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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Calling Bigfoot! Bigfoot, the BFRO, Finding Bigfoot and the evidence. (now with sounds!)

Hello folks. Recently, C-Webb, host of The Paranormal Skeptic Academy podcast did a show on an episode of  Finding Bigfoot. Episode 19 of PSA, to be precise.  He did an excellent job of breaking down the episode, and showing the mental gymnastics that true believers will go through for their beliefs. He also provided natural (and more reasonable) explanations of what the crew experienced, as well as their victims. Oops, I meant their witnesses. Yeah, witnesses, that's the ticket. You can find the episode here. You really should check it out. Like I said, it's really well done. Plus, he's funny as hell. At the end of the episode, he even gave me and the blog a shout out, which I greatly appreciated, and I owe him a few beers, or other drink of choice.

Something C-Webb mentioned got me to thinking, and as we all know, that's dangerous. He spoke about how it's more than likely that the BFRO crew was confusing cattle calls for Bigfoot calls. I have had an idea for a while to do a write up on the Bigfoot calls. These have become a very popular form of "proof" in the bigfooting community. If you've ever seen the Finding Bigfoot show on Animal Planet, you've probably seen the green night vision scenes where everyone is howling like a mad man. These are supposed to be imitations of the infamous bigfoot calls, which I still don't understand how you can imitate something that you don't have evidence for it's existence. Might as well imitate a unicorn. That actually sounds like more fun. But I'm going to take a look (a listen) anyway.

Bigfoot Calls
For a long time, castings of barely distinguishable blobs or extremely detailed footprints were the best proof of Bigfoot. Then came the blurry photos and shaky videos that were considered the pinnacle of Bigfoot evidence. Now, it's the seems that the mysterious calls that are supposedly made by Bigfoot are the hot new evidence. You can find them all over YouTube. Or if you're like me, you have people send them to you on Facebook. And e-mail. And Google+. And in real life. And everyone wants me to explain them. One of the main issues with trying to figure out these calls is that the video and audio recordings are normally lacking a lot of context I would need to make a reasonable identification, such as time of the year, the geographic location, or even the time of day. For full disclosure, and for those of you that are new to the blog (yes, I do this kind of thing a lot) I am not a biologist, botanist, chemist, physicist, or any other sort of -ist. My main qualification to discuss cryptids is my many years of tracking wildlife, and the occasional person. I do hunt, not for sport, but to supplement feeding my family and to protect my family's livestock. I have tracked everything from rabbits and skunks to wolves and cougars, and if I want to brag a bit, I'm pretty good at it. I have spent a lot of time out in the woods and wilds and I am fairly familiar with what goes on. With that said, a lot of the noises that the Bigfoot researchers claim are from a mysterious humanoid ape are mostly normal woodland animals. If they aren't just pranksters messing with them. These calls, for the most part, seem to consist of low pitched growls and grunts, and the occasional scream. I have also seen them yell "That's a Squatch!" when it's obviously a cow lowing. Seriously, something is going Mooooo, and they think it's Bigfoot. Which makes me think of:

Your typical Bigfoot aficionados tend to mistake a lot of noises for Bigfoot. I'll get into the main issue about this in a moment. First for your listening pleasure, here are some animals that may be commonly mistaken for Bigfoot. I am unable to post the sounds directly in the blog. Instead, I'm going to link to the noises. Enjoy, but as a warning, don't have the volume maxed out on your computer. Some of these are pretty damn loud.

Here is a good example of some of the odd noises that elk make. Notice that a lot of the deeper noises are very similar to the ones that a lot of bigfooters claim are made by the elusive Sasquatch.

Here are some vocalizations made by black bears. Notice the similarities, again, to some of the noises that almost made Moneymaker and crew pee their pants in excitement.

Here are some cute noises made by mule deer.

Here are a variety of noises made by pigs. once again, some of them could easily be confused for a larger animal.

Here are some examples of the sounds made by cougars (No, not those cougars, I meant Mountain Lions!)

Here are a bunch of videos with a variety of noises made by whitetailed deer. Noisy bastards, aren't they?

And of course rabbits, squirrels, wolves, coyotes, pack rats, skunks, opossums, raccoons, and everything else that lives in the woods makes some sort of vocalization.
(As a side note, I have often wondered why Ranae hasn't pointed out more natural explanations, then I realized that 1) the episodes are probably edited that way, and 2) she seems to have journeyed to the dark side in recent episodes, becoming more of a believer than a skeptic.)
Keep in mind that a lot of the BFRO investigations occur in rural areas, which means that there are cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, mules, donkeys, various sorts of fowl, rabbits, and other animals that make a wide variety of noises. If you're not familiar with all the sounds that these animals make, it can be easy to mistake them for an unknown animal. As well, a lot of their investigations take place in areas that are inhabited by all sorts of wildlife. If you look at my previous post, which you can find here, you will see where I found that many of the areas that have reported Bigfoot sightings are also areas that have a native bear population. I have been unable to find a map of the locations of the recordings of supposed Bigfoot calls, but given the areas of the sightings, which look like this:

(the map came from reddit. I am unable to determine an original source.)

and the areas that have, say elk populations, which look like this:

(map from ar15.com)
(there are pockets of elk living in Oklahoma and other states as well, so this map isn't definitive, but it's the best I could find)
and here is an example of the territory of the territory of several large predators in the U.S.:
(Map from m.extension.illinois.edu)
(once again, there are pockets of these animal all over the country, so no map can be viewed as definitive. There are black bears, cougars, and wolves in Oklahoma and Northern Texas, for example)
and here is an example of the territory of the whitetail deer:

Map from Buckbegone.com)

All these maps, I was able to find using Google and just putting in various animals and territory map.

