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If Chimps Kill With Sticks, Do Bigfoot?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 23rd, 2007

Chimp With Stick

News out of Africa about chimpanzees fashioning and using tools has a direct impact on a recent debate about Bigfoot. As you will recall, M. K. Davis made public statements about a stick being held by the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot, and connected it to Bigfoot being human, due to that stick. Besides the fact few could see the stick that Davis saw, the counterpoint is that great apes do use sticks, of course, and use of such a tool is no measure of “humanity.”

I am not going to rehash the entire unfolding of the new finding readily available via this article, “Chimps Use ‘Spears’ to Hunt Mammals, Study Says” and now being seen in news rewrites around the world.

But here’s a one sentence summary of what has been discovered and announced this week:

No fewer than 22 times, researchers documented wild chimpanzees on an African savanna fashioning sticks into “spears” to hunt small primates called lesser bush babies.John Roach,National Geographic News

What does this have to do with cryptozoology, Cryptomundo, and Bigfoot affairs? Well, as you may remember, those recent comments from M.K. Davis noted that if Bigfoot carries a big stick, it must be human (specifically via an unfortunate characterization of a certain group of California native peoples). As this new African research shows, using a tool, or even killing with a stick, does not equal “being human.”

I found that the Patterson subject was carrying…a stick.M. K. Davis, December 3, 2006

Gorilla With Stick

Above (top and directly here) are two photographs; (1) a common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) digging with a stick; and (2) a lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) with a stick. We now know that chimps also kill and attempt to kill with sticks.

If the Patterson Bigfoot was carrying a stick, which I doubt, does not inform any finding as to Bigfoot being a form of undiscovered ape, versus Davis’ idea that it must be an “Indian.”

For more on the Davis-Bigfoot discussion, see the following postings and the links to be found therein: “Bigfoot With A Stick?”, and “What Stick?”, where Green, Noll, and Murphy dispute the fact there is even a stick being held by the Bigfoot shown in the Patterson-Gimlin footage.

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.

57 Responses to “If Chimps Kill With Sticks, Do Bigfoot?”

  1. Fred Facker responds:

    I once had a dog that would collect several of his toys into a bowl and then carry the bowl around. Is that using a tool?

    The Houston Zoo had an octopus in their aquarium that could open the latch to the lid of its tank then go open the latches on neighboring tanks to let itself in to eat the other fish. While it didn’t fashion the tool, I think the ability to latch and unlatch a simple lock might be considered using a tool.

    I have no doubts that a bigfoot might find plenty of uses for a stick — especially if he/she happened to observe humans manipulating sticks.

  2. bukko responds:

    I think it’d be crazy to think Bigfoot DOSEN’T use tools. Of some sort. He’s smart enough to keep away from being captured. Ol’ ‘Foot’s pretty smart. It’s not just dumb luck.

  3. richard_from_idaho responds:

    Laugh if you want, but I can envision a time when human civil rights will be extended to ‘animals.’ If tool use can be considered to be part of human behavior, legal protection is not far off.

  4. sschaper responds:

    My Dad had a horse that could upon the latch on the gate to the paddock.

    There is a crow in the South Pacific that likewise fashions (smaller!) sticks and uses them to spear grubs from cracks, in order to eat them.

  5. DWA responds:

    Fred Facker: yep. your dog was a tool user. Absolutely.

    One does not have to fashion it. One has only to use it. Although to me it’s a leap as significant as fashioning a tool to use one successfully for something other than the intended purpose.

    My Webster’s says: “a hand-held implement…used in accomplishing work.” Bingo. But, the New Caledonian crow – referred to in sschaper’s post – doesn’t have “hands.” A problem easily surmounted. Whatever you have to grab with you grab with. (Maybe that definition didn’t get changed since before we thought anything else used tools.)

  6. Ceroill responds:

    The definition of what constitutes being ‘human’ keeps being moved as we find out more about humans and other animals. Once the ability to use tools was considered the test of personhood, and then they began noticing apes and eventually other animals using tools. Once language was considered the sole province of humans, and then they began to discover just how complex the communications between apes and various other animals are. There are other ‘markers’ of what makes a human being, and every once in a while it is found that those are not completely exclusive either.

    I suspect that the only thing that will get any other species the legal rights of personhood is when they call up a lawyer and go to court over it.

  7. Fred Facker responds:

    DWA: I think that dog was also OCD. He would get soooo irritated when you grabbed all the toys he’d gathered up and tossed them around the room. He’d have to go gather them all up again.

  8. RicardoNascimento1 responds:

    I also saw a program about an octopus that learned how to open a mason jar that contained a crab by watching one of the researchers opening a mason jar next to its aquarium. It had been wrapping itself around the jar in a futile attempt to get at the crab but when it saw the researcher opening the jar it went over to that side of the aquarium to watch. Once the researcher had the lid off his jar, the octopus immediately went over to the jar in it’s aquarium and twisted the lid off, extracted the crab and ate it. Not only did this indicate an ability to use tools, it indicated intelligence.

