Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sandy River Project Site #2

This evening I had the motivation and sunlight to check the trail cameras out on the property I have been monitoring east of the Sandy River. I got plenty of photographs featuring more thrushes and robins foraging in the leaf litter. There was a dog or two, along with a domestic cat. Along with the normal cast of nighttime characters, I got this photograph of a raccoon that is cool enough to share with you. I do like glowing eyes (reflective, in this case).

Who's watching whom?

I was lucky in the timing of this visit. The property owner was going to a property he recently purchased a few miles away, which I had been wanting to see for several weeks.

He has been renovating the house on this newer property, with the help of some contractors. About a month ago, one of the contractors returned to the property after hours to pick up a tool he had left there earlier. He reported being greeted with a very strong and foul animal odor. He hunts both elk and bear, and is intimately acquainted with the odors of both of these animals. He had never smelled anything like this before, and it scared him. He quickly got the tool he returned for and left immediately.

Well, needless to say, that is right up my alley.

The woods from where the smell originated.

Today I got the opportunity to explore part of this 5 acre property, and I believe it holds a high potential for producing bigfoot evidence. There are huge expanses of unbroken tree cover, a year-round creek that runs through the property feeding a larger creek nearby, several ponds, a couple marshes, large properties with livestock and gardens, and even power lines not too far away. All these features within a few miles makes this an exceptional possibility.

The yard ends at the forest, which drops 25 feet below to the creek.

The property owner, being a witness himself, has graciously let me have access to both of his properties for the purpose of photographing a bigfoot. We walked the property and placed two cameras at strategic locations.

When placing cameras, I tend to spend a fair bit of time hiding them. I kills me to see bigfooters strapping cameras on trees to try to catch a photo of a bigfoot. That may work on deer, but these things aren't deer. Not even freakin' close. Don't underestimate the 'squatch! Their very existence depends on remaining hyper aware of everything around them. Even my ten minute effort is not good enough to fool a bigfoot, in my opinion. The technology needs to improve, or a sasquatch has to make a really big mistake. I'd be a fool to hold my breath for either, but I'm hoping for both.

This effort to hide the camera is a good start,
but I believe it falls short of what is necessary.

I now have two sets of cameras deployed in an area of both historic and recent activity. I know of two sightings and several "Class B" events from the previous six months, and all within three miles of this location. I couldn't be happier about this lucky turn of events.

Plans for the new property (which I will dub the Sandy River Project Site#2, or SRP2) include copious amounts of yummies left strategically around the yard, 24-hour video monitoring with motion sensor DVR's, and as many trail cameras as I can get my hands on.

...which brings me to the "donate" button to the right. No pressure, so just ignore it if you're not in any position to feed somebody else's (my) bigfoot research addiction. However, just in case you have a couple extra coins lying around, I am accepting donations that will be used towards bigfooting equipment. Batteries, memory cards, gas, and plaster aren't cheap, and every penny helps. You can even donate gear instead of money, but that involves contacting me at

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tastes Like Wookiee

I love seeing how the media depicts bigfoot. Many researchers take offense at their light-hearted view of the bigfoot phenomenon, taking the subject (and themselves) a little too seriously at times. The public at large already thinks the subject is a joke, so why not laugh? In the end, the joke is on them because the species is real.

I don't watch a lot of television. I don't even tend to watch the bigfoot shows, finding they are nearly always regurgitating the same tired old formulas we've been seeing since the 1970's. Yet ironically (or foolishly) enough, I subscribe to cable TV.

One of the few reasons I can find to pay for cable TV is the Colbert Report. Steven Colbert is an absurd wordsmith, poking fun at everything he can in a sharply satirical style. He even pokes a little fun at the bigfoot community, though mostly indirectly.

On the Wikipedia-like website, Wikiality, which is devoted to the truth as Steven Colbert sees it, there is an entry not only on bigfoot, but on bigfoot experts. In fact, it turns out that Steven Colbert is an expert on bigfoot experts. He has a couple facts wrong on the whole bigfoot and bigfoot expert thing, but at least he's taking a stab at this interesting subject, showing that he, like everybody else, loves the 'squatch.

