Best Witnesses: Biologists or Truck Drivers?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 30th, 2007

Pitt Lake Giant

This Pitt Lake, British Columbia, Sasquatch was seen by two prospectors in June 1965. Should we discount this sighting because the eyewitnesses weren’t biologists? Credit: Harry Trumbore’s drawing from The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates.

Regarding a couple quick comments there, however, I thought I would separate them out from the terminology debate. Some people have noted that it seems certain states and provinces may not appear to be able to support a population of Bigfoot living there. But, remember, reports do not necessarily reflect that Bigfoot live where they are sighted, but only they have been seen by other primates (humans), who are perhaps merely viewing Bigfoot passing through, for a variety of reasons (i.e. migration, hunting, searching for mates).

More significantly, Cryptomundo commenters have alluded to a couple old questions I often hear on the lecture circuit: Have biologists been eyewitnesses to unknown hairy bipedal primates? Aren’t the only credible sightings those by scientists?

One of the reasons behind Patrick Huyghe’s and my writing of The Field Guide of Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates was to show the diversity of credible witnesses. I’ve interviewed and investigated the backgrounds of many Bigfoot sighters who are more credible than some academic anthropologists, that’s for sure. Why should truck drivers be seen as less reliable than biologists?, I find myself asking, quick often.

Yes, some good eyewitnesses have been people who should know what they are observing, such as Gerald Russell, a naturalist (see FGBF, noted above, pages 126-127); Gary Samuels, a mycologist (pp. 72-73); Georg Steller, a naturalist (pp. 64-65); and physicians (e.g. George Moore & George Brooks, pp. 136-137; Ivan Ivlov, pp. 120-121; V. S. Karapetyan, pp. 92-93).

But the witnesses in Huyghe’s and my field guide also include a school superintendent, orchin collector, surveyor, engineer, geologist, timber prospector, fossil hunter, forestry committee members, reindeer hunters, construction workers, military personnel, campers, youth, Sherpas, natives, housewives, guides, and others.

Why should any of these witnesses be said to be less credible just because they are not biologists or anthropologists?

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

165 Responses to “Best Witnesses: Biologists or Truck Drivers?”

  1. Kathy Strain responds:

    As usual, Daryl said it far better and wiser than me. Thank you Daryl, I 100% completely agree.

  2. MultipleEncounters responds:


    The points we’re making are whether open desert areas are their ‘normal’ habitat, which they likely aren’t. But that doesn’t mean the species doesn’t pass through these areas. It is these ‘accidental tourists’ that I suspect are sometimes spotted from a distance, or in someone’s headlights traveling 70 mph (the car not bf). Encounters in these remote, seemingnly uninhabitable areas, can’t be discounted out of hand simply because the habitat isn’t there. Habitat is not a prerequisite for an animal on-the-move to cross country to new (or Winter/Summer) range.

    Where is this thin rainfall line Daryl in Eastern Oregon? I regularly elk hunt NE Oregon. We’ve had two night time visits there in our elk camps over the years. I suspect one of the big criteria that can’t be overlooked in eastern Oregon is that there are thousands of miles where people rarely travel. A lack of sightings probably has more to do with lack of people then anything. It’s pretty remote, with endless habitat. While there may be less ‘reported sightings’, being it is a very sparse human population, that doesn’t equate at all as to whether bf’s aren’t there.

    A problem I can see that may have developed in this field, lies in the culmination of data based on certain field characteristics. Or lack thereof. Say over the decades, early eyewitness accounts of sasquatch seen in the middle of the desert, were thrown out by the initial investigator because they used the same rationale you are using now Kathy. Then, with new people and a new reports, the next ones get discarded because that researcher also rationalized they could not ‘live’ in the area. And so on. So decades later, even if the sasses were merely traveling thru the area, instead of having corroborating evidence available, the most recent researcher to go through the pile, ends up with only the most recent reports and does the same. There may be exceptions of course, but whose to say the most recent researcher going thru the pile isn’t simply repeating the same flawed assumptions made by their predecessors?

    I have heard discussions recently of universal protocols needed in the field as far as evidence handling. Well, handling of existing reports may be an area in equal need of an objective review and protocol design. I can’t agree with throwing a report out because it was in the middle of the desert. JMHO They don’t have to permanently live there to have been there.

  3. Kathy Strain responds:

    Well, first, I’m certainly not the only person who uses this rationale about throwing out reports. Nearly ever researcher I know does so. We’ve been doing this for a long time and know the areas we’re dealing with (i.e., I wouldn’t toss a report from Mass, cause I don’t know the area and don’t know what it’s capable of…but I also wouldn’t assume it was real either if I don’t know the area…I’d find someone who did). It might also surprise you to know that we also toss reports of reports that come in that have a paranormal aspect to them. I’m sure some will consider that a bias, but I’m very ok with that.