  9. silvereagle responds:

    MK’s expertise is photography, not psychology nor anthropology. So he was venturing outside of his comfort zone and stumbled since he did not bounce his ideas off of others in the field. Of course, we have no idea what response he may have received, given the apparent biases of most researchers. He was drifting in the direction, that was generally correct in my opinion, he just was not using sufficient evidence nor choosing at the appropriate description. Certainly not the end of the world. Other researchers who are still quite respected, have done a lot worse. Their mistakes have just been swept under the rug. I will do them a big favor and not name their names.

    Perhaps the potential to demonstrate complex reasoning skills that in only one way can be demonstrated by tool use, is what constitutes people, but not necessarily human people. I do not disagree that Bigfoot are capable of complex reasoning and rapid thought processes. Wood knocking has been said by some to demonstrate that Bigfoot are both intelligent and are people. This is because wood knocking involves communication with the planned combination of two tools. Those tools are a striking club and an object with sound resonating capability. I have heard wood knocks on two occasions that were both quick responses to my initiating contact with my own wood knock. I have also had branch breaking responses from more than 50 yards, to my questions that I was quietly whispering in English. Which is quite a rush. I have had trees pushed over at about 1 mile away, across the same road that I just drove in on, upon my whispered request. I have had them stomp their feet, upon my whispered request. This all tends to demonstrate at least three attributes that I am sure upsets someone here. I have had them hang around camp overnight and into the next day, upon my whispered request. Does this demonstrate that they are animals, human people or are just people of another variety? In my experience, Bigfoot are eager to demonstrate that they are intelligent and understand English. Simultaneously, they are also demonstrating that they want to get along, want to communicate and want to be our buddies. Bigfoot buddies. These half dozen or more attributes described above, I believe qualifies them as “people”, just not human people, and certainly not animals. So MK was not completely wrong, and was correct in that he had freed himself from a biased opinion that Bigfoot are just animals. And don’t try to wave that humans are animals too, flag in my face. We all know what is really meant when some claim that the Bigfoot are animals. Those who in the past have claimed that Bigfoot are animals, apparently still want to be right, by implying that what they were really saying was that Bigfoot are not plants. Which is enough of a no brainer, that it is evidence that they are now both deceiving themselves as well as others.

  10. john5 responds:

    There is difficulty in picturing Sasquatch using a pointed stick in a threatening or hunting manner. I have always thought of Sasquatch as a more peaceful, albeit ominous, presence. However there are several examples of stones and large rocks being thrown at people, usually after the people had threatened or caused them harm. I think there would be a recorded sighting of stick use by now, either in the many contemporary sightings or at least in the many Native historical accounts.

    The great strength and size of their hands and arms likely precludes the need for tools as they can dig through many types of substrates and shift very large objects on their own brute strength. Nevertheless I would not be surprised if someone came across a Sasquatch using a stick to dig or for leverage in moving rocks. But I do not think they will ever be observed using a stick to hunt other animals!


  11. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Hey fredfacker- love that story about your dog, and yes he is definately a tool user (if not a tool maker as such- but I think DWA is on to something saying that the ability to use a human tool in a new and innovative way is pretty significant).

    Just a couple of notes on the pictures that loren included in the blog-

    To say the chimpanzee in the first photo is ‘digging’ is not to fully do it justice.

    Rather, this is a photo of a chimp engaged in a relatively newly discovered behaviour. This chimpanzee is using a selected and fashioned stout wooden stick to puncture into the underground chamber of a termite nest. These chimpanzees then insert a different kind of tool (a long thin flexible grass stem) in order to extract the termites in the way chimpanzees have been known to do since Jane Goodall observed them doing so decades ago. The new and exciting fact about this behaviour is that the chimpanzees are using the two kinds of tool in concert which has not been observed before. Furthermore, both types of tool are often constructed at some distance from the termite fishing site and brought along at the same time by the chimpanzee. The chimpanzees are never observed just bringing the puncturing tool (which would be useless on its own), but sometimes do only bring the fishing tool- interestingly, however, they have only been observed to do so when traveling to termite fishing sites at which stout puncturing tools have previously discarded. All this suggests quite considerable planning and memory abilities.
    (see articles in The American Naturalist 2004, issue 164(5), p567-81, in Primates 1974, issue 15, p351-64, and in The American Journal of Primatology 2006, issue 68, p1191-6)

    In the second photo the gorilla is (if I am identifying the photo correctly) displaying another also quite newly discovered behaviour. This gorilla was observed using this as essentially a walking stick to steady itself while walking bipedally, and as a probe with which to judge the depth of a pool it was attempting to cross. This was significant not least because tool use amongst wild gorillas seems to be much more rare than among chimpanzees.

  12. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Incidentally, I also agree it would be somewhat strange if bigfoot did not use tools of at least this kind of complexity. However, this does depend to some extent on the evolutionary ancestry of the creature. The two major alternatives seem to be that it is evolved from either Giganto or some kind of early hominid (probably, in my opinion, most likely Homo erectus or a closely related species).

    If it is a descendant of Giganto it is at least possible that it might not use tools, as we have no evidence that Giganto used tools (although its reasonably close relative the orangutan is a skilled tool user and maker).