For example, Steven thinks bigfoot is the largest and most dangerous kind of bear, directing other bears in their evil deeds. (He is a little hung up on his fear of bears...) Those of us who think bigfoots are primates are supposedly working for the "liberal media" to promote this propogandistic view.

While I'm not aware of Steven directly mentioning bigfoot on his show, he alludes to fictional bigfoot-like creatures fairly often. The best and most recent example is when he ate an ewok. He was driven to this gruesome act by the deceit of a viewer, but I think he was secretly happy about it. As it turns out, ewoks taste like wookiee. I thought they might...

WARNING: The following video contains scenes of graphic near-cannibalism. Viewer discretion is advised.

For more bigfoot-related fun, or for the more serious side of my research, be sure to visit my website at

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Romping Rodents

Last night, I took my friend Will on a bigfoot adventure. He has been interested in sasquatches for a long time, and reached out to me through my website

Will has been a great contact for me. Having grown up near Sandy, OR, he knows the local mountains well, respects the 'squatch, and might like to fish even more than I do. He even set me up to catch my first salmon.

Speaking of Sandy, OR... At the Gallery at Alder Creek on Hwy 26, there is a great bigfoot statue. It caught my eye on from the road, so I had to turn around to get photographs.

The Gallery at Alder Creek
54737 E. Hwy. 26
Sandy, OR 97055

I spoke briefly to the man working in the carving shop. When asked if he thought bigfoots might be real animals, he replied with, "Well, you never know!" I like that attitude. Not blind acceptance nor rejection, just an open mind.

Returning to our drive, Will and I decided to see if we could get to the Timothy Lake area. The newspaper had reported that it would be accessible for the season trout opener. The newspaper was dead wrong because access to Timothy Lake was shut down from the east and the west by gates and deep snow. It took some driving, but we eventually found ourselves above Ripplebrook Ranger Station with no destination. I know a couple 'squatch spots near High Rocks, but never even got close to them due to the road conditions.

Heading further south along the Clackamas River, we explored a few other roads, but this always ended with us turning around and heading to lower elevations. We eventually found a home on a little-used logging road situated between Tarzan Springs and Big Bottom.

We spent an hour or more deploying several trail cameras using a variety of attractants. Most of that time was spent finding appropriate locations and hiding the cameras. Not only did we find good locations for the cameras, but we ran across a deer skull and a few scattered bones. (Our camp site was likely being used by deer hunters in the fall.) Honey (upon the recommendation of researchers in California), apples, and even sasquatch pheromone chips were used in concert with the trail cameras.

The pheromone chips were placed where a small creek flowed through a culvert under the road. During the day, wind currents travel uphill through the streambed (heat rising), but at night they travel downhill. The road supplies soft air currents in a perpendicular direction to the stream, maximizing the area of stinkiness. "Maximum stinkiness" is a goal not often gone for...

No bigfoot activity was noticed at all through the night. There were no audible sounds of any animals, actually. Even using thermal imagers, no mammals were seen until after midnight. All the night's animals that were seen were rodents, though I am not sure of the species. The thermal imagers do not show sufficient detail to discern species, only general blobby shapes. The following video is a compilation of rodent footage obtained by a stationary thermal recording unit.

We found it difficult to locate the trail cameras the next day, spending over half an hour before locating even one. We stumbled across a second deer skeleton while pushing through the brush, and this time I took a picture. There was plenty of sign of living deer as well in the area, probably from the previous night, including fresh scat and numerous clear prints in the forest duff.

Bigfooting almost always comes down to a combination of food, water, and shelter. There was flowing water nearby, and the forest was plenty thick. I'm guessing the missing food was probably down by the noisy Clackamas. Dropping in elevation would boost the temperatures a little too. I'll modify my approach for the next overnighter I manage.

