By Ash Kelly
Sep 06, 2017
Critics say lack of compelling evidence, not wilful ignorance, keeps scientists away
It was a sunny October afternoon on Mica Mountain, near Valemount, B.C., when William Roe observed what he later determined to be a sasquatch-like creature.
At first, he thought what he was observing was a grizzly bear, until it stood up on two legs and wandered back into the forest, according to historical accounts.
“Its arms were much thicker than a man’s arms and longer, reaching almost to its knees. Its feet were broader proportionately than a man’s,” Roe said two years after the 1955 sighting.
‘We don’t consider ourselves believers’
Roe’s story is similar to dozens of encounters across the province from Valemount to the Nisga’a Valley in the north, to Comox and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
B.C. is home to thousands of years of Indigenous records, sasquatch petroglyphs, contemporary eyewitness accounts, footprints, audio recordings and other so-called evidence of the existence of a large bipedal ape.
Vancouver Island based biologist and sasquatch expert John Bindernagel is an outspoken advocate for the scientific examination of all of those claims.
“We don’t consider ourselves believers. We are people who are convinced that the evidence is compelling and warrants scrutiny,” he told On the Coast.guest host Gloria Macarenko.
“It’s part of our professional responsibility to entertain these claims.”
Those claims include two 2015 sightings by RCMP Cpl. Nathan Dame who detailed his experiences to the Terrace Standard shortly after seeing a large creature leap across the road in the Nisga’a valley.
‘Extraordinary claims, it’s often said, require extraordinary evidence’
An abundance of hoaxes has severely undermined efforts to add sasquatch to wildlife field guides or initiate scientific interest because scientists fear for their professional reputations, said Bindernagel.
But that isn’t the only reason scientists aren’t out hunting for nesting sites or using drones to spot the elusive apes, according to Mark Collard, a professor of archeology and biological anthropology at Simon Fraser University.
He sees two main issues with Bindernagel’s call on scientists. First, he said, the onus is on people like Bindernagel to apply for grants and explore the topics they feel are important and warrant further explanation.
“Nobody is trying to keep these people out of the mainstream. They can do what everybody else does in the field of science,” said Collard.
But the real reason that the field of sasquatch exploration hasn’t developed, he said, is a lack of compelling evidence.
“Extraordinary claims, it’s often said, require extraordinary evidence,” said Collard.
Collard said the idea of a bipedal great ape in British Columbia is far-fetched because it doesn’t line up with contemporary theories about evolution and there is a lack of direct physical evidence of the creatures.
“At this point, the only really compelling evidence would be something direct like skeletal remains or a cadaver,” said Collard.
To Collard, the idea that scientists are ignoring a potentially game changing discovery doesn’t ring true because scientists are constantly navigating the unknown, he said.
“That is one of the biggest drivers of scientific discovery — the desire amongst scientists to find things that are new and to disagree with the existing consensus.”
Still, Bindernagel has worked for decades to convince others to look closely at the footprints and alleged hair samples, to listen to the legends and consider the sheer number of eye witness reports,
“We really can put all the evidence together and make a very strong case for what we feel we know, what we consider as knowledge,” said Bindernagel.
With files from CBC Radio One’s On the Coast