Does Bigfoot really exist, what do we know?

Bigfoot! … Why am I covering a very old topic?

Basically because something new has happened. There is a recently published scientific paper that has a bit of a reveal with a fascinating insight.

Now, before we go there let’s just go over the basics. Much of this is of course well known. This is because Bigfoot is so deeply embedded within our cultural consciousness. However, putting aside just the belief, I’ll lay out the prevailing scientific conclusions.

Bigfoot 101

Bigfoot, also commonly known as Sasquatch, is the supposedly highly elusive humanoid-ape that is claimed to dwell in the forests of North America. What is perhaps the most famous image, seen at the top of this posting, comes from the Patterson–Gimlin film that was taken in 1967.

Since we have that image above as solid evidence we know it is real … right?

Nope, there are not only allegations that it was a hoax, but also the guy who claimed he made the suit popped up in 2002. We also now know the name of the guy in the suit.

Even if this rather famous sighting was indeed a hoax, there have not only been lots of other sightings, but there are also Native American legends of big hairy creatures living in the forests.

How many sightings?

According to Live Science, over 10,000.

The problem is this. All of the reports fall into the category of either a mistake or a hoax. Putting aside the hoaxes you are left with people who most probably did indeed see something and interpreted what they saw as Bigfoot. You need not doubt their sincerity.

So did they really see Bigfoot?

What is the official Scientific View?

There are no actual remains, no bodies, not even a skeleton. No robust evidence at all. Given this total lack of anything solid, the prevailing consensus is that Bigfoot is highly unlikely to be real.

Paleontologist Darren Naish laid out four rather good objections within a 2016 Scientific American article as follows …

Biologically consistent, homogenous vocalisations would be documented across North America … What’s notable is that these vocalisations are phenomenally diverse: the ‘Ohio howls’, ‘Samurai chatter’, the whoops, whistles, growls and howls attributed to this animal well exceed what we’d expect for a single animal species … The conclusion must be that the noises have diverse origins, by which I mean that they are mostly sounds made by known animal species, including cattle, coyotes (and their hybrids) and humans…

Bigfoot tracks would be easy to find by people who know what they’re doing … people who actually track known animal species in a professional or technical capacity are near-universally of the opinion that Bigfoot is not a real animal: (1) they, and their colleagues, don’t find evidence for it themselves, and (2) the evidence they have seen is fraudulent or unconvincing…

Bigfoot tracks would be more ‘biological’. A little-discussed aspect of the many Bigfoot tracks on record is that they’re decidedly… clean. … these don’t look like real animal tracks, as they should if Bigfoot were real…

There would be Bigfoot DNA all over the place. Anyone who knows anything about Bigfoot knows that there have been several recent claims concerning the discovery of Bigfoot DNA. So far, none have panned out. … DNA that can’t be explained other than by the existence of an unknown distinct primate has not been documented, whereas it would be present all over the place if Bigfoot were real …

… an awful lot of good evidence would have been documented by now if Bigfoot were real. As interesting and intriguing as all those eyewitness reports are, we are simply not seeing the evidence we should, nor is the evidence we have at all convincing. 

So that’s it then, case closed, no Bigfoot.

But wait, how do you explain 10,000 sightings?

That’s where this new study comes into play, so let’s now get into that.

If it’s there, could it be a bear?

A data scientist named Floe Foxon has been crunching some numbers. A preprint of the paper can be found here on the preprint server for Biology.

Putting aside hoaxes, people are seeing something and concluding “Bigfoot”. The most probable candidate for what they are actually seeing are black bears. They are big, people sized, and have also been observed standing and walking on their hind legs.

So is that really the answer?

What the new study does is this.

It covers all of North America, including the US and Canada. Firstly, gather up details of the areas of bear populations and record in a data model the density of these populations. Then layer on top of that the Bigfoot sightings.

Guess what?

Where there are clusters of black bear populations there are also clusters of many Bigfoot sightings. As a contrast, in places where there are few or no bears … yep, you got it, almost no Bigfoot sightings.

This is a very strong correlation.

To quote from the paper …

Sasquatch sightings were statistically significantly associated with bear populations such that, on the average, one ‘sighting’ is expected for every few hundred bears. Based on statistical considerations, it is likely that many supposed sasquatch are really misidentified known forms. If bigfoot is there, it may be many bears.

But Why are people seeing Bigfoot and not a Bear?

Our brains interpret the world around us. If a bear is seen far away and the person has been culturally primed to expect Bigfoot, then that is how their brain will interpret it.

Do our brains really work like that?

Sure they do.

Here is a painting of a girl surfing Tinder on her smartphone …

That’s a real painting from 1860 by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller. You see a smartphone because that is what your brain has been culturally primed to interpret. Back in 1860 most would have seen her carrying a prayer book or bible.

So yes, people spot bears and then their brain says “Bigfoot”, so they see Bigfoot.

One Last Thought

Here is a picture I took while on the road in Oregon …

This is solid evidence that explains why nobody can find Bigfoot in the woods. Rather obviously what has happened is that Bigfoot has left the woods and is now running a bar in Oregon.

Well yes, my real point is this. If you are out and about and catch a glimpse of something big and black in the woods, then for some, all the roadsigns and cultural history of Bigfoot bubbling away inside their head potentially causes their brain to interpret it as Bigfoot and not a bear.

Also a “real” Bigfoot sighting makes a really good story.

What is also most probable is that the myth will live on. Such modern mythology generally tends to do that. There is also no avoiding the observation that some do need the myth to thrive because it helps to draw crowds.

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