    If, however, it was descended from some kind of hominid there would have to have been a subsequent and very significant loss of tool-making ability, as increasingly complex tools are known to have been used for at least 2.5-3 million years. Indeed, Homo erectus was not just making digging sticks and such relatively simple tools, but was crafting flaked stone handaxes, that display incredible and beautiful symmetry (sometimes in three dimensions), and which it takes modern human stone knappers a very long time to master.

    In actual fact, as far as I’m aware, instances of tool use by bigfoot have been reported, but are of a relatively simple kind (e.g., throwing stones, and I think I have read, perhaps in the book ‘raincoast sasquatch’, of reports of sasquatch using sticks to dig for shellfish on beaches), which seem no more sophisticated than those of living great apes (and perhaps less so if we consider the new behaviours I’ve commented on above).

  13. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Actually I’ve just had another thought- While we can think about the significance of the (two kinds of) Wallace Line as Loren has recently pointed out, we can also introduce a new line that might be of significance to us- the Movius line. This line separates Homo erectus in Africa and western Asia from erectus in east and south-east Asia. In the former there occur the kind of complex stone tools I described above, while in the latter areas archaeologists have noted an absence of such tools (although quite how total this dichotomy is is debatable). Some archaeologists speculate that in these areas erectus would have made tools out of perishable materials such as bamboo.

    Anyway, if bigfoot were descended from erectus, it would be from these eastern populations (who presumably would have crossed the bering land bridge at some point), and this could explain the apparent lack of worked stone tools among bigfoot (although, I would suggest that bigfoot still seems somewhat less behaviourally sophisticated than what we believe of erectus).

  14. mystery_man responds:

    Well, I think the octopus comparison is a bit different from actual tool using. The octopus is undoubtedly intelligent in figuring out how to manipulate its environment but in the end that is all it is doing. It is only using a tool in the sense that what it is manipulating is a human made construct. If it were to move some rocks around to get out of a hole, would that be using a tool? I don’t believe it would. So although it can figure out how to open the latch, I don’t believe this to be synonomous with the cognitive processes employed when taking a peice of the environment and utilizing it to acheive some end, but rather it is just trying to get out of there. Just my take on it.
    That being said, there are several animals that use tools and I agree that hands are not a pre requisite for tools use. There are the crows that havve been mentioned and dolphins, who have no hands, have been documented using conch shells on their noses as tools. Chimps are well known to use sticks to catch termites and crunched up leaves to sop up water from logs, ect. But this recent find is unique in that they are actually planning and fashioning the tools themselves to fulfill a specific purpose rather than using what is available in an opportunistic manner. It is fascinating. I won’t speculate too much here on what I think Bigfoot might be, but I feel if it is out there, then we could very well expect at least a rudimentary capacity to do this especially in light of these new findings. I’m no archeologist, so things-in-the-woods correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel even if it is Giganto, it could be using tools as even though there is no evidence they used tools, they may have just been using stones, sticks, and whatnot without augmenting them in any way. If that is the case, they would be hard to verify as evidece of tool using, would they not? There is also the idea that earlier tool users used wood, which does not preserve well.

  15. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Mystery_man, you are, of course, quite right. Giganto could have been using (and making) tools in the way you suggest- its just we have no positive evidence they were (and you are right, such perishable tools could, in theory, have existed for almost any length of time prior to the appearance of the first stone tools).

    Indeed, given our increasing knowledge of the widespread use and construction of tools throughout the animal kingdom, it is perhaps even likely that such an animal would have been-

    still in the light of the lack of evidence all that can only be speculation.

  16. things-in-the-woods responds:

    And incidently, this new find about chimps creating spears is not “unique in that they are actually planning and fashioning the tools themselves to fulfill a specific purpose rather than using what is available in an opportunistic manner”. Jane Goodall documented conceptually similar behaviour with her first reports of termite fishing and the construction of termite probes, way back in the seventies. Such probes were constructed out of sight of the termite mound and then taken there by the chimpanzees (who often brought along several at a time putting them down beside them while they worked and using them as ‘spares’ when the one they were using become bent or broken). This behaviour clearly demonstrated planning for the future and was not oppurtunistic (in fact, i see this behaviour as fundamentally quite similar to termite fishing- it is the construction of a probe for getting at things out of holes that they can’t otherwise get at).

    Still this new behaviour is exciting, if only because it is a new behaviour, and widens the known behavioural repertoire of this creatures. It also demonstrates their flexibility and creativity in solving a wide range of different problems.

  17. MBFH responds:

    Is this behaviour new or just newly observed. Impossible to answer I know but what I’d like to know is whether these primates are developing new food gathering techniques to adapt to environmental pressure, i.e. are their ranges becoming so limited due to habitat desruction that they are in a sense forced to adapt to develop more sophisticated food gathering mechanisms?

    With this in mind, is this something we may expect with BF? I don;t know what the rate of human impingement upon wilderness habitat is in the US but could it produce effects, either force BF out into the open (watch out for raids on Asda, sorry, Wal-Mart) or will they become even more hidden.

