Feb 11, 2013

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Dr. Jeff Meldrum’s Search for Sasquatch

Dr. Jeff Meldrum’s Search for Sasquatch

There are plenty of amateur bigfoot hunters who comb the forests of the Pacific Northwest in search of their elusive quarry, but Dr. Jeff Meldrum is a breed apart from the rest. A tenured professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University, Meldrum co-authored the 2007 non-fiction work, Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, and has led numerous academic research studies over the last two decades. While his findings have yet to provide any concrete proof that sasquatch exists, he has seen enough to remain convinced that the legendary creature is out there somewhere — and he urges skeptics to read up before drawing their own conclusions.

1How long have you been sasquatch hunting? Where has your work taken you?
I have been investigating the question as a professional academic for nearly 18 years. Bear in mind, while this has been a focus of my research efforts, it is in reality just one facet of my overall academic research program in primate evolutionary morphology and hominin bipedalism. Not to mention all the other teaching and service responsibilities that I have as a university professor.  It has been a very intriguing and gratifying, albeit often frustrating focus of research. I have had the opportunity to conduct fieldwork throughout the Pacific Northwest and Inter-mountain West, as well as in China and Russia.  A trip to India’s northeast was unfortunately scuttled due to an outbreak of civil unrest, which made conditions unsafe for the film crew.

What physical evidence have you collected over the years that proves the existence of sasquatch?
None. Conclusive “proof” has remained elusive. I have documented fresh footprints, some in very remote locations, on half a dozen occasions.  I have heard vocalizations, had rocks thrown at me in the woods, collected hair samples that defy attribution to common wildlife. The footprint evidence is the most compelling for me, given my expertise. The distinct, yet consistent anatomy, elegantly adapted to the habitat and mode of locomotion attributed to sasquatch constitute a remarkably convincing case, short of a type specimen.

Have you ever seen a sasquatch in the wild, or worked with someone who has?
I have not had the privilege of a visual encounter personally, but yes, I have worked with others who have. I spent a month in the temperate rainforest of southern Colorado with John Mionczynski and Julie Davis, not far from where Julie had an impressive encounter. She was off trail in the Weminuche, when her camp was approached by two sasquatch. She emerged from her tent in the daylight of mid-afternoon and they were standing right behind her tent about 10 feet away. Julie is an experienced solo packer and naturalist. She is a very credible witness. That is merely one example of many.

How would you describe the sasquatch’s physical appearance?
Imagine a gorilla with long legs and you are pretty close. Standing 7-10 feet tall, 700-1,000 pounds. Small forward-set head, deep jaws, thick torso, proportionately long heavy arms.

Where does the sasquatch live? Do the animals exist all over the world, or are they unique to North America?
The distribution of credible, substantial reports indicates the wet forests of North America. Minimum [annual] precipitation of roughly 18 inches appears to be a critical element of its distribution. I suspect the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, which were previously much more extensive, are the species’ core habitat. It was into this habitat that they likely expanded from Asia.  Being generalized and adaptable, they secondarily dispersed into the boreal forest of Canada, the Inter-mountain West, and even down the Appalachia into the southern states. Reports of hominoids very similar to the sasquatch come from Eastern and Central Asia; for example, the Chinese Yeren, the Vietnamese Nguoi Rung, and the Indian Mande Barung. There may be additional relict hominoids, such as the diminutive Orang Pendek of southeast Asia, the more ape-like yeti of the Himalayas, and the possible neanderthaloid Almasti of Russia. The possibility of relict species of hominoid persisting into the present is a topic of growing interest in anthropology, especially with the recent discoveries of the “hobbit” and the Denisova hominins. To provide a scholarly venue for refereed publications on this subject, I now edit an on-line journal, The Relict Hominoid Inquiry.

What is the current estimated population of the sasquatch? Has it declined over the years, or remained relatively stable?
We can only speculate on this. Naturally if they exist, they must be quite rare. The pattern of sightings and footprints suggests they are relatively solitary, at least when out foraging. It seems probable that males defend a large territory from competing males, overlapping that of several females with offspring. That home range may be around 1,000 square miles. So if we consider Idaho for example, which has a great deal of forest cover, there are possibly as few as 60 sasquatch in the entire state.
Whether their numbers have declined we can only guess.  Given habitat encroachment and degradation, combine with the fact that primates are susceptible to many human diseases, their numbers have very likely declined.

How does the sasquatch fit into the forest ecosystem?
Sasquatch would seem to occupy the niche of a large omnivore. Witness accounts report it feeding on everything from roots and berries to deer and elk. It probably partitions that niche with bears by character displacement. A bear has evolved from a carnivore ancestor, with the jaws, teeth and GI tract of a meat-eater.  Sasquatch more likely evolved from a frugivore/folivore ancestor, with deep jaws and thickly enameled teeth, long gut with slow passage time to detoxify plant secondary compounds. If that is the case, there are many resources available to the sasquatch that could not be exploited by a bear.

What are some common misconceptions about the sasquatch in terms of diet, behavior, or other characteristics?
A widespread misconception, in my opinion, is that the sasquatch is some form of human, that it possesses paranormal abilities, that it has crossed frequently with ordinary humans, producing a hybrid race. Some even assert that they are other-worldly, coming here from another world, or another time or dimension.  These are all intriguing notions, but impossible at present to confirm or refute.  My working or null hypothesis, based on the reported descriptions and behaviors, is that sasquatch is a bipedal ape, such as a descendant of Gigantopithecus, or possibly an early hominid off-shoot like Paranthropus. Their virtual lack of material culture, fire use, language, etc., suggest to me that their origin predates the emergence of the genus Homo [2.5 million years ago].

What should one do if he or she encounters sasquatch in the wilderness?
I would recommend affording a sasquatch the same deference you would any large and powerful animal in the wild, such as a gorilla. However, the only anecdotes of overt antagonism towards humans, as with gorillas, occurred after the humans shot at the sasquatch. With that in mind, I would recommend in offensively stand your ground and make the most of the rare opportunity to observe one of the most elusive creatures out there.

Does the sasquatch pose a threat to small animals, such as dogs or cats?
I wouldn’t say they pose an inherent threat.  Anecdotally, dogs and sasquatch don’t seem to be amicable. Dogs routinely display an extreme fear reaction, cowering or seeking refuge when they detect what was presumed to be a sasquatch or come upon sasquatch tracks.

In addition to the sasquatch, are there other ‘undiscovered’ creatures lurking in American forests?
I am sure there are more things in heaven and earth… yet to be found. Recently, the giant Palouse earthworm was discovered here in my home state of Idaho. My attention has been directed to the legendary primates.

What do you say to people who doubt the existence of sasquatch?
Not much really. I am not out to convert skeptics. I am merely asserting that there is credible evidence that should motivate any scientifically-mined person to take a closer serious look. I find those who are the most dogmatic in their opinions are generally the least informed on a subject. I am the first to acknowledge that lacking a type specimen there is is no definitive “proof” of sasquatch in the scientific sense. But tell that to Julie Davis and the hundreds of other credible sensible eyewitnesses.

What advice do you have for aspiring sasquatch hunters?
Develop your forensic skills of observation, documentation, and interpretation.  Get familiar with the overall natural history of your area of interest. Learn to discriminate the sign, vocalizations, hair, etc. of the wildlife. Choose some appropriate habitat that is nearby so you can frequent it. Research its history of lore and sightings. Get out in the forest and explore.