Cryptozoology is a subject that has literally mystified millions since the beginning of scientific research. The possibility of the existence of bizarre or monstrous animals is certainly an unusual topic. But one specific cryptid supposedly located not only here in North America, but all over the world, is the infamous Sasquatch or Bigfoot.

   Described as being anywhere from six to 10 feet tall, this large ape apparently lurks the forests, mountains and valleys at night hunting and scavenging. There have been thousands of sightings, hundreds of supposed videos and pictures, as well as physical evidence: like footprints, DNA and hair.

   So, could great apes exist here in the West while remaining undiscovered for so long? Evidence shows that a creature such as Bigfoot could sustain life in North America while remaining largely undetected.

   With thousands of documented sightings and news reports, the unscientific community usually has no problem embracing the idea of this ape’s existence. But what really throws scientists off and into debate are the footprints. In one of many cases, footprints were discovered near the Umatilla National Forest in Oregon.

   “The isolated trackway comprised in excess of 40 discernible footprints on a muddy farm road, across a plowed field and along an irrigation ditch. The footprints measured approximately 35 cm (13.75 in) long and 13 cm (5.25 in) wide. Step length ranged from 1.0 - 1.3 m,” according to Dr. Jeff Meldrum, professor of Anthropology at Idaho State University

   Those massive footprints are clearly not human, but at the same time they could certainly be fraudulent. But why would someone walk so far out of his or her way just to place random footprints near a national forest? Maybe the scientists put them there.

   The problem with both of those theories is that these footprints, like many others, are too similar in appearance, shape and size to other ones all across the United States and Canada. According to Dr. Henner Fahrenbach of Colorado Bigfoot Research, “A collection of 706 footprints yielded an average length of 15.6 inches and a range of four to 27 inches.” The 13.75 in. footprint documented in Meldrum’s report is just two inches shorter than the average of 706 footprints.

   Sasquatches are incredibly elusive. There are thermal images of them hiding behind trees and such but still no face-to-face pictures, save a few controversial ones. The best clear evidence is the infamous and highly debated Patterson-Gimlin footage from Oct. 20, 1967. It depicts a supposed female Bigfoot calmly walking away from the cameraman. The footage is shaky, blurry and short, and because of this, many skeptics believe it is a hoax and that someone is just wearing a suit. Although the owners of the footage claim it is not a hoax, there is no way we can know for sure due to its lack of clarity.

   Anthropologists such as Meldrum have shown considerable support for its credibility, citing its common characteristics with sightings and footage that took place after the film was shot. These characteristics include the coned head, long/swaying arms, rise/pause/fall stride, incredible height, dark fur and quick/calm disappearance into the brush.

   The Patterson-Gimlin film, like many other sources of visual evidence will always be questioned until there is physical proof, such as bones or a cadaver. But why hasn’t anybody recovered a dead body or at least a skull? One theory is that sasquatches may even bury their dead, thus leaving any traces underground.

   Many people in the scientific community still choose not to believe in the existence of Bigfoot, as it may lead to them gaining a poor reputation. But some scientists like Meldrum and Fahrenbach choose to ignore this. They pursue what they believe to be true due to substantial amounts of physical evidence. To them, footprints, DNA and hair samples are enough to solidify this animal’s true presence in North America.

   According to Meldrum, “As incredulous as these reports may seem, the simple fact of the matter remains [that] the footprints exist and warrant evaluation.”

   If the hunt for Sasquatch received the scientific support it deserved, the search would be over by now. But until the scientific community embraces the possibility of Bigfoot’s existence, we will not find one.

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