Still, it was great to get out. I love to be out in the woods, and if I didn't I'm sure I would hate bigfooting. After all, most of the time nothing happens. If bigfoots were that common and easy to get around, this mystery would have been solved long ago.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dr. Krantz's Final Wish Granted

I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Grover Krantz, but I had long admired him. He was among the first academics to step up and closely examine the data that supports the existence of the sasquatch. He doggedly pursued evidence until he was no longer able to shortly before his death in 2002.

Krantz's footprint cast collection was the largest of his day, and was left to Dr. Jeff Meldrum after Krantz died. Krantz authored a fantastic book on bigfoot evidence, which I consider to be required reading for anyone seriously interested in the subject.

When I saw this article, I knew I wanted to share it with you. Being a teacher myself, I admire his passion to continue educating students, even after his death, by donating his body to science. I admire his eccentricity as well. To be rearticulated after his death is an unusual request, and I am thrilled he got his dying wish. And to be rearticulated with his dog! Well... Even better.

I had an anthropologist friend who took one of Krantz's osteology classes at Washington State University. She said that he was a weird old guy with a strange sense of humor. I can foresee people saying the same about me after I'm gone.

Friends of mine who knew Grover until his death tell me he seemed crotchety on the outside, but was actually a fantastic person. That is, if you could get past the walls he put up to keep the "lunatic fringe" out.

Dr. Krantz received a lot of ridicule from his "scientific" peers for his interest in the sasquatch. However, Krantz knew that to write bigfoot off as an impossibility even before examining the evidence is decidedly unscientific.

Krantz definitely respected the 'squatch!

Krantz with his Irish Wolfhound, Clyde

Anatomy Lesson

Natural History Museum Fulfills a Scholar's Dying Wish: His Skeleton Is on Exhibit as a Teaching Specimen

By Michael E. Ruane Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, April 11, 2009

Krantz and Clyde together again

Diane Horton had last seen her late husband two days after his death in 2002, so when they were reunited at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History a few weeks ago she asked for a few private minutes with him.

He was standing under spotlights in a huge display case -- all 6 feet 3 inches of him except for a few bones missing here and there. His head was thrown back and his mouth was open, as if in a big laugh, and his arms were around one of his favorite dogs.

Here was professor Gordon S. "Grover" Krantz, and all, or almost all, of the phalanges, tarsals, metatarsals and the other 200 or so bones that made up his skeleton. Reassembled with wire, glue and metal.

It was an emotional moment, Horton, 66, said.

"Wow," she thought. "You had really [an] impossible last wish. And it's been granted."
Indeed, it has.

The skeletons of Krantz and his beloved Irish wolfhound, Clyde, make up the striking display that comes at the end of the museum's current forensic anthropology exhibit, "Written in Bone."
The two are depicted mimicking an old photograph, with the skeleton of Clyde up on his hind legs and Krantz cradling the dog's forelegs in his arms.

They make a startling sight -- cleansed of flesh and fur, revealed down to the bones in the dog's tail and the dental implants in Krantz's mouth.

Which is exactly what Krantz wanted.

"He looked happy," Horton said. "And Clyde looked happy."

It hadn't been so promising when Krantz announced eight years ago that he wanted to donate his bones to the Smithsonian, with the caveat that he, and maybe the bones of his dogs, be on display.

Krantz, who died of cancer at age 70, was an eccentric and revered teacher of osteology -- the study of bones -- at Washington State University.

A resident of Port Angeles, Wash., he had long been fascinated with human and animal skeletons, along with the lore of the legendary bigfoot creature, Sasquatch, of the Pacific Northwest. "He was just really curious about how things were put together," said former student John Cardinal, now with the FBI in Washington.

After he got sick, and he offered his bones for display, his wife told him he was crazy.
"It was an outlandish wish," she said recently. But "he wanted his bones someplace. . . . He thought he would be a good teaching specimen."

Krantz was in touch with several universities before the Smithsonian agreed to take the disassembled bones of man and dogs. The museum cautioned Krantz, however, that his "re-articulation," as it is called, and display would be a long shot.

"I said that would be a lot of money . . . and we would have to have justification to spend that kind of money," said David R. Hunt, a collections manager in the museum's department of anthropology.

