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STATE: North Carolina
COUNTY: Swain County
OBSERVED: A companion and I were backpacking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park over a long weekend. For reasons forgotten we left the trail to bushwhack and for a few steps dropped upstream into a creek to avoid an obstacle. My partner was a fast mover and was ahead, I was moving slowly to avoid slipping in the shallow creek when I observed a distinct down stream pointed bare footprint in a patch of silty sand just off the shore. There was a primate shaped footprint with 5 distinct toes and an overall length of 12 -14 inches by estimate. The bottom surrounding was flat rock. The water depth was shallow, maybe 2-3 inches. The print depth was deep enough to be distinctly visible in ambient lght. I spent some time examining the print to try to exlude other causes, knowing that water flowing over soft bottom can create patterns as can multiple animals walking over a path. There were no established Park camping spots within a likely walking distance, nor any animal prints nearby. There was nothing in my outdoor experinece to explain what I saw. We had hiked and camped numberous times in the Park and were familiar with the behavior and prints of bears.
ALSO NOTICED: Nothing, we were in progress of a hiking trip of several miles.
OTHER WITNESSES: Backpacking partner moved quickly through the area and never indicated any sighting.
OTHER STORIES: We lived several hours away from the Park and did not have contact with locals or others in the woods at the time.
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Early afternoon, bright light.
ENVIRONMENT: Small slow water section of creek in heavy deciduous forest in mountainous terrain.
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator Stan Courtney:
I spoke with the witness by phone.
She stated that the footprint measured fourteen inches long and five inches wide. The witness is experienced with other wildlife prints including bear.
About BFRO Investigator Stan Courtney:
Stan Courtney has a special interest in wildlife audio recording. He has attended numerous BFRO Expeditions. See Stan's blog StanCourtney.com for recordings he has collected over the years.
Stan Courtney can be reached at email@example.com