    Loren, can you please give us some clarification on the spears if you are able: are they used for stabbing or throwing?


  18. mystery_man responds:

    I should perhaps make my point clearer about “opportunistic manner”. With the termites, the chimps wanted to get at them and they planned a way to do it using something that was available, namely twigs. I did not mean to say that they didn’t plan to use the tools before, that came out wrong. But they were not really creating the tools from scratch. In that sense, they were taking preexisting constructs that suited their needs and using them to achieve what they wanted. These twigs were not really tweaked in any way, but pretty much used as is and that is what I meant by opportunistic. These spears are not only selected by size, but also sharpened using the chimps’ teeth. It is quite unique and a bit different from other observed behavior in chimps thus this is a big find.

  19. Rillo777 responds:

    I don’t find it surprising the animals use simple tools. There have been recorded instances of birds using twigs to dig out insects. If we found evidence that BF drew art forms of cave walls, or made simple bows and arrows, or even strapped a sharp rock to the end of a stick–that would be something.

    To me, it’s the complexity of the construction of the device not the using of a handy item to gather food or fight off a threat that would show remarkable intelligence.

    The news media has made more out of this than there really is in my humble opinion.

  20. mystery_man responds:

    I still don’t see any stick in the PG footage, though. :)

  21. kittenz responds:

    I have got to share this story about a tool-using animal that I observed personally, not once but many times. This cemented my belief that we humans need to stop being so smug about who uses tools, and who does not.

    Reptiles are thought to be pretty low in intelligence, so the idea of a reptile using tools is, well, a novel one. But I had a Burmese python who did learn to use a tool to get what she wanted.

    To keep pythons healthy they have to have water in which to soak, but it’s hard to keep a large soaking dish sanitary in a big python’s tank, so I used to give Gisela a soak in the bathtub three or four times a week. The tub is glassed-in, so I’d just run the tub half full of warm water and put a child’s wooden chair in the water so that she could bask on it if she got tired of soaking. But pythons also like to climb, and to keep Gisela from being able to rise up from the chair and climb up the faucet, I put the chair near the back of the tub.

    She learned that if she she grasped the lower faucet in a coil with the front of her body, and the wooden chair in a coil with her tail, she could pull the chair up close to the faucet. That gave her a platform about a foot high from which to reach up and grab a towel bar, and from there she could climb to the shower head and over the top of the tub enclosure and out. The first few times that she did this it took her a few tries to get the chair to the right position, but after a few times, she learned to pull the chair close to the front of the tub right away, and that is exactly what she did. She was deliberately manipulating the chair to use it as a climbing platform. It was darn near impossible to keep that snake in the tub after that, because she liked to climb out and prowl around the bathroom. I finally had to stop putting the chair in the tub so that she couldn’t use it for a “stepping stone”.

    Animals have been my life, for my entire life. I’ve cared for them both personally and professionally since I was a small child. I have seen other animals use tools too – cats, dogs, birds. The don’t use tools with the sophistication of the higher primates, of course, but there is a lot more to animal intelligence than we realize.

  22. kittenz responds:


    The spears are used for stabbing. Often they just simply stab a small animal that they can see. But they also use the sticks for stabbing in a way that requires some abstract thinking: they stab the spears into burrows or tree trunks where small animals are hiding and then pull them out and sniff or taste the ends, apparently to find out if there is blood on them.

  23. dws responds:

    THINK of the size of the “stick” Sasquatch would have to hit you with?!!?!?!

  24. mystery_man responds:

    Well, it is amazing the kinds of reasoning skills an animal can demonstrate in the right conditions. They can show a rescourcefulness that belies their assumed lack of intelligence and can manipulate their environment to get what they want. What interests me about the chimps though is that they are actually going beyond just altering their environment. They are actually finding things that can be used independently as tools and showing the sort of pre-planning, sophistication, and thoughtfulness that some other tool using animals may not always display. And what is really amzing is that this knowledge gets passed on to other chimps in sort of a cultural transfer. A lot of animals can be trained to use tools, or figure out how to alter the environment, but not many that could actually pass the knowledge on to others throughout generations. Different groups of chimps can also have different tool uses unique to their group and pass that knowledge onto other groups who were not previously using that particular tool. An interesting sidenote is that it appears it is mostly the females that contribute to the creating of new tools and passing on of the knowledge. It’s fascinating stuff.

  25. mystery_man responds:

    In light of this apparent “cultural transfer” I find myself wondering if different Bigfoot in different areas have their own tool use unique to their particular group. One group may use crude clubs while another uses spears, yet another uses rocks to throw, and so on. It makes for interesting speculation.

  26. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Kittenz- that’s another great story, and i think a clear case of tool use. It has certainly been called tool use when chimpanzees in captivity learned to lean a branch against a fence in order to climb up it and escape.

    And mystery_man- i see the point you are making, but i still have to disagree with you when you say;

    “they were not really creating the tools from scratch. In that sense, they were taking preexisting constructs that suited their needs and using them to achieve what they wanted. These twigs were not really tweaked in any way, but pretty much used as is and that is what I meant by opportunistic. These spears are not only selected by size, but also sharpened using the chimps’ teeth. It is quite unique and a bit different from other observed behavior in chimps thus this is a big find.”

