Hunting for Bigfoot in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on April 25th, 2012

A nice article about Mike Rugg and the Bigfoot Discovery Museum.

Hunting for Bigfoot in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Mike Rugg knows Sasquatch is out there

Ashley Membree, Michael Rugg and Ralph Jack hunt for a Bigfoot around Felton. (Chip Scheuer)

When I found out I’d be going Bigfoot hunting with Michael Rugg, I figured we’d hike deep into the woods to some remote destination to conduct our search. In actuality, we spend most of the time in Felton, right along the road and close to the nearby homes.

“Bigfoots don’t have to be in a big wilderness area to exist,” Rugg, who owns the Bigfoot Discovery Museum, explains to me on our outing. “They can exist around the edge of town.”

I meet up with the crew at Taqueria Vallarta in Felton, where we eat tacos and wait for the sun to go down before heading out the crew’s usual spots. The first place is partway up a winding road in a neighborhood where Rugg says he’s gotten several reports of Bigfoot sightings. We park in a dark space between two homes and settle in, and I get a chance to get to know the team.

Rugg, the undisputed leader, has a commanding presence despite his small stature and calm voice. At 66, with a gray beard and full head of gray hair, he’s surprisingly energetic and passionate. Ralph Jack, who has been working with Rugg since 2006, is a funny, happy-go-lucky guy with long hair and a thick California accent. Jack says he was actually a prospector in his younger days, and that he owned a landscaping business until recently. In stark contrast is Ashley Membree, a Cabrillo College student in her early twenties who’s been volunteering at the museum in her spare time for a few months.

Bigfoot hunting, it turns out, involves a lot of sitting and waiting. Membree holds a boom mic and headphones, aiming it at the nearby mountain range. Jack has a camcorder and audio tape recorder on constant record, just in case. Rugg looks at different pockets of trees with a pair of night vision binoculars.

“Did you hear those coyotes?” Jack asks me. “Where there are coyotes, there’s sasquatches.”

I put on the headphones, but can only hear coyotes.

Rugg explains to me that normally they go out much later in the night, usually starting around 11pm, when all the people and cars have quieted down. But even late, he tells me, they detect very little activity most nights.

“We have some Bigfoots down here (in Santa Cruz County) that are real people-savvy. They’ve been hanging around us for years and they know how to get around us,” Rugg explains.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t successful nights. Earlier at the museum, Rugg played me two audio clips. The first was recorded at the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos three years ago. It starts out with a group of coyotes howling. Then something else, a totally different high-pitched howl, arises in the background. It gets louder and quieter and louder again, lasting a minute and a half.

The second clip also starts out with a bunch of coyotes, but in the middle of their howling, something—it sounds like a gorilla—grunts.

Rugg shows me video from the night of the first clip. They had gone to this particular spot because someone had called them up and told them that they’d recently seen signs of a Bigfoot. Jack, of course, recorded the whole evening on the camcorder. As they were walking they caught a pungent odor and heard that high-pitched howl. Later, when they walked back to that same spot, the odor was gone. They determined that meant the odor was transient and couldn’t have been coming from a rotting animal carcass. The way they figured it, that smell came from something on the move.

When they later watched the video, they saw in the distance a blurry figure moving between two trees. When Rugg shows me the footage it’s hard to tell what the image is, but clearly it’s something moving. Because of all these factors—the howl, the smell, the report of a sighting and the footage itself—Rugg believes they taped a Bigfoot.

Of course, he also realizes that this isn’t the kind of thing to make any public announcements over. They need something bigger.

“We’ve been sitting back quietly collecting evidence, building a database, going out and testing stuff, watching what everybody else is doing and realizing all the mistakes that are being made and all the crap that is going on,” Rugg says.

It annoys Rugg that other members of the Bigfoot community, some of whom he’s friends with, make public statements of having found evidence when it’s only circumstantial. But, as Rugg notes, these are the people getting the funding, while The Bigfoot Discovery Museum struggles every year to keep the doors open.

Read the rest of the lengthy article here: Hunting for Bigfoot in the Santa Cruz Mountains

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

9 Responses to “Hunting for Bigfoot in the Santa Cruz Mountains”

  1. PoeticsOfBigfoot responds:

    One interesting observation is that Membree has a tattoo of the Virgin Mary on her arm; faith is obviously important to her, and I wonder how much faith it takes to stay on the hunt day after day. Quite a bit, I reckon.

  2. LobsterBoy responds:

    Hey there- I’ve talked to Ashlee a couple of times, she’s a nice girl. I don’t know why anyone would make an assumption about someone’s tattoo. I personally have a lot of them, some of them inspired by Tibetan Buddhism. I am not a Tibetan Buddhist, I just like the way they look. I met a person recently who declared “I knew you must be cool since you’re wearing a Giants cap”. I couldn’t care less about sports, let alone the Giants. I bought the cap to cover a bad haircut! Please question your assumptions, especially regarding people you have never met.

  3. DWA responds:


    Indeed. As blogs and comments on this site seem to point out on a regular basis, questioning assumptions is somethng of which a whole lot of “skeptical” people – scientists prime among them, but “skeptics” generally – need to do a whole lot more.

  4. myakkad responds:

    I’ve been to the museum and it was a great experience! I had some great conversation with this gentlemen and he even showed my wife and I some of the footage he has. I would be so stoked if he was a part of finding some important evidence that supports the existence of Bigfoot. If you’re near Santa Cruz check it out for sure.

  5. PoeticsOfBigfoot responds:

    Umm, I don’t think I questioned anyone’s goodness or whether they’re nice or not. I merely observed that she has a tattoo of an image associated with faith, and faith is needed to continue looking for Bigfoot for so long. What’s wrong with that?

  6. LobsterBoy responds:

    Well, when you make a statement that, based on someone’s physical appearance “faith must be important” to them, then an assumption is being made. Furthermore, you make the statement that it most likely requires “quite a bit” of faith to hunt for Bigfoot “day after day”. Since you have virtually no information about this person, I am questioning how you arrived at your deductions.I could be wrong here, and please forgive me if I am, but your tone strikes me as critical. What motivates a person cannot be decided on the basis of a picture.

  7. PoeticsOfBigfoot responds:

    Yes, you are mistaken. Do you not agree that you need faith in what you’re doing to keep at it? Otherwise, why do it? And I don’t think it’s a stretch to think someone with a tattoo of one of the most divine figures in Western civilization might be interested in and have an affinity for strongly-held beliefs. Again, what’s wrong with that? Since you’ve talked to her “a couple of times” do you presume to know she isn’t a person of faith? And, finally, what is it about faith that you disagree with?

  8. LobsterBoy responds:

    Argument is of course a presentation of viewpoints in an effort to persuade, so this is all in good fun. I respectfully apologize if I offended you.
    I don’t have a problem with faith at all, which I would say you deduced from my prior posting, which in fact contains no such statement. That is another assumption. Of course, I did not provide you with any context for my conversations, so any conclusions you draw there are your own. I did not say the conversations were about Bigfoot. In fact we travel in the same social circle, and I only recently learned she is interested in Bigfoot.
    In any event, I submit that faith is not a necessary ingredient for spending ones time in pursuit of Sasquatch as any number of motives will suffice. My only point was that you cannot know for certain that much about a person based on uninformed observation.I offer this with no rancor or I’ll will.

  9. fuzzy responds:

    PoeticsOfBigfoot: Perhaps a phone interview with the young lady would be a good way to investigate this discussion?

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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