, perhaps Sasquatch encounters were more common.

If early settlers living on the edge of the wilderness with little contact with civilization had killed off a large percentage of these animals there would be few official records of these incidents. In the absence of photography, written journals and news coverage all that would be left is stories. And we know these stories exist, not only because of the accounts of the early settlers but because of thousands of years of Native American lore.

Unfortunately, by the time science caught up with the New World, perhaps Bigfoot had already become extremely rare, even on the verge of extinction. But that doesn't necessarily mean people never knew about the creature; it just means there is no record.

Still, the skeptic’s argument has merit. Logically, if Sasquatch is real then biologists should be able to track him down and complete some proper study. Until that happens, there will always be questions, and any Bigfoot facts will be suspect.

The Patterson-Gimlin Film was shot in 1967, and is still considered the best documentation of Bigfoot we have today. In the clip below, Robert Gimlin talks to the Finding Bigfoot crew about the footage. Is it a hoax? You be the judge.

Why Hasn’t Anyone Found Bigfoot Bones or a Body?

So, if Bigfoot is real he obviously has to be pretty tough to corner. Assuming he's an intelligent creatures, adept at hiding and staying clear of humans, perhaps he has simply evolved in such a way that makes him ultra-stealthy. But what about the bodies? A live Bigfoot might be pretty sneaky, but a dead one can’t move very far on its own. A Bigfoot carcass should have been found by now.

In theory this makes a lot of sense, but there are a few problems here. Firstly, nothing dead lasts very long before nature breaks it down and recycles it. Any carcass that hits the forest floor decomposes within weeks, and bones are scattered far and wide. In a very short time there is no trace that a carcass ever existed on the spot.

Secondly, if Bigfoot is so super-rare to begin with, it would be extremely unlikely that a hiker or hunter would happen upon a Bigfoot body in the wild. Deer and bear carcasses are rare to stumble upon, and those are two abundant species.

But there should still be bones floating around somewhere, right? How come nobody has ever found a Bigfoot femur?

With Sasquatch, we’re talking about a very small population of animals that live perhaps as long, or longer, than humans. Deaths in the wild are rare, and therefore carcasses and bones are rare. It’s possible someone may have seen stray Bigfoot bones on occasion and dismissed them as some other animal, but finding bones strewn in the wilderness is probably much less likely than spotting a living creature. And we know how rare that is.

Some researchers think Bigfoot may bury their dead. This implies some interesting possibilities. Bigfoot may have some sort of culture, or even spiritualism, which dictates this practice.

Chimpanzees exhibit a primitive type of “spiritualism” where they will mourn losses and show reverence in certain situations. Or, perhaps Bigfoot is more closely related to humans than we realize. Interesting food for thought.

A hunter in a Ghillie Suit can look very Bigfoot-like.

A hunter in a Ghillie Suit can look very Bigfoot-like.
Source: Ripperkon (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Why Hasn’t a Hunter Shot Bigfoot?

What about hunters? Surely some trigger-happy deerslayer should have blown away a Sasquatch by now! There are a few who have claimed to have done just that, but of course they were not able to provide evidence. However, this may not be as likely as you’d think (and as any hunter would know) and here are a few reasons why:
  • Hunters aren’t out there looking to shoot anything that moves; they are hunting a specific animal, and it isn’t Bigfoot. Of course, there are surely some maniacs out there who will shoot first and ask questions later, and woe to the Sasquatch that crosses their paths, but the great majority of hunters are very cautious about what they shoot.
  • What looks like a Bigfoot could be some jerk in a costume, or another hunter in a Ghillie suit. This thought alone would make it tough for most hunters to pull the trigger. As much as some moron in a gorilla suit running around the forest during hunting season would have it coming, nobody wants to be a murderer.
  • Speaking of murder, would you want to be the person who killed Sasquatch? Most hunters have a certain respect for the natural world, and blasting away at perhaps the rarest animal on the planet doesn’t sit well with them.
Still, it would make sense that if Bigfoot is really out there, hunters should be seeing him left and right. Perhaps Bigfoot learned to avoid humans with weapons long ago, after seeing what our species is capable of.