    Chimps that termite fish don’t just use what is at hand, without modifying it. Termite fishing tools are clealry selected for size (i.e., a size that will allow them to be inserted into the tunnels of the termite nest- and, in the behaviour i described above the tool used to puncture the termite mound is clealry chosen by its sturdyness, while the fishing tool by its thinness and flexibility). As such, they are not just selected oppurtunistically, but are sought out (only particular species of plant are used). Furthermore they are modified at least as extensively as these newly observed spears. They are bitten off to a particular length (so particular that at least some different groups consistently break them off to diferent lengths- one of the basis on which chimapnzees are argued to have cultural traditions). In some cases termite fishing tools are not made from grass stems, but from slender twigs (in which case leaves and side twigs are removed), and in others from the spines of leaves (where the actual leaf is stripped from the spine). Furthermore it is reasonably common from chimpanzees to bite the end of the termite probe and drag it repeatedly between their teeth, fraying it into a brush which enables them to pick up more termites. All this seems to me essentially equivalent to the selection of a stout stick for a spear, the breaking of the stick to the appropriate length, and the modification of the spear tip by the use of the teeth.

    Termite fishing tools are not oppurtunistically exploited ‘natural constructs’, but intentionally and reasonably sophisticatedly produced tools, as are these spears.

  27. mystery_man responds:

    Well, things-in-the-woods, if what you say is true, then I don’t see why they are making a big deal about this new find.

  28. mystery_man responds:

    I may be missing something, but this seems to be big news that chimps are fashioning weapons out of branches. This seems to me to be a big find as far as tool using among chimps goes. I am not a primatologist, so some of my observations may be incorrect. So things-in-the-woods, if I am wrong and this new find does not show a considerable effort and ability on the part of the chimps to modify pre existing constructs, then why is this find being touted as such a big deal? I am not sure why my point about the differences between these two behaviors is disagreeable to you. If it is something that is already know among chimps, is this not old news then? I feel there is something remarkable about the fashioning of these spears that stands out from the use of twigs for digging out termites or it wouldn’t be considered such a fascinating find. Perhaps I am missing something here.

  29. mystery_man responds:

    An I don’t mean to msound snippy at all, things-in-the-woods. Looking back at my post, it seems that way, but it is not intended to be. Being involved in zoology, i kind of know what is going on and I have some knowledge as to what is going on with chimps, but alas, it is not my speciality. I was not aware of the full extent of the lengths chimps go to to fashion their termite fishing gear, so thanks for the info. So I really am just curious to know what the deal is with the spear using. In my opinion, it is a bit different from the use of selected twigs used to fish out termites. To me, it seems indicative of a slightly more advanced mode of planning in that they make these spears, stab them into tree trunks to kill bush babies. My point is that I feel it is a more sophisticated use of tools but from what you say, that is incorrect.

  30. kittenz responds:


    I think that there are several reasons why this discovery was so electrifying.

    For one thing, although it’s been known for years that chimps make tools to “fish” for termites, this is the first well-documented observation of chimps making tools to hunt for mammals. Chimps are known to hunt monkeys and other small animals, but until now they had never been observed to use anything other than their bare hands to catch their prey.

    Secondly, hunting was thought to be an activity carried out almost exclusively by adult males. But the chimps that were observed using the spears were mainly mature females and juveniles. The implications of this as it may apply to our own evolution are staggering. For decades, it’s been widely assumed that developing weapons and hunting were done by males. Now it seems that the development of tools for use as weapons may be quite a bit more complex than that.

    Some of the researchers have said that the chimps may be using the sticks more like clubs than like spears; it’s not entirely clear whether they are actually puncturing the prey animals’ skin, or just sort of bludgeoning them with hard jabs of the sticks. So far, the chimps have not been observed to throw the sticks at prey, but since chimps do throw stones and other objects, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that they may make the intellectual leap from using the stick as a jabbing tool to using it as a projectile weapon.

    They may very well already have made the leap, but just not have been observed. This kind of tool use may have been going on for millennia, for millions of years even. How would we know? Even if a jabbing stick were fossilized, it would look very much like any other stick, and its signifigance would probably go unrecognized. So observing the chimps using this kind of behavior is sort of like a window through which to observe our own past.

  31. mystery_man responds:

    I see, Kittenz. So it is the fact that they are using these weapons to go out and kill other mammals that makes this a big find. I suppose from what things-in-the-woods says, the cognitive ability and pre planning were all in place for such a development to occur, so it perhaps isn’t so suprising when looking at it from that perspective. If they can figure out how to use tools to get termites, then why not bush babies? Is the use of a termite “fishing” tool not really a kind of weapon in the end? Not such a big jump, it seems to me. I suppose I was wrong in my previous posts to say that this fashioning of weapons indicated a different form of reasoning on the part of the chimps when in fact on further inspection it seems that it is just an extension of previously seen behavior. I am happy to hear what you and things-in-the-woods have to say. I am always seeking to learn more, so thank you both. Incidentally, I knew about the role of females in this behavior and it is interesting how that kind of collides with old notions. Just goes to show that commonly held scientific knowledge can be challenged with the right kind of evidence.

