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September 2000 Skookum Expedition

Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams Region


BFRO Participants

  • Dr. LeRoy Fish, Zoologist (OR) -- Wildlife Ecologist, Animal Tracker, Logistical Assistance
  • Dr. Greg Bambenek, Psychiatrist (MN) -- Pheromone Expert, Animal Tracker, Photographer
  • Alan Terry, Electronics Engineer (OR) -- Communications Equipment and Power
  • Jim Henick, Carpenter (WA) -- Wilderness Guide, Logistical Assistance
  • Jeff Lemley, Healthcare Mgmt (WA) -- Exped. Coordination, Gifford Pinchot Guide, Communications
  • Erin Lee, Healthcare Manager (WA) -- Logistical Assistance
  • Richard Noll, Tooling Metrologist (WA) -- Track Casting Expert, Animal Tracker, Photographer
  • Thomas Powell, Science Teacher (OR) -- Exped. Coordination, Bait Experiments, Photographer
  • Derek Randles, Landscape Architect (WA) -- Animal Tracker, Logistical Assistance
  • Matt Moneymaker, Consultant (CA) -- Expedition Organizer; Sound Experiments

Expedition Objectives

  • Track physical evidence of Sasquatch through spoor (tracks, hair, scat, discarded food/cache, views)
  • Observe wildlife sound responses to high volume broadcast of purported Sasquatch recorded calls
  • Test viability of using Infra-red thermal & starlight imagery as nighttime detection tools for wildlife
  • Entice wildlife into favorable tracking conditions and possible observations by placing bait food items
  • Attract Sasquatch to favorable tracking conditions and potential viewing by placing pheromone chips

Saturday PM 16 Sep 2000
Conditions: partly cloudy, no wind

  • Establish base camp presence along open clearcut graveled road at approx 3700 ft elevation.
  • Pleasant and beautiful view southeast face of Mt St. Helens. Mt Adams visible short walk to north clearcut edge.
  • Great Horned Owl pair close calling from nearby forest.
  • Coyote close to base camp during night, retreats to nearby canyon, yips & barks, sounds upset with finding a human base camp along gravel road/trails in mid-age clearcut.
  • Northern Pigmy Owl pair calling at dawn along forest-clearcut edge.
    ?

Sunday 17 Sep 2000
Conditions: Clear weather, warm, night clear no wind
On scene: Fish, Noll, Randles

Activities
Clearcut and forest edge explored.
Camp sign, fire pit, latrine, reference track pit, and tables established at base camp.

Observations

  • Located extensive Black Bear scat sign along forest ridge above creek valley. Elk, deer, bear, coyote sign extensive on several trails, especially along forest-clearcut edge. Hiked into meadow areas north of base camp, heard grunts & barks of cow Elk.
  • Heard and observed a trail biker in areas of interest.
  • Someone stayed at camp continuously to keep camp presence and make potential observations.
  • Several Gray Jay made early appearance and were observed frequently throughout our stay.
  • Other avian species readily observed during daylight included: Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Yellow-rumped (Audubon) Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Common Raven, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker.
  • Native mammals & spoor observed during our stay included: Black-tailed Deer, Roosevelt Elk, Black Bear, Mountain Lion, Coyote, Townsend's Chipmunk, Hudsonian Pine Squirrel, Porcupine, White-footed Deer Mouse, Pine Martin, Bushy-tailed Woodrat, and possible Sasquatch.
    ?

Monday 18 Sep 2000
Conditions: clear weather, high cirrus, cooler, no wind
On scene: Fish, Noll, Randles, Lemley, Lee, Bambenek

Activities
Regional surveillance to nearby buttes, huckleberry fields, upper Lewis River and Randle area.
Placed initial pheromone chips (developed by Greg B) near base camp after dark in ground fog.
Locate potential satellite camp at hill top (east ridge).

Observations & Results

  • Observed broken trees in line leading from meadows.
  • Great Horned Owl distant calling from forest.
  • Distant Coyote howl & yips across creek canyon.
  • Large deep depressions found in loose dirt bank near hill top satellite camp.
  • Explored ravine and closed woods between base camp and hill top satellite camp. Extensive elk and deer sign in relatively deep compacted trails.
    ?

Tuesday 19 Sep 2000
Conditions: Clear weather to partly cloudy, night clear, no wind
On scene: Moneymaker, Bambenek, Fish, Henick, Lemley, Mort, Noll, Powell, Pugsley, Randles, Terry, Searle

Activities
Local surveillance and tracking search of clearcut, surrounding forest, east ridge satellite camp.
Camp duties: rearrange food boxes, tables, stoves, water supply, grill, canopies.
Transport and setup hilltop satellite camp for high volume broadcast of Tahoe vocalization recording using John Freitas' sound blasting equipment and compact disc player.
Place additional pheromone chips near satellite camp and creek sandbar.
Deploy night teams to Hilltop satellite camp and meadow areas to north.
Deploy crew with thermal camera to hilltop for night surveillance of clearcut and timber edges.
Broadcast vocalization recordings from Hilltop satellite camp.
Extensive radio communications with associated noise.
Infrared light source camcorders deployed.
Starlight scope with camcorder deployed.