Hunt told Krantz that he would remember his wishes if things changed.

Krantz's bones first went to the University of Tennessee's "body farm," where scientists study the postmortem breakdown of human remains, and where the scholar's skeleton was cleansed.
It came to the Smithsonian in 2003. The bones of Clyde and two more of Krantz's dogs, who died before him, had already arrived at the museum. All went into storage drawers, where it seemed they were likely to stay.

Then came the proposal for "Written in Bone," which opened earlier this year. Spurred by the field research of museum forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley, the exhibit was planned as a study of Colonial-era grave sites in the Chesapeake region.

Owsley saw an opportunity to include Krantz as a kind of finale that would grab museumgoers just as they were leaving the exhibit. "I just wanted something they might remember," he said. But he faced the cost of reassembling Krantz, a job that would need to be farmed out to an expensive specialist.

Owsley wondered, however, if the museum's taxidermist, Paul Rhymer, might be able to tackle the job in-house, and save money. The idea, which originated with Krantz, would be to reassemble him and Clyde together along the lines of the old photograph.

Rhymer, 46, who is also a sculptor and usually works on such animals as foxes, monkeys and penguins, agreed to try. He taped up a copy of the photo of Krantz and Clyde, and took the bones, which were in boxes and plastic bags, to his museum workshop. And over several months last fall and winter he brought them to life.

He used power tools, hacksaws and a thick book on human anatomy. He got and took lots of advice. He drilled minute holes in the bones, wired ribs together and constructed the delicate, almost invisible, scaffolding on which the skeletons rest.

"It was like a jigsaw puzzle," he said. "But it was like putting two together at the same time and having them meet somewhere in the middle."

He altered the two poses slightly from the photograph to avoid any impression that Krantz was being attacked by the dog, and to more clearly suggest a "joyful interchange."

Clyde, being a familiar "four-footer" to the taxidermist, was easier to assemble. Rhymer started with Krantz.

He began with the bones and scaffolding of the spine, and worked his way out. The skull was easy. The ribs wouldn't cooperate. Bones were missing in the hands and feet.

Rhymer soon realized that the bones all fit together in a logical way. "It takes a while to figure out, after you've messed with these things, which notches fit in with what notch," he said. "There's no way I could have put the vertebrae in the wrong order. It just wouldn't have fit."
Gradually Krantz took shape.

"Once I had him from his pelvis, and I had his head on, and I had him at what I thought was going to be the right height, I thought, 'Okay, this is going to work,' " Rhymer said.

Earlier this month, with the museum thronged with spring tourists, there was an array of reactions to Krantz and Clyde.

"Freaky!" said one young visitor.

"Amazing," said a fifth-grade teacher.

"That is a big dog," said a woman.

"That is a big person," said a little girl. "Looks like he's smiling.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mono a Mono

Just for the record, I'm not trying to kill a sasquatch.

I'm not a hunter and don't even own a gun. Besides, I would probably be a bigger danger to myself than any deer.

While a type specimen might someday be collected by violent means, it won't be me that shoots it. Bigfoots are too smart, too sentient, and too much like us for me to even think about killing one.

It just seems wrong to me on a moral level. I respect the 'squatch, and hope that you do too.

But, now that I've made that perfectly clear...

If I were to try and kill one, this is how I'd do it.
No weapons, no hiding... Out in the open, mono a mono.

That's me in the white...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trail Cam Results

As mentioned in a previous post, I am monitoring a property east of the Sandy River with several trail cameras. I pulled the cameras off the property when I went bigfooting on the Olympic Peninsula so I could use them in the field, but reinstalled them after I returned.

I recently picked up a rumor of a rock throwing encounter with a possible bigfoot on the Sandy River from just a week or two ago. I was particularly interested because the cameras were deployed on the property during this time. I'm quite an optimist, so I visited the site to check battery levels and to see if there were any interesting pictures.

