Hunting Bigfoot With The New York Times

Mr. Moneymaker is the founder and president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (bfro.net), a group of Bigfoot investigators dedicated to acquiring “conclusive documentation of the species’ existence.” Bigfoots, also known as sasquatches or yetis, are famously elusive creatures — if, in fact, they exist at all — and since 2000, the organization has hosted research expeditions, some of which are open to nonmembers, to suspected Bigfoot habitats across North America. The goal is to rouse and record a Bigfoot. The trips, which typically last four days and cost between $300 and $500 (not including airfare, camping equipment or food), are led by a B.F.R.O. investigator native to the region and center on nightly jaunts through the woods.

In December, on an outing in the same park, Matt Craig, 26, spotted what he believed was a Bigfoot on a thermal imaging device. He and five others watched while it hugged a tree and popped in and out of hiding, as if it were playing peek-a-boo. “At that point, my mind was trying to rationalize what it was,” Mr. Craig said. “I was shaking so bad I couldn’t even look through the thermal after that.”

Now, 11 of us — three women and eight men, including Mr. Craig — had assembled with hopes of repeating his encounter. I was dubious but also willing to accept that I didn’t know exactly what kinds of oddball creatures might be loping around the forest late at night.

The Bigfoot organization’s online database contains over 30,000 user-submitted Bigfoot reports, and it’s a surprisingly consistent body of data: by most accounts, adult sasquatches weigh around 650 pounds and are 7 to 10 feet tall, nocturnal, fond of women and packaged sweets, hairy, bipedal, omnivorous, flat-footed, and distinctly malodorous.

On B.F.R.O. expeditions, faith in the existence of Bigfoots is presumed, and the hunts proceed with a kind of grim earnestness. Members are accustomed to incredulity: detractors (including most reputable scientists) insist that all observed phenomena could easily be attributed to a bear, or a rogue primate, or some dude in a gorilla suit. Bring us a body, they say, or anything that can be objectively authenticated (to date, no definitive Bigfoot remains have been excavated).

Cliff Barackman, for one, isn’t troubled by dissenters. “I don’t care what people think,” he said. “I think skepticism is healthy and good.”

Mr. Moneymaker and Mr. Barackman are co-stars on the Animal Planet series “Finding Bigfoot,” in which they amble through dark thickets, howling at one another and banging blocks of wood together (sasquatches purportedly communicate via “knocking” — the belligerent pounding of trees or their own bodies).

For believers, rustling up a squatch, as they are often called by the team, is serious business, and “Finding Bigfoot” is deliberately low on high jinks. Mr. Moneymaker and his crew host town hall meetings, recreate sightings and employ a cornucopia of enticement techniques, like arranging glazed doughnuts on a log.

Membership in the B.F.R.O. is by invitation only, and requires (paradoxically, perhaps) at least the appearance of good sense. Kevin Smykal, 58, leads the organization’s Florida chapter, and conducts telephone screenings of potential participants before they can sign up for an expedition. “We’re very careful,” he said. “We don’t want somebody who’s going to be an irritant to other people. You’re not going to want to spend your nights out in the woods with an undesirable.”

Full Article | Source: www.travel.nytimes.com

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