Observations & Results

  • Photographic documentation of group activities, camp setups, clearcut and surrounding forest characteristics, document track ways, and bear scat area. Noll locates potential Sasquatch track near old campsite along lower half of ridge east of base camp.
    ?
  • Searle detects unusual sounds in ravine using boom microphone, Noll & Randles detect movement, breaking sticks and crash within the clearcut below base camp. Mort hears bipedal movement back and forth, breaking sticks and crash with high sensitivity microphone at close range. No recordings made.
    ?
  • Starlight scope seemed to be the best night tracking device with the most flexibility.
    ?
  • No Sasquatch sightings occurred.
    ?
  • Sounds of movement heard near camp could have been black bear, etc.
    ?
  • The thermal camera had been supplied that morning in Portland. This camera equipment had never been used by anyone on expedition, or in this type of environment. It was being tested by crew on this first night in operation at hill top camp. The thermal imaging capacity was remarkable -- exactly like police helicopter FLIR, but in a handheld unit. The unit worked well within 100 yards. Lack of zoom capability meant lack of detail beyond 100 yards. Human figures discernable up to 1/3 mile. Problems: Thermal camera batteries drained within one hour (per battery). Recharging took longer than battery drainage, so thermal camera had to be used sparingly -- only when sounds were heard.
    ?
  • Tahoe recordings were broadcast at approximately one hour intervals by Moneymaker.
    ?
  • Henick and Powell took up position in meadows to the the north. They could hear recording broadcasts clearly, and then heard a return call about 4:20am. The return call sounded similar to broadcast vocalization. It was distant and originated further north in the meadow area. Fifteen minutes later Moneymaker instructs Henick via radio to do some wood knocks at the edge of the meadow. A few minutes after Henick makes knocking sounds, Henick hears return knocks were heard from within a half mile. Powell and Henick listen for a while longer then return to hill top from meadow. Powell, Henick return with Lemley to base camp and turn in for the night.
    ?
  • Moneymaker stays by himself on the hill top for the rest of the night to listen for more sounds coming from meadow. No further sounds heard.
    ?

Wednesday 20 Sep 2000
Conditions: Weather cloudy to partly cloudy, night clear, no wind
On scene: Moneymaker, Bambenek, Fish, Henick, Lemley, Mort, Noll, Powell, Pugsley, Randles, Terry, Searle

Activities
Tracking surveillance of clearcut, west clearcut ridge, small clearcut creek into north and northwest forest area above creek. Ravine and canyon east of base camp to meadows and to distant meadows beyond butte.
Move hilltop satellite camp and broadcast system back to base camp area.
Re-deploy sound broadcast system next to Moneymaker, 100 yds north of central Base Camp.
Explore and deploy crew for daytime and thermal image photography to rock pinnacle above clearcut at northwest corner, mostly due west of base camp.
Nighttime teams in pairs deployed to hill top (east ridge), meadows beyond hilltop, and rock overlook on west ridge. Thermal camera scans clearcut and base camp from rock overlook at 1/3 mile.

Observations & Results

  • During the day extended tracking yielded three potential Sasquatch tracks in different areas. One is a 17 inch long impression.
    ?
  • At night, between midnight and 1am, broadcast calls had distinctive return screams from up to two Sasquatches about half minute after the broadcast of a recorded scream (Tahoe recording). Several of expeditions participants were familiar with known wildlife scream sounds, including elk, mountain lion, barred owl, and other owls species. The return screams matched none of those animals and were far out of range in terms of volume, timbre, pitch, harmonics. The broadcast of the Tahoe scream, which seemed to elicit the Sasquatch screams, had been preceded by the broadcast of a howl recording some ten minutes earlier. The live return screams were characterized as much louder, more distinct, more natural and harmonious than the broadcast call. Almost every team member heard the return calls. Each described the general direction from their position via radio. Bambenek and Terry were listening from hill top location and were the closest to the screams. Bambenek and Terry indicated the direction as directly east of hill top and approximately 300 yards away.
    ?
  • The return scream(s) were heard twice with an approx. five second interval. A third repetition began but stopped abruptly when several coyotes began howling from different directions. After about 20 minutes the Tahoe scream recording was broadcast again. No return screams this time. Everyone waited and listened for a couple hours for another return scream. Nothing further was heard. Everyone eventually returned to base camp. At base camped everyone compared notes about the screams and their direction, to identify the most likely area to search for tracks the following morning.
    ?
  • Earlier in the evening the crew was closely approached by an animal that was thought to be a mountain lion. It was seen by John Mort and Jeff Lemley briefly within about 15 feet of that group. The animal fled as the cameras and lights were being turned around to film it. After several attempts to scan the clearcut with the thermal camera, to look for any large mammals to record, the unit shut down due to high humidity. Lemley, Mort, Pugsley and Searle returned to base camp after it was determined that the thermal camera was no longer usable that night.
    ?