Where are the Bigfoot Fossils?

Okay, so no living Bigfoot, and no dead Bigfoot. Bigfoot is extremely rare and very elusive, and this is why nobody has captured one. Being rare, and living a long life, means carcasses are hard to come by. Even bones end up scattered, and if they actually bury their dead the situation seems completely hopeless when it come to finding Sasquatch remains.

But even if all of that is true, if there really is a species of North American Ape running around in the woods of the United States and Canada, it seems to make sense that we should see proof of it in the fossil record. Bones or fossiles would be the easiest of Bigfoot facts to confirm. Even if nobody has found a live one, or a dead one, there must be evidence in the history of the continent, one would think.

Even after a million years on this Earth, the only fossil evidence Gigantopithecus left behind is a few teeth and jawbone fragments.
Even after a million years on this Earth, the only fossil evidence Gigantopithecus left behind is a few teeth and jawbone fragments. 
Maybe not. To put it in perspective, let’s take a look at Gigantopithecus Blacki, an ancient species of ape that went extinct thousands of years ago. Gigantopithecus Blacki stood ten feet tall and weighed half a ton. Sound familiar?

Giganto lived in Asia, but some people think it may have crossed the Bering Land Bridge to North American around the same time as humans, and evolved into what we now know as Bigfoot. This would have been around 20,000 years ago.

That’s a long time. We could speculate that over 20,000 years there ought to be fossil evidence left in North America of such a creature, but of course there is none. That seems telling, until we look at the fossil evidence for Giganto in Asia.

During approximately one million years of occupation, Gigantopithecus Blacki has left behind only a few fossilized teeth and mandible fragments. No large bones, no skulls, no full skeletons, nothing else in the fossil record to tell us this creature existed for a million years.

We know Gigantopithecus Blacki lived in Asia for a million years, yet there is almost no fossil evidence. Looking at it that way, it certainly seems possible that there could be any number of large mammals that live or have lived in North America for which we have no fossil record.

Of course, Bigfoot-Giganto Theory has a few holes in it, most glaringly the fact that Giganto is presumed to have gone extinct many thousands of years before the Bering Land Bridge was most recently accessible. Still, it is a good illustration at just how much the fossil record is lacking, and how a rare animal like Bigfoot could slip right through.

What Does Bigfoot Eat?

Bigfoot is a large creature, and has to eat something to survive. Probably a lot of something. Diet and the amount of available food is another subject that makes some people skeptical of Bigfoot. Whether Bigfoot evolved from Gigantopithecus Blacki or some other great ape, or whether it is more closely related to humans, the fact is that a population of such huge creatures is going to require enormous amounts of food.

Modern chimpanzees hunt, and they can be very aggressive.  What about Bigfoot?
Modern chimpanzees hunt, and they can be very aggressive. What about Bigfoot?
People think of Giganto as a big gorilla, like King Kong, but it was probably more closely related to modern Orangutans. If you can get a picture of a ten-foot Orangutan in your mind it likely doesn’t look much like the stealthy, sure-footed Sasquatch we’ve all heard about. Orangs are foragers, and so likely was Giganto, dining on bamboo and other vegetation. If Bigfoot is similar, it’s hard to imagine the deciduous/coniferous forests of North America would provide enough sustenance in the winter months.

Elk and Moose are grazers that live in rough climates. Would the types of food they consume be adequate for a Bigfoot population? Grizzly bears are massive creatures, but they hibernate their way through the long, cold winter. What’s Bigfoot’s trick?

If Bigfoot did evolve from Giganto, it must have changed drastically in appearance, behavior and food preferences. Indeed, some researchers believe Sasquatch may even hunt animals as large as deer and elk to supplement its diet with meat. That would certainly help in northern climates where there is sparse vegetation for many months of the year. But does it make any sense?

While many ape species (including Orangs) do consume insects as part of their diets, and chimpanzees are known to hunt monkeys and other small animals, the only living hominids that routinely take down game of this magnitude are humans.

This brings us back to considering Bigfoot as a closer relative to us on the family tree. If Bigfoot does hunt, kill and consume large game we must assume it is capable of at least a fair amount of aggression. Maybe it is using tools or some kind as hunting weapons, perhaps something as rudimentary as large rocks or sticks.