I was told that the property owner lost a goose earlier in the week, as well as its clutch of eggs. The eggs were laid on the muddy bank adjacent to the pond, and one egg had even rolled into the water. The only sign of the goose was a small number of white feathers here and there in the brush. No trace of possible predators was found, but it had been three days or so. I was hoping to have caught the predator on the nearby camera monitoring the pond area, but that camera malfunctioned and took no photographs at all over the two week period. I'm glad I checked the cameras now instead of next week...

Besides the possibility (however thin) of having a picture of a bigfoot, I always get excited about seeing what other animals are around, and how often they come by. I view camera deployments as successes if they obtain photographs of any animal, bipedal or not. One never knows what might wander in front of the lens.

Seeing the inhabitants of an area sheds some light on what sort of food might be encountered nearby. The animals themselves should be looked at as possible prey for a hungry bigfoot as well. This is equally true for domesticated animals such as dogs or cats.

Obvious prey.

No bigfoots were photographed, but quite a few other animals were. I managed to obtain photos of mice, cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and racoons. It was interesting to note the time stamps of the photographs as well.

This dog got up early.

The property owner has been putting fruit along the property line near the creek for several weeks as an "offering" to any passing bigfoots. Sometimes the fruit goes missing. It's fun to see where some of it ends up...

He deserves that apple for getting it off that rebar post...

I got quite a few pictures of this varied thrush foraging in the leave litter. Photographs like these offer a great opportunity to try to identify the species of bird without it flying away, as seems to happen to me more often than not while in the field.

Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius)

I think it is noteworthy that no photographs of deer or elk were obtained. I repositioned one of the cameras from the pond area into the overgrown ravine (but not before switching out the malfunctioning camera for one that works). I'll give it a couple of weeks and come back to check up on things.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jane Goodall: "Bigfoot? Oh My!"

(click on image for a larger view)

"For Cliff -
Together we can reveal the secrets still out there.
Jane Goodall"

An avid reader of was flying into Boise, Idaho on April 8th, 2009. As he left the plane, he noticed camera crews and reporters on the way to the baggage claim area.

DB approached one of the people waiting with cameras and asked what was going on. The person, who might have been a greeter or field director, said that Jane Goodall was arriving in Idaho, apparently on the flight DB had just taken from Denver, CO!

DB is a good friend, and he immediately asked the man if he'd give a business card to Ms. Goodall. The reporter said, "Yeah, sure." DB handed him a business card and thanked him.

DB has a good sense about people, and he knew that there was no way this guy was going to give a card to Jane Goodall for some bigfoot weirdo. DB decided to linger near the wall and watch the reporter. The reporter seemed annoyed that DB actually expected him to follow through on what was promised. DB knew that too, which is part of the reason he lingered...

Soon lights were flashing and the film crews started filming. Jane Goodall was approaching, followed by two assistants.

DB knew the reporter was not doing any favors for anyone that day, so DB simply walked up to Jane Goodall and said, "Hello Ms. Goodall. I didn't want to miss this opportunity to introduce myself. I'd like you to have a business card of my friend, Cliff Barackman. He's a bigfoot researcher in the Pacific Northwest.

Ms. Goodall stopped, smiled, and took the card. She read the card and said, "Bigfoot? Oh my!"

The two assistants behind her probably felt a little anxious at this point. Jane, however, had a twinkle in her eye. DB described it as almost mischievous.

She thanked DB for my business card, and asked the assistant to give a picture in return. The assistant shuffled through a bag, and came up empty handed saying, "I can't find one".

"You're fired!" Jane replied. The room chuckled, and for the first time DB noticed that the cameras were rolling and he was being filmed with Jane Goodall talking about bigfoot. Several newspapers and TV outlets covered this story, and at least one camera was running, getting all of this on tape (which probably ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor).

A little more rummaging in the bag turned up one last photograph. "I think this is the last one," the assistant declared.

Ms. Goodall took the photo, checked the business card saying, "Cliff's his name? Right." She put the pen against the photograph, lifted it off and gave a deeply thoughtful look before penning a short inscription. She handed the photo back to DB.

"Thank you so much," DB said. "Cliff is going to be thrilled! You're probably going to see this on his blog."
"Oh, he's got a website? Is it on here?" Jane politely asked in regard to the business card she still held in her hand.