  4. MultipleEncounters responds:

    It’s unfortunate that reports get tossed that may be valid in someone else’s eyes Kathy. I think this desert scenario is the perfect example. If a researcher doesn’t have an overall knowledge of animal survival, or an insight of where a bf may be headed, then a reason to purge is not present in my eyes. Would you have tossed Nino’s interview if that was your region and you knew it contained several hundred miles of scorching hot desert where you felt a bf could not possibly survive? (Of course I realize that as an archeologist, you would have craved the opportunity to interview him and preserved such an interview for its overall historical significance alone)

    It also doesn’t surprise me that you would throw out reports (of reports) with a paranormal aspect to them. But if you throw out direct reports/interviews containing paranormal aspects, that might concern me. Why? Because as an archeologist, you would be at conflict with yourself if an old elder finally opened up to you in a way he never has before, about things you might not find believable. Sure you might rationalize it by inferring it actually represented some ‘symbolic’ element of the story, but then that becomes your interpretation and not the original one. Yes I see a big problem when Native American stories are interpreted by Europeans in ways that really are different from the original meaning. But that has happened since the first arrival of Europeans.

    The other funny thing about paranormal elements is that some so called ‘paranormal’ elements actually contain more science then many are able to deal with or recognize. But this isn’t the place for that discussion. You hapilly are dealing with one right now however of your own that has long had a paranormal aspect attached. I am referring to your having seen a sasquatch twice with glowing red eyes (well, you seen the glowing red eyes anyhow). You are attempting to apply a scientific explanation to what many have long considered paranormal. Good for you. But some paranormal explanations may not always be so easy to set aside. Some day you may find yourself witness to track that begins or ends in an open snowfield. What will you do then?

  5. Kathy Strain responds:

    I don’t think red eye glow is the least bit paranormal at all. Now, if it was really Satan, then maybe you’d have a case….

    Native American elders tell me stuff all the time and I have no conflict with it at all. People have a right to their beliefs, but it doesn’t mean they are true or I would use the account as evidence of bigfoot (regardless of how interesting the stories are).

  6. Kathy Strain responds:

    Oh…sorry, forgot to add, I have seen tracks that end in an open snowfield. I have it on film. Funny thing though, once I got on the ground and looked, it was easy to see that the bigfoot turned in and walked back in it’s own tracks (toes at each end). Nothing paranormal about that either!

  7. MultipleEncounters responds:

    When you can see toes on each end, I wouldn’t consider that abnormal at all except for being a saavy sasquatch.

    I’m not looking for a case for Satan, I sure hope you aren’t.

  8. dontmean2prymate responds:

    Humans can cross the Sahara because they lived there before it was an impossible desert. They lived along its surface waters, then slowly watched them disappear below the earth, chasing it down with wells, traveling farther between surviving wells. A person without that knowledge couldn’t travel the sand for long just using survival skills. Same with this continent. This creature could have watched the deserts grow, finding the harsher land continually more difficult to cross, but knowing precisely where shelters and water can still be found, places rare as themselves.

  9. Daryl Colyer responds:

    Hey MultipleEncounters,

    It’s a narrow “strip” that is about 150 miles long from the Oregon-Washington border running down between Pendleton and LaGrande, stretching roughly down along and to the east of Highway 395. It’s a swath that is about 20 – 40 miles wide. The rainfall there in that strip is higher than in the immediate east or west, averaging between 20 – 40 inches of annual rainfall, and there are a number of reported encounters in that “strip.” To the east and west of that “strip,” much of the environment is very arid (like West Texas) and the annual rainfall totals drop significantly, averaging well below 20 inches in much of the area, and very few or no reported encounters. Now, back over in the western third of the state, the rainfall totals increase dramatically, as do the number of reported sasquatch encounters. It’s very much the same as in Texas (except with Texas the western portions are arid, and the eastern portions are wet and heavily forested).

    I bet that it is in that eastern Oregon swath that you have had those encounters that you spoke about in your post.

  10. MultipleEncounters responds:


    One was 15 miles west of 395 but the other was some 50 miles east of there. Nearly the whole NE quarter of the state is somewhat arid but heavily forested, except for small areas like near Pendleton which is prairie.

    All NE Oregon is great elk habitat. These are my annual hunting grounds. There are streams and other water bodies in practically every drainage. I’m not so sure its bigfoot that is so confined to a narrow corridor you reference, but 395 may simply generate more people who therefore enable more encounters. On the SE part of the state of course it becomes arid high desert.

  11. mystery_man responds:

    Being on Japan time, I always feel like I miss out on the meat of these discussions due to the time difference, but it looks like this debate is winding down a bit. I think these issues are ones that we aren’t likely to reach a unanimous consensus on anytime soon, but a lot of good ideas being put forth by everyone here and I have enjoyed this exchange of ideas immensly. It is always nice to see other people’s viewpoints on these sorts of things and I always come away learning a thing or two from these discussions. Thanks to all involved.

    Just a couple of things I wanted to get out. First of all, I guess you could say I am a scientist and I know a lot of other people here are either scientists or of a scientific mind. DWA, springheeledjack, Things-in-the Woods, and Mnynames spring to mind (sorry for anyone I left out.) Daryl Colyer certainly seems to know what he is talking about and I understand Kathy Strain is a scientist as well.