  32. kittenz responds:

    I think you’re right about that, mystery_man. It probably wasn’t a great leap to go from fishing for termites to fishing for bush babies.

    The real intellectual leap has been our own; we’re having to rethink the way we have perceived animals’ thought processes, and realize that we’ve underestimated their ingenuity.

    Every time that something like this is newly observed, we humans are surprised. Maybe the intellectual leap that our species needs to make is to the realization that just because we have not (yet) observed a given animal behavior, does not mean that that behavior does not occur.

  33. Ceroill responds:

    kittenz, I have to agree. One of my favorite current examples (well…a few years old now) is the sledding crow. I forget what the program was, but they had film of a crow that would slide down a snowy hill, on its back. Repeatedly. Obviously not an accident, as it would come back up the hill, and do it again. This brings out the idea that animals actually do have emotions and can enjoy something. That ‘fun’ is not the sole province of humans.

  34. mystery_man responds:

    I absolutely agree, kittenz. Amen to that.

  35. kittenz responds:

    That’s a great example, Ceroill. And if other mammals and even birds use tools and have a sense of “fun”, I see no reason to doubt that Sasquatch do too.

    Mystery_man raised a good point about culture being passed from one group or generation of animals to another. Several examples of this are well documented. Two examples that come immediately to my mind are the Japanese macaques (“snow monkeys”) and the tigers of Ranthambore National Park.

    A troop of Japanese macaques have learned to soak in the hot water of hot springs to stay warm in the winter. The behavior seems to have begun with one female, whom researchers called Mukubili, in the early 1960’s. She went into the warm water to retrieve soybeans, and apparently liked the warmth and learned to soak in it. The behavior was observed by other monkeys, and more and more began joining her to soak, and now, 40-odd years later, the whole troop soaks in the warm water. The young monkeys there have also learned to roll and throw snowballs, apparently just for the fun of it. Another young female macaque, called Imo, learned to wash her sweet potatoes in water to get sand off them. That behavior, too, was taken up by her troop. She also “taught” the other monkeys to season their sweet potatoes with salt water. Imo was also the first monkey who was observed to scoop handfuls of grain from the ground and toss it into the water to clean it. The dirt sank, and the grain floated to the surface where she could scoop it up and eat it. Other monkeys, observing Imo, began imitating her and in turn taught the behaviors to their young. If Imo had been a human, she would have been called a genius.

    The tigers of Ranthambore are a very well-known non-primate example of a learned behavior beung handed down to younger generations. In the early 1980’s an aggressive male tiger called Genghis began hunting sambar deer using a spectacular “splash and awe” technique. He would bound right into the lake in tremendous splashing leaps, to surprise the deer as they fed on aquatic plants. Other tigers learned this hunting technique from Genghis, and even after he was killed by poachers, tiger mothers continued to teach their cubs to hunt in this way. This observation was astonishing in several ways. It proved that tigers, though thought to be mainly solitary animals, have a level of social interaction that allows grown cats to learn hunting techniques from one another. It also indicated that tigers pass learned behavior from generation to generation, and that the learned behavior can spread very quickly within a population.

    If learned, “cultural” behavior can impact populations of animals as diverse from one another as tigers and monkeys, imagine the implications as they relate to the behavior of the higher primates such as apes, humans – and Sasquatch.

  36. kittenz responds:

    I believe that one thing we need to take away from all this is that there is no such thing as the “average” animal, of any species. It’s both astonishing and humbling to realize that the innovations of one individual can have such influence within its species as these examples have had.

  37. Ceroill responds:

    kittenz, one more anecdote from my own personal experience. A couple I know have an African Grey Parrot (ok, they have two, plus several cats and a couple of dogs). One day he was on his swinging perch, chewing on the wooden dowel that comprised the perch part, and managed to chew right through it. This caught him by surprise, but after examining the two halves of his erstwhile perch he tried to fit them back together. I couldn’t help but read frustration and chagrin into his manner upon discovering that this wouldn’t work. I may have been wrong of course, but the important part is that he tried to repair what he had done.

  38. DWA responds:

    Good comments here.

    And although this behavior among chimps surprised me when I first read about it, I tend to agree with things-in-the-woods that it isn’t really anything that vastly different from the termite technique. OK, it’s a new application, but it’s using the same kind of reasoning process.

    We may stop being so surprised when we take a moment or two to reflect – something we rarely do – and remember that (1) our own evolution took what is to almost all of us an unimaginable period of time and (2) that process is still going on, all around us.

    Nothing that humans have done is impossible. For any species, given what Muir called “a liberal allowance of time” and the right lottery of random mutations.

    You have to be both lucky and good. But there’s sure no rule saying we’re the only ones who get to be both.

  39. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Don’t baboons also use sticks to dig termites out of mounds?

    There are birds of prey which drop rocks onto the eggs of other birds.