"Yes. You should look at his website."

"I think I will."

And off she went.

[I wonder if she looked... Just in case: Thank you, Jane, for everything.]

I bet she does a mean "whoop"

In Ms. Goodall's famous NPR interview, a caller asked about the existence of bigfoots or yetis and she said, "Well now, you'll be amazed when I tell you that I'm sure that they exist. Later in the same interview she states, "Well, I'm a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist," and then, "maybe they don't exist, but I want them to."

Ms. Goodall may not a bigfooter, but I think she might be a bigfooter at heart. She just doesn't have the time to spend countless nights in the field. She's a conservationist, primatologist, environmentalist, and a general do-gooder. Due to these other obligations, she has precious little time for herself, being on the road for more than 200 days a year. I would like to think that if she had more time, perhaps she would direct some attention towards our North American ape.

What Ms. Goodall is doing is, once again, leading by example. Her taking the time to write a thoughtful inscription full of hope and encouragement says a great deal. She seems to be remaining open to the possibility of bigfoots being real animals. Knowing that she has had conversations with the likes of Dr. Meldrum and Dr. Bindernagel, as well as many Native Americans, she has likely encountered compelling evidence and testimony indicating that bigfoots are real. Therefore, since the evidence points that direction, she thinks they might be real animals. That is the true spirit of science.

Many of her colleagues take the attitude that "Bigfoots can't exist, so they don't." Ira Flatow said in this same interview, "...since we don't really believe they can exist, we really haven't really made a serious search."

He's right. So, it's up to us amateurs.

Dr. Jane Goodall and Dr. John Bindernagel

If anyone has any information on how to find this news footage with my friend talking to Jane Goodall about me, I'd be thrilled to track it down. You can contact me through my website.

Read more on Jane Goodall and her connection to bigfooting by clicking this link.

Thank you so much to my good friend DB for making contact with one of my personal heroes on my behalf. I have seen Ms. Goodall speak and am quite taken by her. She exemplifies compassion and works tirelessly to aid the apes, humans, and the planet itself.

Please take the time to click on the following links to find out what Ms. Goodall's been up to. Contribute if you're able!

Here are Ms. Goodall's comments regarding bigfoot on NPR:
Friday, September 27, 2002
National Public Radio (NPR)
Talk of the Nation: Science Friday with Ira Flatow

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Orangutan Clan Expands

It has been a good couple years for the great apes. A (likely) new species of giant chimpanzee has come to light in the last few years (the so-called Bili Ape), the population of western lowland gorillas expanded dramatically upon the discovery of many more individuals hiding in the northern part of the Republic of Congo, and now a sizable population of orangutans has been found in an out-of-the-way mountainous corner of Borneo.

The newly discovered Bili Ape

While apes in general are far more elusive than most people realize, I found it interesting that the Nature Conservancy's biologists in Borneo had only seen five orangutans in a five year period before this expedition.

If sasquatches are in fact examples of relic Gigantopithecines, or another closely related species, then orangutans should be of high interest to all bigfooters. Gigantopithecus, as well as Sivapithecus and Ramapithecus are thought to be closely related to orangutans. If this is true then behavior of orangutans could reasonably be used to model bigfoot behavior.

The Gigantopithecus model at the American Museum of Natural History

This bigfoot/orangutan parallelism is useful for other reasons. Orangutans seem to show a type of intelligence not found in the other great apes. Most apes use trial and error for problem solving, whereas orangutans may start this way, but soon retreat into thought. That's right, thought. Experiments have indicated that orangutans actually think through a problem solving situation, and apply the solution on the first try (after the thought process). Since bigfoots seem to be thinkers and planners themselves, the study of orangutan intelligence might yield insights to sasquatch behavior.

Yeah, I know it's a chimp, but it's still a funny picture of a smart ape...