Is it possible Bigfoot might even attack humans? Should we fear Bigfoot? Facts on this are sketchy, but there seems to be no reasons to prepare for a Bigfoot mauling when you enter the woods.

But this is all speculation, of course. The skeptic’s argument makes sense. We can assume an adult Sasquatch would need thousands of calories each day to survive the rough northern winters, but we also don’t know if it might, for instance, enter into periods of torpor or even hibernate for several months.

Where Does Bigfoot Live?

Everywhere, it seems. One of the problems a lot of skeptics have with Sasquatch sightings is the wide range of habitat and territory they seem to cover. When we consider the deep, rarely-trodden woodlands of the Pacific Northwest, or the dark and foreboding swamplands of the south, it’s easy to imagine Bigfoot or any other unknown animal making a home there, well protected from the meddling of humans.

The eastern subspecies of the cougar has been declared extinct, but many believe it still exists.  Like Bigfoot, it is a rare and elusive animal.
The eastern subspecies of the cougar has been declared extinct, but many believe it still exists. Like Bigfoot, it is a rare and elusive animal.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But Bigfoot sightings occur all over the place, not just in remote areas. Bigfoot is even seen in older, more densely populated eastern states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. These states do possess significant gamelands and forests, but they are also well-explored and thoroughly mapped. How could a creature this large slip past biologists and researchers, not to mention hunters, for hundreds of years?

To get an idea of how it might be possible, let’s take a look at the story of the Eastern Cougar. Like in the western part of the country, cougars were once prevalent in the east. Because of their dangerous nature, it didn’t take long for settlers and early colonists to decide they were better gone than here. So, for a few hundred years cougars were killed on sight, until one day there were none.

Today, according to agencies like U.S. Fish and Wildlife, there are no more cougars in the east. But you don’t have to look far to find someone who knows someone, who has a brother, who once talked to someone who saw a cougar firsthand while hunting in the east. If you look a little harder you might even find the source of the sighting, and they’ll swear what they saw was not a bobcat, but a real cougar. There are even bodies of cougars allegedly shot or hit by cars in the east.

Cougars are very elusive animals, and if they still exist in the east their population is very small. Yet people see them, and report their sightings all the time. Just like Bigfoot. If we factor in Bigfoot’s presumed intelligence level, which must be far greater than a cougar’s, it makes sense that it would be even harder to spot, capture and document. Bigfoot isn’t likely to get hit by a car any more than a person would, and he’s going to be smarter at finding hiding spots that a cougar.

If it is plausible that cougars could still exist in the east, as many believe, it’s also plausible that the same woods could conceal another extremely rare animal.

The Conclusion . . .

Even though there is plenty of evidence for Bigfoot’s existence, in the absence of a living specimen, a body or even fragments of a carcass it’s impossible to say definitively that there is a rare species of hominid running around the woods of North America. And there have been plenty of pranksters willing to hoax Bigfoot evidence over the years. Those skeptics who say Bigfoot it not real have some solid ground on which to make their point.

Still, many people believe Bigfoot is really out there.

The problem is, with science belief should have nothing to do with it. Science is based on information and logic, not whimsy and wishes. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to decide if the available evidence and arguments are compelling enough to support the existence of such a creature.
The skeptics will say no. Without cold, hard facts and indisputable evidence Bigfoot is no more real than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

Sasquatch researchers will counter that the available evidence had to come from somewhere, and there is simply too much information out there to ignore. Just because we don’t have all the pieces yet doesn’t mean we should give up on the puzzle.

Some may argue that there can be no such thing as “Bigfoot facts” when studying a creature like this. While that may be true in the sense that we have no animals to study, there certainly are facts and evidence that accompany the Bigfoot phenomenon.

It’s a fact that people are routinely claiming to see a large, bipedal ape-like creature all across North America. It is a fact that a certain amount of evidence has been collected which suggests the existence of the creature. Like any evidence, it must all be weighed carefully to come up with a conclusion.

So, where do you stand? Is Bigfoot real, or only a myth?

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