On the trail with Bigfoot-hunters


Trackers in Kentucky show the BBC the various methods they are using in the hopes of catching Bigfoot. Video by the BBC's Matt Danzico

Not since footage emerged of a giant, ape-like figure in the California woods in the late 1960s has there been so much interest in proving the existence of Bigfoot. So how do you go about finding a creature most people believe to be a myth?

It could be a human footprint. Let's not rule that out.

Kentucky Bigfoot investigators pride themselves on their scientific rigour.

They compile detailed reports, take copious notes, and rely on high-tech recording equipment to set their traps and document their work.

Every twisted branch or broken twig is carefully examined for clues. Every distant sound in the trees seized on as a possible sign of "activity".


Which is how I came to be standing on the bank of a stream on a warm spring day staring at an indentation in the shingle.

Bart Nunnelly Big Foot drawing Bigfoot is notoriously camera shy - but there are plenty of artists' impressions

Someone had pointed it out as a potential footprint. It was certainly big enough. Maybe even too big.

But as Charlie, our team leader, got to work with a tape measure, I assured myself that it was probably human.

And that's when I knew they had got me. Probably is not a word I would have used a few hours ago, when we set out.

Back then I would have said it was definitely human. But back then my scepticism was impregnable. Now it was starting to fray at the edges.

Maybe this is how it starts.


People have reported seeing strange, ape-like creatures in the forests of North America for centuries.

Big Foot investigators It's big and it was apparently made by a foot - but is it Bigfoot?

Frontiersman Daniel Boone is meant to have shot and killed one of them. He dubbed the 2.5-m (8.2-ft) tall beast a Yahoo, after the creatures in Jonathan Swift's classic novel Gulliver's Travels.

The Yahoo's descendants have come to be known as Bigfoot in some circles, Sasquatch in others. Whatever you call it, it is currently big news. YouTube is awash with "sightings". Most of them are obvious fakes.

But what has really given new life to a very old legend is reality TV and its remorseless appetite for eccentric characters.

It seems like every Sasquatch-spotter, from Canada to the Florida Keys, is in talks with a production company or has already been featured in a reality show of his own.

Life-changing encounter

When a TV crew arrives with a list of pre-planned shots and outlandish things for them to say, the Bigfoot-hunters generally play along.

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They know they are being held up to mockery, on some level, but they seem to be in little doubt about Bigfoot's existence.

Joy, a middle-aged healthcare consultant, is the lead investigator with the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization.

She says she saw Bigfoot for the first time last autumn. Or, rather, it saw her.

As she was changing out of some wet clothes on a camping trip, she became aware of a hairy male face peeping at her under the tent flap, she told me.

According to Joy, there was an overpowering odour. And she heard a low, guttural grunt. Whatever the creature staring at her was, it was not human.

Joy's boyfriend, Ben, smiled as she told her tale. He is a Bigfoot sceptic - but it's a good excuse for a hike in the woods.

Bigfoot sightings in the US

Bigfoot image
  • In 1967, two men captured film of what they said was a Bigfoot on film. The footage, taken in the California woods, becomes famous
  • The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization lists more than 4,000 Bigfoot sightings in the US and Canada, with the most coming from Washington and California.
  • Sometimes dubbed the Southern Sasquatch, sightings of the so-called Fouke Monster were reported in the 1970s in Arkansas, inspiring cult film The Legend of Boggy Creek.

Some native American tribes in the north-west of America believe the Sasquatch is real. Most think of him as a spiritual being, whose appearance before man is meant to convey some kind of message.

One member of the Kentucky group told me he also thinks Bigfoot could be a spiritual manifestation.

Bart Nunnelly has written several books on the mythical creatures that he believes live in the Kentucky forests.

When he was nine, his family told a local newspaper they were being terrorised by giant ape-like creatures.

He has been the subject of ridicule ever since.

After all, there is little conclusive proof that Bigfoot is anything but a myth. Despite their emphasis on scientific fact, the majority of the group's evidence comes in the form of anecdotal bigfoot sightings collected on their website.

The footprint we found, they decided, was most likely human.

But Mr Nunnelly, like all the Bigfoot devotees I met in Kentucky, is not worried about the mockery of sceptics and non-believers.

He seems certain about what he has seen, and that it wasn't human.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    What would they have called it, if they had found some of its droppings?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    If they do not find it, it may continue to exist, if they do, it might as well have remained a myth, for there cannot be many of them and if found they will surely become fewer. Ask any pure blood Neanderthal, oh you can't.