You also need to consider wolves, coyotes, deer, pigs, rabbits, birds, and bears all have a wide variety of vocalizations that aren't normally heard on wildlife documentaries. (they still make those, don't they?) These sounds can be unusual if you aren't expecting them. Combine the unfamiliarity of the sounds with the need to prove that the creature exists, and presto! You have a Bigfoot call.

Another issue I have is the equipment that the various Bigfoot research crews use. (and there are a hell of a lot of these groups, some of them seem to be in direct competition with each other. It's kind of entertaining to watch the insults fly back and forth.) Much like the ghost hunter groups, these people have some pretty serious equipment (FLIR cameras, night vision, super sensitive microphones, audio enhancers, etc.) and a lot of the times, they don't quite seem to know how to use them properly. They aren't as bad as the ghost hunters in that they aren't using an infrared kitchen thermometer to measure the air temperature, but they're close. They have the sensitivity of the mics set to a point where some of the sounds they pick up and record are distorted. Same goes for the hearing enhancers that they use. They also don't seem to take into consideration that noises in the woods are going to be warped. Also, sitting there in the dark, expecting that a creature is prowling around can cause your imagination to run wild at the smallest sound, which when amplified, can easily cause someone to mis-identify the source of the noise. Or you will start to hear sounds that aren't actually there. I'll admit, it's happened to me on occasion while tracking something. I'll be sitting there, and after a while, I will have auditory hallucinations. The thing is, the rational part of my brain kicks in, and I realize what's happening.

If you've read my previous Bigfoot post or my poorly written one on cryptids in general, you already know what my major issue with these researchers is. How the hell do they "know" this is Bigfoot behavior? If you watch the show, or listen to any Bigfoot researcher, they will always make definitive statements that "such and such is how a Bigfoot acts". They have no way to substantiate these statements. There are no bodies to test, none of these creatures have actually been studied in the wild, and to be blunt, there is no solid evidence that they exist. Therefore, they can't claim that the sounds they claim are coming from a sasquatch are actually from a sasquatch. They ignore all the plausible explanations and jump right to the make believe. Instead of eliminating possibilities, they simply add another. No matter what, that's not how to science.

Yes, you do use calls to attract animals. If you're going after a predatory species, you primarily use the call of their prey. I.e., if you want a coyote, you make a sound like a rabbit in distress to attract them. When trying to attract prey species, such as deer and elk, you have several options when it comes to calls. You can use a female call to attract a male, or a male call to attract a male. This primarily works during their breeding season because the males are looking for a mate, and trying to chase off competition. (How do they Bigfoot researchers know when the breeding season is? Does Bigfoot have a season? What do the males sound like? The females? The juveniles? These are questions that I have, as of yet, to hear a consistent answer.) Sometimes it will work out of season because they will come out of curiosity, You can also use the call of a juvenile to attract the females, especially if they live in herds. (Once again, how does a juvenile Bigfoot sound?) With animals such as hogs, calls can work all year long, and in a variety of conditions. But they are a cautious animal, so you have to be pretty damn convincing in order to attract them. (And just standing out there yelling  Sooouieee will not work) Calling is a viable tactic to attract a wide variety of animals, but you first have to know about their life cycles, habits, if they are carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores, and you have to know what they actually sound like and be able to reproduce the sound. If you've seen the Finding Bigfoot show, you'll quickly notice that there is no consistency when it comes to the noises that they think the creature is supposed to make. They make a bunch of different howling and grunting sounds, and if anything happens to make a noise, it's confirmation that they are doing it right. The problem with the show is, you don't know know it's edited, so there could be a half hour or more between the initial call and what they claim is a response. Normally, when an animal responds to a call, it happens within a few minutes. Anything longer than that, and it's probably just a random vocalization.

Real quick, I would like to mention "The Knock", which in the Bigfoot community is another form of communication that sasquatch use. This sound seems to be a solid piece of wood striking a tree. I personally have never heard it, except when watching a Bigfoot show. I imagine it could be several things. The most rational ones would be :

  1. Something with antlers or horns hitting the side of a tree
  2. A squirrel or other tree based animal throwing a rock against a tree (yes they do that. sit under a tree with squirrels and eventually they'll start throwing things and dropping things at you.)
  3. A crow, raven, or other corvid type bird dropping a rock or hard bit of food
  4. Someone with a wooden baseball bat pranking the bigfooters.
  5. Random falling objects hitting a tree
If you watch these shows, you'll see that they never quite look for the source of these sounds. They just go running off in random directions, making a ton of noise, which will scare any animal off or warn a prankster that someone is coming. They should try and pinpoint the direction of the sound, carefully go towards it, and examine everything to see if they can find what might have made the noise. They might be surprised at what they find, and slightly disappointed. Something else that they never seem to take into consideration is that sounds can be misleading in the woods, especially at night. They may be farther off than you think they are, or they may originate from a slightly different direction.



It would be cool if Bigfoot and some of the other cryptids actually existed. I would love it. It would be a new avenue of study for biologists, conservationists, environmentalists, and other fields of study. But unfortunately, the evidence isn't there. It sucks, but that's the truth.

So until next time, Be Good, Be Skeptical, and Be sure to eat your veggies.

The Skeptical Okie

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