Elephant in the Woods

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 9th, 2009

Can animals hide themselves in the woods?

Certainly, it has happened. In 1892, the following elephant escaped into the forests in central Maine, and despite massive search parties, it could not be found for two weeks.

In 1892, a circus elephant named Charlie broke loose and roamed the town of Bucksport, Maine, and the surrounding woods a free animal. He was captured two weeks later, with the help of a pit bull, who cornered the elephant so his handlers could secure him.

Archival photo research credit: E. Spooner.

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.

14 Responses to “Elephant in the Woods”

  1. MasResik responds:

    This is a “can’t see the Elephant for the trees.” line. Even watching the nature shows elephants are hard to spot in the forests and some of the announcers have even stated that sometimes you don’t even know there is one standing near you until it charges.

  2. shownuff responds:

    thats scary… for such a huge animal i respect that it doesnt make a noise. Cool that a pitbull found it. but i wish they would have left it be. but thats my fantasy world.. lol

  3. springheeledjack responds:

    This serves as an excellent point for all of the scoftics who like to blurt out things like, “There’s no way something that large could remain undetected for so long.”

    Case and point.

    Thanks Loren

  4. MattBille responds:

    Remember the announcement from 2007 about elephants in southern Sudan? Scientists feared they were extinct after a quarter-century of armed conflict that had prevented keeping tabs on the elephants. An aerial survey turned up an estimated 8,000 of them and “1.2 million white-eared kob, tiang antelope, and Mongalla gazelle” – many times greater than the assumed numbers. This example, and the one where over 100,000 gorillas were found in Congo more recently, should give heart to cryptozoologists.
    A final note on elephants – Ivan Sanderson had a terrifying encounter with a big bull that rose silently up from the reeds of a marsh and sank back down just as silently. He couldn’t find a trace of the animal.

  5. Loren Coleman responds:

    Matt, the source of your ITS story?

    I assume

    Sanderson, Ivan T. The Dynasty of Abu: A History and Natural History of the Elephants and Their Relatives, Past and Present, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962),


  6. cryptidsrus responds:

    It’s interesting that it finally took a Pit Bull to corner the elephant. Whatever one may say about that much (unfairly) maligned breed, they sure are tough sons-of-guns, aren’t they??? Extraordinarily loyal and brave. 🙂

  7. MattBille responds:

    Looking it up. The story stuck vividly in my head, but I need to look through the books.

  8. Alligator responds:

    Well I’m an experienced woodsman and usually have a good eye for picking out wildlife that people with me can’t see no matter how I point it out. Yet there have been a few times that I was within three to four feet of deer and alligators before I saw them. It’s startling and you feel kind of sheepish that you didn’t spot it earlier.

    I’ve heard that the forest elephants of central African rain forests are very hard to spot and very difficult to track. Consequently, little is known about their habits in contrast to their larger savanna cousins.

  9. rockinroadkill13 responds:

    you couldn’t be more right about pit bulls. They are excellent search and rescue dogs, decorated war and police dogs and wonderful family pets(also known as the “nanny” dog in England). Their popularity and public image has suffered the latter part of the 20th century and early into the 21st because of poor ownership. The rehabilitation of almost all the Vick dogs has gone a long way to renewing their image, but they have a long way to go. Unfortunately, their loyalty and bravery have been what make them most attractive to dogfighters. This is my first post ever on here. I read everyday, but I was moved to posting because I feel very passionate about this topic. sorry my first post is off topic and rambling.

  10. timi_hendrix responds:

    Very interesting, thanks for the post!

  11. alegler responds:

    I went to South Africa last year, and while in Kruger park we were amazed that an elephant or rhino would be just yards away, you wouldn’t notice them until you came right up on them.
    As for the much maligned pitbull – they are incredible dogs when raised properly. And consider that in the wild there is nothing, not even an adult male lion, that can corner an elephant.

  12. mystery_man responds:

    Yes, the elephants of the Sudan that Matt Bille mentioned are a good example of elephants staying hidden. I also can’t help but be reminded of African forest elephants.

    Many don’t realize that there are subspecies of elephants that are endemic to the thick rain forests of the Congo basin. These animals are notoriously difficult to find, even for researchers actively looking for them. Conservationists often gage their numbers and health by trekking through the forest counting dung piles, sometimes not seeing a single elephant during the process. These animals are so hard to pin down that more recently scientists have been using bioacoustics, trying to record the sub-audible frequencies the elephants use to communicate with in order to gage their numbers and movements. It has been said that one of these forest elephants can be standing right near you and you might not even know it was there.

    Alligator- I totally can see what you are saying. Even people well attuned to nature and trained to spot these things can be taken by surprise. I also am pretty good at spotting wildlife in the woods and I’ve been taken off guard a few times by animals I didn’t realize were there. It is disconcerting. Alligators in particular seem to be notorious for this.

  13. Shane Durgee responds:

    This is one of the fundamental questions that cryptozoology is hinged on. An elephant can hide in the woods of Maine for 2 weeks with humans deliberatley searching for it in force. How long could a smaller animal of greater, almost human-like intelligence, hide in the woods when no one is really looking for it? I’m never surprised when we discover new animals in our backyards or rediscover animals that were previously thought extinct.

    Thanks for posting the elephant story, Loren. It really puts things in percpective.

  14. DWA responds:

    I remember watching a young bull moose on Sandy Stream Pond in Maine’s Baxter State Park.

    He was out in the pond feeding, then decided he wanted to exit. His route took him toward a small crowd of us watching on the shoreline. He advanced without deviation to the bank; as he emerged we parted like the Red Sea to give him access to the woods. As he entered the treeline I pivoted on one foot and put myself right on his butt. How close? I could count the flies on him.

    Then suddenly he was gone. I don’t mean he started up, and galloped off, crashing through the trees. I mean suddenly he was GONE. I didn’t sneeze, hack, blow my nose or even blink. I was right behind him, then suddenly he just wasn’t there any more.

    When you’re in their element they can show you how out of yours you are.

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