  • Comment number 231.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    The National Rifle Association Fact Card states that there are "8 million registered hunters" in the US. Each year they go into the woods, shooting anything that moves. 8 million hunters in 2011 and not one has shot a Bigfoot? There is no place in America for these creatures to exist in the manner which believers claim. They might as well live on Wimbledon Common for all the so-called "proof."

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    @220.The Dude abides
    "The existence of Sasquatch is privately accepted by all professional scientist (sic) who have actually taken the time to investigate the matter seriously."

    Based on your own scientific survey of 'professional scientists' no doubt. So let's get this straight. Your OPINION is that 'professional scientists' - with reputations to uphold - spend their time investigating Bigfoot?

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    223.Rik - I was also thinking about the untouched Amazon tribes but in a different context. The Amazon is vastly bigger than the north American forests and yet we've discovered whole tribes of humans (who are smaller) under a much denser canopy. A large dark-brown bipedal ape man in north American redwood forests flown over daily and extensively explored, should stick out like a sore thumb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Try this sometime, just for fun. It works best on a day with scattered cumulus.

    Stand on a street corner staring intently into the sky.

    After a couple of minutes you will be part of a group staring upwards.

    Fade into the background and listen to them discussing what they saw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    218.riconaroc - ".....I am a trained Scientist by profession and have an interest in Cryptozoology.....BFRO takes a neutral stance on each case reported which is why most reports are rejected as fakes."

    You presumably aren't a very good scientist if you take BFRO's reports seriously.......their attempt at "classifying" the evidence is laughable......

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    maybe the bigfoot is an alien thats why we cant find them cause there not always here

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    "220.The Dude abides "

    "The existence of Sasquatch is privately accepted by all professional scientist who have actually taken the time to investigate the matter seriously. "

    Not saying I don't believe you, but your source for this is?

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    As I have said about the uncontacted tribes in the amazon, I will say about the Yeti/Bigfoot/sasquatch. I do not know what god, but whatever god, may he protect them from us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    In 1971 people started reporting sightings of an eldery clergyman ghost at Ratcliff Wharf, Isle of Dogs. Many of the people who reported it, genuinly believed they had seen it, but the ghost was the invention of a Frank Smyth who made up the story and published it.

    I don't doubt people think they have been BigFoot, but the mind is amazing, believing you have seen something doesn't mean you have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    It is scientifically impossible that only 1 bigfoot exists, unless it reporduces by itself. Therefore, rather than hunt "bigfoot", these dreamers should be hunting "bigfeet". It doesn't surprise me that these "hunters" are from the poorer states in the US. Simple folk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    The existence of Sasquatch is privately accepted by all professional scientist who have actually taken the time to investigate the matter seriously. There is a large body of good evidence available for those who want to read about the subject seriously. Hoaxed evidence is easy to spot and discard. The question for most of them is not 'does it exist' but when will a body come in for classification?

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.


    If there was any REAL evidence, it would be all over the mainstream news, not just some conspiracy-woo website created by and for conspiracy theorists and woo-merchants.
    Reading a lot of the comments here, there must be a Kool-Aid shortage somewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    @207 Little Old Me & @203. JonT
    I am a trained Scientist by profession and have an interest in Cryptozoology. Of course, this appears at the highly speculative end of the spectrum in terms of scientific endeavour and one can reasonably deduce that 99% of all creature myths are just that, myth. BFRO takes a neutral stance on each case reported which is why most reports are rejected as fakes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    210.riconaroc - I visited their site back in 2008 when the ice cube bigfoot was heavily publicised. They changed the story and information on the site the moment it was declared a fake. A site like that needs to be run by cynical or sceptical people to remain neutral. It's like asking the church to prove god doesn't exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Lets get a hold of our selves here (North Americans excluded).

    This is 2012, If Bigfoot did exist we would know about it by now. We can send a natural history photographer into central and south Asia where less than 2.5k animals are believed to live in search of the Snow Leopard and he gains hrs of HD photography of not only one but of a mother and cubs. By the way the clue is in the number...

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    In an episode of The 6 Million Dollar Man tv show, Bigfoot is a robot protecting space aliens. Granted, it just turned out to be Andre the Giant in an ape suit, but that's how these conversations sound. Someone saw this "historical document" and thought they were watching National Geographic.


  • rate this

    Comment number 214.


    "Bigfoot cannot be captured, either dead or alive, as it/they are INTER-DIMENSIONAL beings"

    Evidence, please. Not blather or eye-witness accounts, but something scientists can properly study.


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