Thursday 21 Sep 2000
Conditions: Cloudy, intermittent showers & rain, night clearing, no wind, 28 degrees, frost on everything, first new seasonal snows appeared on Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.
On scene: Moneymaker, Bambenek, Fish, Henick, Lemley, Lee, Mort, Noll, Powell, Pugsley, Randles, Terry, Searle

Activities
Extensive searching for Sasquatch tracks in potential areas where natural screams were heard the previous night.
Erected canopy tarps over camp fire.
Thermal camera set up at camp to scan the adjacent open clearcut and east ridge to rock pinnacle overlook.
Thermal camera used from vehicle along roads.
Place fruit, cut and whole, at various places within a few miles from camp where approaching animal tracks would be visible

Observations & Results

  • Trackers locate an indistinct track way from the night before along an old moss covered logging road. Tracks only registered rare depressions in moss with an occasional displaced rock, tuft of moss, or small bunch of grass. No definitive tracks were found -- soil not permitting distinct tracks. Trackers spent some 4 or 5 hours on a quarter mile of potential tracks. Bear and elk sign were also present but not easily followed either.
    ?
  • Thermal camera scanning of clearcuts yielded a warm spot below the rock pinnacle overlook on the steep hillside west of base camp. Powell, Lemley and Searle drive to the west ridge and climbed down the hillslope to investigate the warm spot about 1/3 mile from the base camp. The approach to the warm spot filmed by Pugsley through the thermal camera at the base camp. The group is seen through the thermal camera approaching the warm spot. Moneymaker directs the group closer. Powell radios back that the warm spot is beneath an rock overhang. The Australian, Searle, volunteers to jump down to to opening of the overhang with a flashlight. The others don't object. Searle jumps down to the opening and finds the cavity empty. The thermal camera sees that nothing has run away. The warm spot is still there. It is three times the size of Searle, and Searle is standing right in front of it. Searle puts his hand on the slanted wall of the overhang. It's warm, having been heated by the morning sun. Searle radios back that the rock wall under the overhang had not cooled by the rain that came later that day, hence the temperature differential seen through the thermal camera.
    ?
  • After the trio returns, Powell seeks volunteers to help put out the fruit that was brought along for bait. Noll takes a batch of melons for baiting. Moneymaker asks for volunteers to drive the roads to scan for animal with the thermal camera. Noll, Searle and Moneymaker go in Noll's vehicle. Searle uses the thermal camera from the sunroof. At various points Noll stops and cuts open fruit and leaves it along roads.
    ?
  • Back at the camp, Fish broadcasts Tahoe screams at 45 intervals. About 20 minutes after the second scream broadcast, Randles and Fish both hear a distant return call coming from south of base camp. No further sounds heard.
    ?
  • The mobile team radios base camp to request assistance from several miles away. The vehicle's alternator is malfunctioning and the vehicle needs to be jump started. Powell and Fish respond in Fish's PU truck, find the vehicle, get it started, and escort it back to camp. The vehicle battery is not recharging (bad alternator) and needs to be jump started four more times before it can be nursed back to base camp.
    ?
  • After vehicles return to base camp at approx. 2:30 am, Randles and Fish decide to place more fruit piles at several spots, all in soft soil where tracks of approaching animals would be apparent the following morning. Randles and Fish place fruit piles at three different locations within three miles from base camp then return to base camp about 0330 for sleep.
    ?

Friday 22 Sep 2000
Conditions: Weather clear, windy, night clear, windy, freezing (24F), frost heave on dirt tracking areas.
On scene: Moneymaker, Bambenek, Fish, Lemley, Lee, Mort, Noll, Powell, Pugsley, Randles, Terry, Searle

Activities
Check and monitor fruit placement, kind of fruit eaten, determine tracks and visitation of cache locations.
Broadcast Sasquatch calls around midnight. Every person stays at base camp.
Use boom box to broadcast tapes of children playing and baby crying.
Place additional fruit and peanuts at baiting sites.