I am currently reading The Red Ape by Dr. Jeffrey H. Schwartz. He seems to be putting forth a very compelling argument that humans might be more closely related to orangutans than the African apes. (Being only half way through the book, this is a guess on my part. I'll let you know his findings after I'm done with the text.) He notes that fewer morphological (anatomical) similarities exist between humans and the African apes than exist between humans and orangs. Schwartz also has detailed the flimsy foundation that chromosomal studies of evolutionary relatedness rests on, being based on assumptions about how evolution works on a molecular level.

This argument is interesting to me because of the possible relation between orangutans and Gigantopithecus. Schwartz suggests that Gigantopithecus might very well have been a member of the genus Homo, based on the dentition characteristics (which, by the way, are shared with orangutans and humans, as well as number of other apes from the fossil record). It is interesting to ponder the significance of bipedalism in this context...

You can see that I'm often deep in thought about orangutans, and any news about these endangered apes catches my attention. Today, for once, the news was very, very good.

I have changed the format of the original article slightly, in that I have made the text italicized where I think it is interesting in the context of sasquatches. Enjoy the article.

This is a photograph of one of the newly discovered orangutans. Note the dark color of the fur. It is a rare subspecies of orangutan, the Black Borneon orangutan, or Pongo pygmaeus morio.

New orangutan population found in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Conservationists have discovered a new population of orangutans in a remote, mountainous corner of Indonesia — perhaps as many as 2,000 — giving a rare boost to one of the world's most endangered great apes.

A team surveying forests nestled between jagged, limestone cliffs on the eastern edge of Borneo island counted 219 orangutan nests, indicating a "substantial" number of the animals, said Erik Meijaard, a senior ecologist at the U.S.-based The Nature Conservancy.

"We can't say for sure how many," he said, but even the most cautious estimate would indicate "several hundred at least, maybe 1,000 or 2,000 even."

The team also encountered an adult male, which angrily threw branches as they tried to take photos, and a mother and child.

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 90 percent of them in Indonesia and the rest in neighboring Malaysia.

The countries are the world's top producers of palm oil, used in food, cosmetics and to meet growing demands for "clean-burning" fuels in the U.S. and Europe. Rain forests, where the solitary animals spend almost all of their time, have been clear-cut and burned at alarming rates to make way for lucrative palm oil plantations.

The steep topography, poor soil and general inaccessibility of the rugged limestone mountains appear to have shielded the area from development, at least for now, said Meijaard. Its trees include those highly sought after for commercial timber.

Birute Mary Galdikas, a Canadian scientist who has spent nearly four decades studying orangutans in the wild, said most of the remaining populations are small and scattered, which make them especially vulnerable to extinction.

"So yes, finding a population that science did not know about is significant, especially one of this size," she said, noting that those found on the eastern part of the island represent a rare subspecies, the black Borneon orangutan, or Pongo pygmaeus morio.

The 700-square mile (2,500-square kilometer) jungle escaped the massive fires that devastated almost all of the surrounding forests in the late 1990s. The blazes were set by plantation owners and small-scale farmers and exacerbated by the El Nino droughts.

Nardiyono, who headed The Nature Conservancy's weeklong survey in December, said "it could be the density is very high because after the fires, the orangutans all flocked to one small area."
It was unusual to come face-to-face with even one of the elusive creatures in the wild and to encounter three was extraordinary, he said, adding that before this expedition, he had seen just five in as many years.

Conservationists say the most immediate next step will be working with local authorities to protect the area and others that fall outside of national parks. A previously undiscovered population of several hundred also was found recently on Sumatra island, home to around 7,000.

"That we are still finding new populations indicates that we still have a chance to save this animal," said Paul Hartman, who heads the U.S.-funded Orangutan Conservation Service Program, adding it's not all "gloom and doom."

Noviar Andayani, head of the Indonesian Primate Association and Orangutan Forum, said the new discoveries point to how much work still needs to be done to come up with accurate population assessments, considered vital to determining a species' vulnerability to extinction.

"There are many areas that still have not been surveyed," she said, adding that 18 private conservation groups have just started work on an in-depth census based on interviews with people who spend time in the forests.

