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Media Article # 307
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Producer subjects tales about Sasquatch to scientific method
By Dan Gallagher
BOISE, Idaho (AP) The hunt for Sasquatch, aka Bigfoot, in the gloomy rainforests of the Pacific Northwest has always involved a little bit of science and a great deal of bluster
about supposed encounters with a North American ape.
A producer of films for the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet has consulted with Idaho State University anatomy professor Jeff Meldrum and other experts on a documentary which hammers the myth with a lot of science.
"I just want some darn answers that at least come from a position of research and knowledge,'' said Douglas Hajicek of Whitewolf Entertainment in Minnesota.
Hajicek is filming ""Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science,'' which is scheduled to air on Discovery in November.
Sasquatch has been part of Indian legends for centuries. The name is the English version of the Salish Tribe's word for wild man, or hairy man.
Like other people who have taken up the hunt, Hajicek's journey started when he glimpsed some tracks. He was at Selwynn Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories filming giant trout. But he spotted some giant footprints, about 18 inches long.
"They went through gravel, beach sand, dirt, moss,'' he said. ""It was incredible the depth of them, even in the gravel. I was told by the guides there were no grizzlies there, no polar bears and I know bear tracks.''
Meldrum also documented a trail of more than 40 footprints he encountered along a muddy road adjacent to the Umatilla National Forest near Walla Walla, Wash.
An expert in primate locomotion, Meldrum said those tracks and others appear to be left by a biped whose feet are much more flexible than the human foot, with a high arch and better
adapted for steep mountain terrain. They would be as tall as 10 feet and weigh 1,000 pounds.
Hajicek takes several supposed close encounters with the hairy humanoid over the last 40 years and puts them under the microscope.
In October 1967, Roger Patterson claimed to have captured on film a female Bigfoot retreating across a sandbar in northern California. Skeptics have passed off the fuzzy film as a man in a monkey suit.
Hajicek took the footage and ran it through high-resolution equipment to highlight the limbs as the subject walks. The resulting computerized anatomical model is seen from several
angles, including from above.
"The film shows tons of muscles expanding and contracting,'' he said. ""If it's a guy in a suit, he had to be attached to the skin.''
In 1996, campers at a northern Washington lake filmed a subject racing over boulder-strewn ground. Meldrum said it appears to pick up a young Bigfoot and set it on its shoulder.
Hajicek will employ high-resolution scanners on the same site, contrasting his footage with the original one. He also will employ a track star to run across the same route to compare the speed.
"They are essentially scanning the mountainside with lasers for a complete frame of reference,'' Meldrum said. ""They're able to map how big the figure is, how fast it's running. If it's a hoax, they went to great lengths.''
In 2000, a group of Bigfoot hunters near Mount Adams in Washington set out apples as bait and played recordings of the creature. They said Bigfoot called back to them and left an indentation in the mud at the bait which seems to show the hindquarters, forearm and Achilles tendon of a large primate.
They made a plaster cast of the indentation, and Hajicek is having hairs embedded in the cast and saliva on the fruit analyzed for DNA. Sound recordings made at the site also are under study.
Primate expert Daris Swindler, University of Washington professor emeritus, has looked at the cast and concedes that scientists often ignore the study of Bigfoot to avoid being viewed as crackpots.
Meldrum said more anthropologists are starting to study the evidence, although both he and Hajicek are still reserving judgment on whether a giant wood ape is roaming the Northwest.
"I think it's going to take a real specimen or close daylight film footage to prove it,'' Hajicek said. ""No universities have funded any expedition; nobody's out looking for bones.''