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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Bigfoot Lives Here

Air Date: Week of

Commentator Nancy Lord remarks on the universal myth of "BigFoot" and how old growth woods make sure there is always a habitat for such universally important creatures of the imagination.


CURWOOD: And now for some different news from China: In January a team of thirty scientists working in the forests of central China reported they found valuable clues in their search for the creature we call Big Foot. Big Foot is regarded by many as a mythological being. But many have claimed to see one. Among these are ten Chinese techinicans and tourists who say that in 1993 they spotted a group of three creatures-half human and half ape, about six and a half feet tall, with huge feet and long red hair. The Chinese sightings occured in a secluded forest that provides sanctuary for large numbers of threatened species. The scientists say that they have found hairs, footprints, feces and nests believed to have been left by Big Foot, and they predict that the riddle will probably be solved in the near future.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the government of King County, Washington was embarassed recently when the list of locally protected species was found to include Sasquatch, that is Sasquatch as in Big Foot. The discovery. has brought ridicule on the county, but commentator Nancy Lord says it might not be such a bad idea to protect Big Foot habitat

LORD: I've been visiting southeast Alaska and, not coincidentally, thinking about Big Foot. If there's a mysterious humanoid creature keeping to itself in the wild, these deep forests of spruce and hemlock are surely where it lives. The hairy, ape-faced giant we know as Big Foot has a distinguished and pervasive history all around the globe. It's Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest, Windigo in the north woods, Stoneclad in Cherokee country, Brushman in interior Canada. In Asia we find stories of Yeti, the Wild Man, and the Chuchunaa of Siberia. Other versions come from Haiti, Borneo, Africa, Columbia and from old Europe. In my part of Alaska Athabaskan people call it Nantina, the long-armed, child-stealing Woodsman. In Athabaskan tradition this creature is a part of the environment as surely and truly as the bear and the chickadee. It's secretive and fast-moving, seldom seen, and a person who tries to harm one will be beset by bad luck. What does it mean, this Big Foot ubiquitousness? Either there really are such creatures living on the mountaintops and swamp bottoms, in the deep forests, or there aren't except in our mythologies. It doesn't matter to me which it is, the flesh-and-blood reality or the possibility, the distant hooting, the smudged tracks, the glimpse, the mystery. What seems important is that human beings, ancient and modern have a fundamental need to believe in something like ourselves, but wilder, connected to nature, to whatever's out there that's beyond our own control. If we need Big Foot, and we need that belief and connection, then we also need the places that Big Foot lives. We need the habitats that support the creature and-or the myth. In southeast Alaska, that's old-growth forest. If we can't or won't save such forests for what we know about in cold scientific fact, their biodiversity, and the real creatures that participate in that, the deer and spawning salmon, microbes and murrelets, then let us save the forests for what we don't know. Let us leave some places overgrown and tangled simply to preserve their mystery, for the possibility that there might be anything there, for what we might someday discover even about ourselves.

CURWOOD: Writer Nancy Lord lives and fishes in Homer Alaska and comes to us from member station KBBI.



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