They include villagers and those working on plantations or within logging concessions.
"We hope this will help fill in a few more gaps," said Andayani, adding that preliminary tests in areas where populations are known indicate that the new interview-based technique could provide a clearer picture than nest tallies.

"Right now the information and data we have about orangutans is still pretty rudimentary," she said.

Some experts say at the current rate of habitat destruction, the animals could be wiped out within the next two decades.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"He was here last night"

Today I tried to get to the top of Larch Mountain. I was there a couple weeks ago, but snow turned me back. I thought that today I'd get back farther, and I was right. However, it wasn't as far as I would have liked.

In real distance, as the proverbial crow flies, the peak of Larch Mountain was less than two miles away from where the road was closed. Parking there, I trudged through snow banks and found virtually no trace of animals, though I exerted lots of calories doing so. I would argue that if one isn't finding evidence of the passing of common animals, one shouldn't expect to find traces of the passing of sasquatches. Food is where food is, and one can trust the animals to find it.

After dealing with the snow fields, I decided to walk the snow line. I reasoned that the snow line, or right below it, would offer the highest quantity and quality of food for herbivores. Fresh shoots of most every species of plants would be popping up as surely as the season of Spring pops up around me now.

The paragraph above might seem to suggest that sasquatches are herbivores. I guess they could be, but from what I've seen, they seem to be heavily dependent on the ungulates: deer and elk. If lots of food for ungulates is present, that would increase the area's population of ungulates, which would in turn increase the population of sasquatches. I suspect the sasquatches not only eat the ungulates, but also snack on the food the ungulates themselves eat. An efficient digestive track could be hypothesized... So many considerations. So many options.

After poking around Larch Mountain for a few hours, my companions and I went to a property near Aims to install a couple IR game cameras. This property has been periodically monitored since the Fall of 2008. No bigfoot photographs have yet been obtained (horse photographs were...), but patience and attention are necessary in such endeavors. I have both.

This property has had possible bigfoot activity as recently as a week or two ago. When I was on my trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I received a text from the property owner that simply said, "He was here last night." (Unfortunately, I had pulled the cameras from his property in order to bring them on the Olympic trip, so there was no chance of obtaining footage of the nocturnal visitor.) I immediately texted him back, suggesting that he starts to put food out to encourage repeat visits, which he has done.

Apparently, while working very late one night, the property owner heard a noise like a sledgehammer hitting the outside wall of his home. He said the noise was loud, unmistakable, and purposeful. Was this a bigfoot hitting the outside of his home (which is commonly reported by people with repeated activity)? I don't know, but considering there was a possible sighting from his balcony this past August, I wouldn't rule it out. He certainly lives in a totally 'squatchy area of high activity, has a densely overgrown creek right outside his property line, and has frequent nocturnal visitors to the pond a short distance from his house.

In the past, I have mounted cameras on trees and spent considerable time hiding them with moss and other plants to make them look like a natural part of the environment. This time, I decided to "hide" the cameras in plain view by mounting them on man-made objects. There is a game camera photograph of a possible bigfoot that was obtained when the camera was strapped to a gate, and I have personally had one of my game cameras triggered by what I think was a bigfoot when the camera was simply positioned on my vehicle (I got two photos of an empty camp). These two instances are my data for the hypothesis of "hiding" cameras in this manner.

While driving home, my companions and I stopped for a beer at the Springdale Tavern. This is a great watering hole full of friendly locals. They smirk and poke a little fun at me about the bigfoot thing, but it is always in good spirits.

On this occasion, I met a man who claims to know where sasquatches come down to the Columbia River on the Washington side before they swim across to the Oregon side. In return for me filming them, he offered to bring me to the spot, as long as I never divulge the location. He insisted that I respect the 'squatch. Of course I agreed, but I won't hold my breath. This gentleman was obviously having some fun with me, but at the same time he knew some details about sasquatches that isn't exactly common knowledge, especially for a guy who doesn't have internet access. Maybe there's something to his drunken yarns... I hope so, but even if there isn't, he was a lot of fun to talk to. Much of the pleasure of bigfooting comes from the characters one meets on adventures.