    I am pleased that no one here ever tries to play some sort of expert card and dismiss what the others are saying out of hand. And Kathy, I know you meant no disrespect to DWA and SHJ with your comments and that you were not addressing me at all. The fact is, even scientists within the same field do not always agree on everything and there can be some pretty heated debates. And then to add to that, you have scientists in different fields converging here (anthropology, Things-in-the-Woods is archeology, I myself am a biology and zoology man, and so on.) My point is, no one here is necessarily wrong, we just have different ideas about how to go about the same ultimate goal, which is to find the truth. This exchange of ideas is essential to furthering that cause I feel and is important for developing scientific and useful hypothesis as well as ways to better analyse what is found concerning Bigfoot. I highly value this site because all of us, from different fields, different backgrounds, and different experiences can come together and talk like this on a subject we all obviously love in a mostly open minded way. Again, thank you all.

    One more thing that I thought about concerning these reports. I feel that witness reliability is a key factor and that has been well addressed here. i don’t think anyone here disputes that. But I also think we should remember that not only honest, reliable people are going to see Bigfoot. And not all honest, reliable people are honest all of the time. Some bogus reports could be well within expected physical or behavioral parameters for this creature and sneak into the data pool. It is good that organizations such as the TBRC go through such great lengths to evaluate these reports, but unfortunately it is fallible.

    So I wonder if there is a way to keep all of the reports in the database and rather than throw the suspect ones away, come up with a rating system of some kind that would reflect the assumed reliability level of the report? That way there could be the ones that are solid grouped together, the less reliable ones grouped together, and on down to purple headed aliens. That way, the expertise of the researchers compiling the reports is utilized by grouping together the most reliable reports, yet individuals can still feel free use the other reports if they wish by looking under headings for less reliable ones. I do not know how feasible this is. Just an idea.

  12. DWA responds:

    In the latest installment of Ben Radford Watch, we find this gem:

    “Loren himself admits this when he (quite correctly) states that the vast majority of Bigfoot sightings are misidentifications. So that’s pretty well a proven fact.”

    This is one of the most exciting statements ever offered in the search for the sasquatch. We have a scoftic ADMITTING THE CREATURE EXISTS.

    Here’s the syllogism.

    1. Loren [Coleman], Himself, states that the vast majority of Bigfoot sightings are misidentifications.

    2. This statement is a “proven fact” by simple dint of Loren, Himself, having said it.

    3. Loren Coleman says the sasquatch exists.

    4. This statement is a proven fact by simple dint of Loren, Himself, having said it.

    Ben, I’m almost in tears. Finally the blind do see!

    NO ONE, ANYWHERE, OF SOUND MIND AND DECENT EYES MISTAKES ANYTHING HE ENCOUNTERS IN THE WOODS FOR A SASQUATCH. Hyperanalyzing a blobsquatch is not an example of this phenomenon, as of course we all know.

    Or, the critter exists as a proven fact. Choose, Ben. Either way, thanks!

  13. DWA responds:

    In the latest installment of Ben Radford Watch, we find this gem:

    “Most Bigfoot reports come down to “I saw something big and hairy, and it wasn’t a bear.” Even assuming that’s true, that is a NON-description; it just says what the person thinks it wasn’t, not a positive identification of a Bigfoot.”

    Did I ever tell you Ben Radford doesn’t read sighting reports? Do we now have proof?

    Virtually without exception, Bigfoot sighting reports clearly describe something big, hairy, and BIPEDAL, with a hominoid’s face and numerous other extremely consistent characteristics. People from coast to coast, north to south, not having met or compared notes, are seeing the same animal.

    Or they’re all lying.

    Your bet, Ben.

  14. Loren Coleman responds:

    Wow, 164 comments recorded.

    It is obvious a few people had some things to say about this topic, and it wasn’t even about a “mystery fish photo”!

    I especially wish to thank those who have been able to restrain their desire to make personal attacks, and keep this on a higher intellectual plane. Good for most of you.

    For those that have engaged in ridicule, silly, or illogical comments, even in the midst of these postings, at least you showed yourself openly for what you tend to feel about this subject.

    What I would appreciate, however, is to not be made a tool of any comment makers’ attempts to make a point about another party who may post here. Please leave me out of such comments. Take responsibility for your own thoughts, and do not use my name as some form of third-party defense or offense. Or even in your own concept of a love or hate triangle. Thank you.

    I am quite able to speak for myself, and don’t take kindly to being made part of an example that comes via someone else’s point of view, which may have nothing to do with my own sense about a person, their stance, or the facts.


  15. Daniel Loxton responds:

    This seemed like the most relevant thread for this link:

    This is a short and stunning demonstration, by skeptic and psychologist Dr Richard Wiseman, that underlines the degree to which expectation can badly distort eyewitness perception — even under clear, well-lit, near-optimal viewing conditions.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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