After Ray Wallace died recently, his family revealed that he wore molds on his feet to produce a famous set of Bigfoot tracks. However, scientists think the Skookum Cast, with the impression of a Bigfoot’s rear end, is definitely not a hoax. Daris Swindler is a professor of anthropology at the University of Washington, and an expert on living and fossil primate teeth. He believes that the 400 pound plaster cast made by amateur Bigfoot researchers in 2000 is a genuine record of a Bigfoot that sat down by a mud hole to eat some fruit.

Swindler notes the convincing evidence on the Skookum Cast: a hairy forearm the size of a small ham, an enormous hairy thigh, an outsized buttock, and the impression of an Achilles tendon and heel. “Whatever made this was very well adapted to walking on two feet,” he says. “It’s not conclusive, but it’s consistent with what you’d expect to see if a giant biped sat down in the mud.”

A group of amateurs made the Skookum Cast, after they spent two days in Washington state’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, putting out pheromone soaked plastic chips and playing sasquatch calls in an attempt to attract a Bigfoot. On the second night, they heard a reply to their broadcasts, says Richard Noll, who has spent 30 years researching the mystery. The next morning, he found an unusual impression of a large animal on the edge of a mud hole near their camp, and took a plaster impression of it.

The January 5 Denver Post reports that many respected scientists take Bigfoot seriously.George Schaller, director of science at the Wildlife Conservation Society, has spent 40 years studying rare animals in remote places. He?s troubled by the fact that no Bigfoot remains have been produced, such as samples of feces with DNA that can be tested. But he says, “There have been so many sightings over the years. Even if you throw out 95% of them, there ought to be some explanation for the rest. The same goes for some of these tracks.”

“Either the forgers are spending an awful lot of time on this, or there is reason to give this evidence another look,” says primate researcher Esteban Sarmiento of the American Museum of Natural History. “I think a serious scientific inquiry is definitely warranted.”

Most scientists think the ancestor of Bigfoot was Gigantopithecus blacki, a giant bamboo-eating Asian ape that lived 5 to 24 million years ago. But is it possible that scientists have overlooked a living species of great ape? Russell Mittermeier, of Conservation International, points out there have been several spectacular discoveries of new species, such as the antelope-like spindlehorn from Vietnam and a South American peccary thought to have gone extinct thousands of years ago.

The persistence of reported sightings of Bigfoot-type creatures in North America and elsewhere has convinced leading primate researchers like Jane Goodall to call for a legitimate scientific study to determine whether Bigfoot still lives in the world’s mountainous regions. A Bigfoot-like creature is in nearly every Native American tradition, as well as ancient legends from parts of Europe and Asia. Each year, Bigfoot sightings are reported by hundreds of hunters, hikers and motorists all over the world.

“People from very different backgrounds and different parts of the world have described very similar creatures behaving in similar ways and uttering some strikingly similar sounds,” Jane Goodall says. “As far as I am concerned, the existence of hominids of this sort is a very real probability.”

John Mionczynski, a wildlife researcher who studies Wyoming?s bighorn herds, has a personal reason to believe. In 1972, he slapped at what he thought was a bear as it sniffed at a bacon stain on his tent, then watched as the silhouette of a giant, shaggy arm with a broad hand at the end swept toward his tent, collapsing it on him. He says, “That hand was three times as wide as mine and had an opposed thumb that stuck out as plain as day.”

To spot a Bigfoot, maybe you need to learn how to see things in a new way. Keep up with the news about the Skookum Cast. Hear the facts behind the top 10 Cryptozoology stories of 2002 from Loren Coleman on Dreamland Saturday, January 18.

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