Scientist Has Very Simple Explanation for Bigfoot

Bigfoot, sasquatch, the old man of the mountain: regardless of the name, the legend of the huge, ape-like creature said to roam the woods of North America has remained unexplained for centuries. But scientists may finally have solved the puzzle.

In a preprint scientific paper, data scientist Floe Foxon calculated the likelihood of Bigfoot actually being a black or brown bear.

Foxon found that there was a strong statistical link between black bear populations and Bigfoot sightings in any given area of the U.S. and Canada. On average, one Bigfoot 'sighting' is expected for every 900 bears present.

bigfoot sign
Stock image of a Bigfoot crossing sign in Colorado. Scientific analysis has found that a sighting of Bigfoot is expected per every 900 bears present in a given area, meaning that Bigfoot sightings are likely misidentified bears. iStock / Getty Images Plus

To reach these conclusions, Foxon used data on sasquatch sightings across the U.S. and Canada and ran statistical tests against the black bear populations in each state or province, as well as adjusting for human population and land area.

"Based on statistical considerations, it is likely that many supposed sasquatch are really misidentified known forms. If Bigfoot is there, it may be many bears," Foxon wrote in the paper.

Bigfoot is described as being a tall, hairy ape-like creature, standing between 6 and 15 feet tall, that walks on two feet like a human through the thick woodlands. Some sightings report that the beast has a human-like face, with eyes that glow yellow or red during the night.

It is also thought to have enormous feet, hence the name, with footprints that have been found measuring up to 24 inches long and 8 inches across. There have been more than 10,000 eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot in the mainland U.S. over the past 50 years, one-third of which were in the Pacific Northwest states.

Bigfoot is the North American version of the "large hairy beast" cryptid that is present in many countries around the world. In the Himalayas there is the legend of the Yeti, in Brazil, the Mapinguari, and in the East-central Kenyan forests, the Chemosit.

The main explanation for the sightings of Bigfoot is that people are merely seeing black bears standing on their hind legs.

"I think all wildlife researchers would take the view that these sightings are of bears, most likely, black bears— it is an example that many academics use with our undergraduate students," Robert Young, a professor of wildlife conservation at the University of Salford in the U.K., told Newsweek.

"The most plausible and simplest explanation is black bears (following Occam's razor). It is important to remember that because of our cuddly toys we have a distorted image of bears being very fat with stubby limbs."

"And bears are very capable of standing bipedally and even walking that way to a limited extent (think about the abhorrent practice of dancing bears"

Despite the furor surrounding the cryptid creature, there is no solid evidence for Bigfoot's existence.

In order for the Bigfoot species to have lasted this long, there would have to have been several specimens in order for breeding to occur, and for inbreeding and low genetic diversity to be avoided. However, a higher number of Bigfoot specimens in existence would therefore increase the chances of one being found dead or killed by a motorist: something that has not yet happened.

No fossil evidence of other hominids except humans existing in North America has ever been found. In 2013, one Utah resident found what he said was a fossilized Bigfoot skull, but turned out to merely be a weathered rock when analyzed by a paleontologist.

Hair and fecal evidence for Bigfoot's existence have turned out to belong to existing animals or be synthetic. In a Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper from 2014, researchers describe how they tested 36 "Bigfoot" hair samples from around the world and found that the majority belonged to raccoons, horses, deer, cows, coyotes, a Malaysian tapir and even humans. Two of the samples did not belong to any known species, but their DNA data showed that were not from primates: rather, they most closely resembled that of a rare brown bear species.

bear and bigfoot
Stock image of a brown bear standing on its hind legs (left) and a stock image of a "Bigfoot sighting" near the Grand Canyon. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Additionally, much of the physical evidence supporting Bigfoot's existence, including the majority of the footprints, videos and photographs, has been found to be hoaxes.

"I think that's extremely likely ... that people who 'see' Bigfoot are actually just misidentifying wild animals," Jeremy Bruskotter, a professor at the school of Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State University, told Newsweek.

"[Foxon's] analysis, while coarse in scale, appears to be appropriate."

The sightings of cryptids like Bigfoot and its analogs, such as the Loch Ness Monster, are considered by scientists to be the misidentification of other things, ranging from other animals like black bears, escaped apes from zoos and homeless people, to neutral objects. Pareidolia, the tendency of humans to see other human-like faces in natural environments, has been proposed as an explanation for many of the sightings.

"[Other explanations for sightings] depend on the viewing conditions—especially the extent to which conditions obscure objects," Bruskotter said. "It likely also depends upon the state of mind of the observer. Perhaps alcohol and illicit drug consumption would be useful correlates?"

Foxon's analysis shows that those living in areas with higher bear populations are much more likely to spot Bigfoot roaming in the woods. While science lands firmly on the legend of Bigfoot being a bear taking a walk on its back legs or some other known animal, many people simply want to believe in the creature and what a cryptid represents about the undiscovered world.

"We live in a time when even though the world has been Google-Earthed to death and GPS'd to the infinitesimal point, there are really large stretches of land that have not been explored and thousands of miles of oceans that no human being has set foot in," Rob Morphy, an artist who has collected accounts of monster sightings at American Monsters since 2000, told CNN in 2014.

"Extraordinary discoveries await us."

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