  40. things-in-the-woods responds:

    Sorry this rather a late response, but mystery_man no need to apologise- i didn’t think you were being ‘snippy’- i reckon i’ve seen enough of your posts to know you are not that kind of chap. It’s always good to talk about these things with intelligent, informed people. I’ve also learned a lot in this debate.

    And on the specific point, i think Kittenz pretty much had it right- it’s big news mostly because its new, its females doing it, and its hunting (remember its made big news by the media, not necessarily by scientists- I think there is more public interest in story about hunting than termite fishing- in fact i think there is much more interest in storys about animals performing ‘human-type behaviours’ such as hunting with spears than those that are less ‘human-like’ such as termite fishing- people in general are much more fascinated by the ways chimps, indeed all animals, are like us, than the ways they are not).

    And despite what i have been arguing here, i do think this newly reported behaviour is fascinating, and significant- even employing old forms of reasoning to new contexts is a very important ability, that has been typically denied to non-human animals.

    And i can’t help but think that the amount we know about the tool use and other sophisticated behaviour of animals is just going to keep growing and growing- every time a new species is studied properly and extensively new and surprising behaviours are turned up. And again i think Kittenz is right- the more individuals and subgroups of particular species are studied as well the more variety and individualism we are going to see. It is all very exciting.

  41. DWA responds:

    In his book Of Wolves and Men, Barry Lopez makes an interesting point, noting that one of the reasons native hunters’ stories of animal behavior tend to be read by Europeans as fantastical is that the natives are watching the animals much more often and have many more chances to see a wider variety of behaviors.

    And you’re right, things-in-the-woods. I was much more startled by this news than I was by the news that West African chimps had been seen using nutcrackers. Given that I am much older, and one presumes less easy to startle, as I learn this, I can only attribute it to one thing: As similar to our behavior as nutcracking may be, hunting is a lot more sexy.

  42. Ceroill responds:

    things, I have to agree as well. This is also teaching us more about human intelligence.

  43. mystery_man responds:

    Well, I think everybody is right about this being a rather intrigueing newly found ability compared to the seemingly more mundane, but no less important, ability to crack nuts or “fish” out termites. The reports I read say that the spear hunting is quite a brutal and as one scientist involved put it “scary” practice and I guess this will resonate more with the common reader. One thing I do think when I read some of these impressions in the paper, though, is that the chimps should not be subject too much to our own readings of their behavior. Some people may say it is “scary” or “brutal” but it is really just them trying to survive and should not necessarily be subject to our own moral codes of conduct. Some people will ignore the “less human” practices but they forget that these aren’t humans and fishing for termites is no less significant. It is human nature to want to anthromorphize the creatures that we observe, but I feel it is something we should try to hold back on doing too much if we want to understand the behavior and its underlying principles in its own right. Instead we should look at how fascinating it is that creatures other than use are able to plan and be rescourceful, and come up with novel ways to survive in their environment whether that is the spectacular killing of bush babies with spears or the comparatively boring nut cracking. Unfortunately, the media gives some of the other tool uses short shrift, but in the end I think we should not try to strive to look at what they do that we personally find significant or interesting, but rather the phenomenal use of intelligence that all these behaviors imply. DWA put it very well in descibing hunting as “sexy”, but I just find all of it fascinating.

  44. things-in-the-woods responds:

    DWA- i think thats a good point about native hunters and their knowledge of animal behaviour. In fact I think it is becoming increasingly clear (unsurprisingly in my opinion) that people who, in one way or another are in close contact with animals on a day to day basis have a much better handle on their behaviour and abilities than do those scientists who have made definitive, and usually rather dismissive, claims based on much less experience (and often only experience of the degraded behaviour of animals held in captivity).

    Its interesting to note that the japanese tradition of primatology, which is very different to the european/north american primatology, has always been much more willing to accept more sophisticated descriptions of primate behaviour- and it has been suggested that this is because, having native primate species, the japanese have experience, and a good folk knowledge of these animals. As there are no primates in europe or america (except sasquatch of course..!) western scientists are much more culturally detached and ignorant in this regard. Don’t know if i necessarily agree with that, but its an interesting thought..

  45. Ceroill responds:

    It has long been a thought pattern in ‘advanced’ cultures that their own scientists and experts must have a greater knowledge and understanding of the world than ‘primitive’ local inhabitants of various places. This includes the attitude of rejecting local observations and traditions about the flora and fauna these locals have experience with.

  46. kittenz responds:


    Of Wolves and Men is one of my favorite books. I strongly recommend it to everyone who has ever pondered the natural world and our place in it. It is a beautiful book and it is about so much more than just wolves.

    Other works with a similar factual yet spiritual feel are Golden Shadows, Flying Hooves, Stones of Silence, and The Deer and the Tiger, all by George Schaller, and Innocent Killers, by Jane Goodall and her then-husband, Hugo Van Lawick.

  47. DWA responds:


    And isn’t it funny – and maybe not entirely a coincidence – that the two authors you mention, OK two out of three, just happen to include two “mainstream” scientists who think that hairy hominoids deserve a much closer look than science is giving them at the moment?

    Science isn’t just about grinding data. It’s also about seeing testable possibilities.

  48. DWA responds:

    I should have said there, “UNCLASSIFIED hairy hominoids.”