Observations & Results

  • Fish, Noll and Randles leave camp near 9:00am to check bait sites. Fruit gone from gravel pit bank, still present in wet area of gravel pit. Fruit gone from roadside. Mud site has fruit missing, 3 out of six apples gone. Melons pecked by birds, probably ravens. Old tracks in mud include elk, deer, bear, coyote. The most obvious fresh tracks were coyote and undetermined deep marks. Noll, Randles, and Fish notice an unusual impression in the transition mud at the edge of the muddy pool area. The three trackers discuss the strange imprint, then suddenly it dawns what animal caused it. Fish and Randles note the shock on Noll's face. Each tracker comes closer to have another look, discussions follow for 2-3 minutes. The three observe and note the various parts of the impression, and the chunks of chewed apple apparently spewed about over the imprint.

    The base camp is alerted. Everyone comes to see the impression. All conclude the animal sat down at the edge of the mud, then leaned down on its left forearm and reaching out over the soft mud to grab the fruit with its right hand a distance of about three feet. The group discusses the possible reasons why the animal might have done this, instead of simply walking into the wet mud to grab the fruit, as the other animals may have done. The mud is only a few inches deep. One possible explanation is immediately apparent -- the animal did not want to leave tracks. The marks it did leave are much less distinct than footprints -- relatively shallow and easy to miss from even a short distance away. There was speculation about why it didn't want to leave obvious footprints in the mud. Another possible explanation involves the animal also being cautious by simply sitting down to observe the new situation before taking overt action.

    The mud site is within earshot of our camp. If the animals had been generally circling our camp for the past few nights, they would have walked passed or near this mud site more than once. The general area sees a lot of hunters at certain times of year. It seems that even a less intelligent species inhabiting this area would try to avoid humans. It's not a stretch to think this rather intelligent primate species would not want to leave its distinctive tracks at a spot where hunters would likely pass by. If these animals have been avoiding confrontations with humans for thousands of years, might this behavior -- avoidance of leaving distinctive footprints -- be an ancient survival strategy?
    ?
  • Several experienced Sasquatch field researchers in the group noted that they had likely seen this behavior before -- track patterns suggesting the animals did not want to leave obvious tracks behind -- relatively consistent avoidance of soils that would have left the most clear track impressions. This is in contrast to most other large mammals, which usually don't make special efforts, or take special paths, to avoid leaving tracks behind. We also noted that in cases where lots of clear Sasquatch tracks have been found, the locations were usually in very remote areas that saw little to no human human traffic -- such as Bluff Creek in the late 1950's.
    ?
  • Light coyote tracks are observed on the surface of the rump and thigh of the body print, suggesting that coyotes arrived sometime after the Sasquatch left or were kept at bay during the primate visit. A second pile of chewed up apple is found on a different part of the mud pool, indicating there may have been more than one Sasquatch present or a single individual could have moved. It is noted that an elk, deer, coyote, etc., would probably have eaten the entire apple and not spewed out the seeds or core.

    Two other important things noted:
    1. The evidence indicated the impression must have been left sometime between 3:00am and 9:00am.
    2. The distant scream heard the night before came from the general direction of this mud area, which is why some fruit piles were placed in this direction from camp.

    As photos and videos and measurements are taken of the body print by various BFRO people, discussion shifts to physically preserving the imprint. The imprint must first be protected against drying in the sun. The print is already starting to dry out. If the mud dries completely the impression will crack and crumble as the casting materials are applied. The fine details will turn to dust. A make-shift cover is constructed from large rocks holding up a sheet of plywood to protect the mud from drying in the morning sun.
    ?
    A full tally of available plaster and other casting materials is calculated to see if one large cast can be made of the body imprint. Among the group there is about 150 pounds of Hydrocal B-11 and some 50 plus pounds of Plaster of Paris. Aluminum tent poles are offered to reinforce the large cast. Sleeping bag pads and air mattresses are offered to cushion the cast for transport off the mountain.

    Noll directs the casting process. The various people document the entire process of making the cast with their camcorders.

    A cast is produced that is roughly 3.5X4.5 feet, weighing a few hundred pounds. Several people are required to lift the cast out of the mud. Several pounds of mud are removed from the underside of the cast before it is lifted onto a pile of sleeping bag pads in the back of a truck.

    The apple pieces are collected prior to casting, with the hope that saliva with buccal, cheek, and gum cells will be present on the apple pieces and can be used for DNA analysis.
    ?



Saturday
23 Sep 2000
Conditions: Morning: sunny, clear, slightly cold and breezy
On scene: Moneymaker, Bambenek, Fish, Lemley, Lee, Mort, Noll, Pugsley, Randles, Searle

Activities
Break camp travel home
Check fruit cache locations

Observations

  • Ravens present at fruit cache during early morning check.
  • No fresh tracks of large wildlife present because the mud imprint area was frozen and frost heaved..
  • Participants pack up and leave steadily through morning and mid day.
    ?
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