Friday, September 10, 2010

Musings on Bigfoot and Bigfooters

Loren Coleman on Cryptomundo asked for thoughts on the most mysterious mammal in North America: Homo sapiens bigfooter, the Bigfoot enthusiast. The variety of this subspecies is amazing, ranging from people with Ph.D.'s to dedicated longtime wilderness hunter/camper/hiker types at home searching the forests to people who could get lost in their own backyards, and there's an awful lot of animosity that doesn't appear to the same degree anywhere else in cryptozoology. My thoughts:

It’s strange the way sasquatch seems to divide people more than any other cryptid. While Pyle’s book Where Bigfoot Walks covered some of this territory, there seems to be as much mystery about Bigfooters as there is about Bigfoot. Maybe it’s just because, since the phenomenon’s focus includes the relatively affluent and populous nation of the USA, there are just more people with interest and opportunity to get involved, and large numbers of people involved means some will inevitably clash. Or maybe it’s because sasquatch, more than any other zoological mystery, brings to mind the idea so many people have that there must be a purer, simpler existence out there somewhere, although we may have no real idea of how to approach it. Maybe it’s the elusiveness of the thing. Science demands exactly the same evidence for sasquatch it does for a new lizard or beetle, no more, no less, and even the most dedicated researchers can’t come up with it. We know there’s a lot of wilderness left on this continent, and a smart, wary animal could elude people a long time, but when every deer, bear, and rodent has been described, the puzzle of sasqautch makes people mentally throw up their hands. (The last North American mammals were an Alaskan shrew species and a Florida rat subspecies, both described decades ago.) Some people are attracted no doubt by the sheer enjoyment of the idea that “perfessors” all over the country would have egg on their faces if our big furry friend turns up. (The vertebrate zoology and paleontology conferences would have blood running in the halls.) And some people are attracted by the simple determination to prove that they are right about what they or others have seen.

Sasquatch would be easily the biggest zoological discovery of the past century, bigger than Vu Quang, the biggest thing since the last large African mammals were hauled into the sunlight of science before WWI. I hope the big guy is out there, even though I doubt it. I salute the dedicated searchers, and I hope someone finds him. For now, I can’t help picturing sasquatch watching with puzzlement and maybe even amusement as people make such a fuss over him.


Loren Coleman said...

Always good to read of your insights and analyses of the field.

I was wrote: "The last North American mammals were an Alaskan shrew species and a Florida rat subspecies, both described decades ago."

What is your sense of the significance of the rediscovery of the woodland bison in Alberta in the late 1960s, after it was declared extinct?

Matt Bille said...

Ah. Loren has pointed out an important example that slipped my mind. A large herd of wood bison was found in Alberta (actually in 1957), 17 years after this disctinct bison subspecies was declared extinct. It is an important but, so far, isolated example of a big mammal going unnoticed on this continent: in this case, it was "lost" even though its habitat was known. So it helps the case for sasquatch's possibility, although it's also important to note that nothing bigger than rodents has been found in the 53 years since.