  49. kittenz responds:

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence, DWA. Scientists who leave their minds open to possibilities are much more likely to make the intuitive leaps that lead to a deeper understanding of the animals around us and of our place within them.

  50. kittenz responds:

    It’s also important to remember that it isn’t necessarily titled scientists who make the discoveries. Jane Goodall did not even have a degree when she first went to Gombe to study chimps, and she was roundly ridiculed for referring to the chimps she studied by names rather than assigning them numbers, and for having the temerity to suggest that they have unique personalities. Yet Jane Goodall with her “quaint observations” has quite literally changed the way we think about animals, more than almost any other person has done.

    The average person, who has made the study of animals his or her passion, may be a better candidate for doing field research than a Ph.D. in many cases, precisely because their focus has not been narrowed so constrictively by what they have been taught. When you don’t have a lot of preconceived notions about what animals should do, you can free your mind to observe what they actually do.

  51. Remus responds:

    Here’s a true story from my own experience. Make of it what you will. A few years ago, a crow seemed to try using my Jeep as a tool.
    One day during my daily commute to work, just as I crested a hill in the woods, I came across a crow and a squirrel “fighting” in the center of the lane. I hit the brakes so as not to run them over and as I came to a stop, the crow flew off and the squirrel ran into the woods. I didn’t think much about it until the same thing happened a week later in the same spot. Soon afterward I became aware of the fact that there was often a dead “roadkilled” squirrel on that patch of road. I mentioned this to a few people at work but no-one believed my theory that a crow might have perhaps seen a squirrel get run over and was trying to duplicate the scene. Later that summer, there was a dead crow on the road. After that there were few if any dead squirrels in that area. Purely anecdotal at this point of course, but it did in fact happen!

  52. kittenz responds:

    Comment Preview:

    That is a terrific story, and in light of the recent observations that some birds plan ahead to store food, it’s not that much of a stretch to think that intelligent birds such as crows might plan ahead to use vehicles to procure food.

    Here is a link to a story that was posted recently at, announcing the finding that scrub jays plan ahead to store food against shortages:

    People have known for centuries that some birds store food, but it has now been documented in a behavioral experiment that they can forecast specific times of future need, and store food accordingly.

  53. kittenz responds:

    To relate all this back to Sasquatch, an animal as intelligent as they are thought to be would not have to “act human” in any way in order to survive. If birds and other animals can learn to store food against famine, so could Sasquatch. Ditto for using tools and forming weapons with which to hunt. And who knows? There are a lot of hot springs in North America. Maybe someday, someone will observe a family of Sasquatch, communing in a long hot soak, or seasoning their food with salt water.

  54. kittenz responds:

    We’ve only begun to scatch the surface when it comes to animal behavior.They (the Sas) could even be using highways to procure food, as Remus’s crows appear to have done. I can imagine one chasing a deer til it runs out in front of a truck, and hanging around until traffic clears to pick up the carcass.

  55. mystery_man responds:

    I think there is certainly value to the observations made by people who haven’t studied these things and had their views narrowed. I have degrees in biology and zoology and I can attest to the fact that my own view sometimes seems skewed towards what I have specifically been taught. But in recent years, I have seen the errors of thinking along the lines of “I know what I’m talking about.” Obviously that is not always the case and I find that students of mine often make the most breathtaking little observations. I am even often corrected by others who have no training at all and I think that even one with training should not get indignant about it as I may have once upon a time. I wish there was more of this “thinking outside of the box” going on in all research. Scientists can tend to be conditioned to think one way or another and nowadays, I never write off the observations of a layman, in fact I welcome them. It is one of the reasons I love this site. So many different people with so many different backgrounds that have something to say and more often than not, something useful or profound to say.

  56. DWA responds:

    mystery_man: exactly. This is what “thinking outside the box” IS. Your box is the way you’ve been taught (professionally) to think.

    (And before anyone comes in with “then just believe that sas are four-dimension saucer pilots”: without lines within which it makes sense to paint, there would be no science.)

    Zen mind/beginner’s mind is something all of us – scientists included, maybe even especially – need more of. (The best scientists have always had it.) Jane Goodall did things differently from the way mainstream scientists did them. She also wrote all of it down, religiously. Science is documenting process.

    As an avid backpacker, I’ve noticed one salient thing over the years: many of the best insights into how to do things better come from beginners. It’s a do-it-yourself sport, and a generalist sport, and it winds up being informed by what the individual brings to it from everyday life.

    Hmmmm. Something like science, isn’t it?

  57. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- “Zen mind”. Excellent way to put it. I think science could use a lot more of it indeed. I also think that beginners can ask some of the most thought provoking things even when they do not have a better way of doing things. Sometimes a student will ask something completely innocently about how something works and it really will make me stop and think. How many times has a kid asked a seemingly simple question that made you really think things through? If more people who are so called “experts” would put aside their regimented thinking and stop to listen, they may actually expand their search for the truth. Its these kinds of questions and searching for answers that feed science and indeed many other things in life. In my opinion, it is what ultimately makes the world go around in a way.

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