Pterodactyl Causes Car Crash

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 29th, 2007

papo pterandon

The Pteranodon replica produced by the Papo company of France.

Giant flying reptiles, believe it or not, have routinely been sighted in the Olympic National Park’s rainforest in Washington State. I’ve been hearing about reports from there for decades. Now comes an intriguing, if unbelievable, account from the same area.

First, here are some quick footnotes about pterodactyls vs pterosaurs vs pteranodons, which the media creatively confuse. No telling what this person really saw.

Pterodactyls are any of various small, extinct flying reptiles (pterosaurs) of the genus Pterodactylus of the late Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. Pterodactyls had long, narrow jaws with sharp teeth, and a wingspan of 3.3 ft (1 m) or less.

Pterosaurs are any of various extinct flying reptiles of the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods with wings consisting of a flap of skin supported by an elongated fourth digit on each forelimb (rather than an elongated second digit as in birds). Some pterosaurs were unique among reptiles in being covered with hair. Pterosaurs had wingspans ranging from less than 1 ft (0.3 m) to close to 50 ft (15.2 m).

Pteranodons are a genus of extinct flying reptiles, descendants of the pterodactyl. Fossils are known from Late Cretaceous (99 – 65 million years ago) deposits of Europe, Asia, and North America. Pteranodons had a wingspan of 23 ft (7 m) or more. The largest specimen had a wingspan of 50 ft (15.5 m). The body was about the size of a modern turkey.

Pteranodons had a crest at the back of the skull and long, pelicanlike, toothless jaws. They probably made nests and spent much time gliding over the ocean searching for fish. They probably depended on air currents for liftoff rather than on flapping their wings.

Now, in breaking news this week….

A 29-year-old Wenatchee man told police a pterodactyl caused him to drive his car into a light pole about 11:30 p.m. Thursday [December 27, 2007].

Wenatchee police cited the man with first-degree negligent driving. A breathalyzer test showed “a minimal amount of alcohol,” said Wenatchee police Sgt. Cherie Smith.

Witnesses told police the man was northbound on Wenatchee Avenue and drifted into a southbound lane for less than a block. Oncoming traffic stopped and waited for the man to pass, Smith said.

He then totaled his car on a light pole, Smith said.

When police asked the man what caused the accident, his one-word answer was “pterodactyl,” Smith said. A pterodactyl was a giant winged reptile that lived more than 65 million years ago.

The man was treated and released at Central Washington Hospital, hospital officials said.~ by Rachel Schleif, Wenatchee World
Man blames car wreck on prehistoric winged reptile,” Saturday, December 29, 2007.

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.

32 Responses to “Pterodactyl Causes Car Crash”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    I betcha he’s wishing he didn’t have any alcohol that night. Unless any of these flying reptiles were warm blooded, Olympus, Washington seems rather cold at times. I don’t know about the rest of ya’ll, but when that fog rolls in over everything–it doesn’t matter if you are warm blooded or not. That cold goes right to the bones. Although, if he didn’t see one, what was it he really saw?

  2. kittenz responds:

    Actually there is good evidence that at least some pterosaurs had fur. So maybe cold weather wouldn’t be a problem.

  3. MountDesertIslander responds:

    I always wondered if “Mothman” wasn’t a pterosaur standing with its wings wrapped as a bat does when it sleeps. I hate to say it seems “plausible” , but hey, in this field we can exchange ideas freely.

    I really would hate to be the man trying to make the police believe I swerved my car to avoid hitting a pterosaur. He would have been far better off to simply hit the beast. I doubt any charges would have been filed against him in the end. So much cheaper in the long run to fix the car than pay the higher insurance rates and fines that are surely going to follow.

    The lesson is, don’t swerve.

  4. Double Naught Spy responds:

    Pelican with mange.

  5. fallofrain responds:

    Just one observation…the story takes place in Wenatchee. That’s central Washington. It’s nowhere near the Olympic Rain Forest. The story even mentions central Washington. It’s a completely different climate than the rain forest. It’s agricultural/high desert, and probably gets even colder in winter than the rain forest (except for the higher rain forest elevations). For the continental United States, the rain forest is relatively mild all year (I live in a similar area of Oregon). Not that there couldn’t be a pterodactyl-like creature in either place, if it exists at all. But I just wanted to point out the difference in locations.

  6. Artist responds:

    — When police asked the man what caused the accident, his one-word answer was “pterodactyl”. —

    What other mumbled word(s) could have sounded like “pterodactyl” to Police Sgt. Cherie Smith?
    Pair o’ black pills.
    Terror, actually.
    Terror factuals.
    Error, actually

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    True, Wenatchee is about 256 miles east southeast of the Olympic National Park, as the pterodactyl flies.

  8. mauka responds:

    THis is kinda far out but what if these creatures evolved to not only fly without air currents, but to also be warm blooded. I mean birds can survive in cold climates. Just puting it out there. It was 65 million years ago.

  9. kittenz responds:

    Of course the most likely possibility is mistaken identification of some other animal, probably a bird. Maybe even a bird that is not native to the area, that was blown off-course or something.

    I remember standing in the surf at sunset on Captiva Island, off the Gulf Coast of Florida. My nephew Broc, who was four at the time, suddenly grabbed my arm and said “Look, Aunt Sheila! Pterodactyls!” Of course I looked, and silhouetted against the sunset sky was a flock of pelicans flying back to their roosts.

    Doggonit, they did look like pteordactyls! At least, they looked like I imagine pterodactyls looked.

    I suppose there are pelicans in Washington state, at least near the coast. Maybe the guy saw one that had somehow come inland.

  10. fallofrain responds:

    Kittenz…good observation. In Oregon, at least, pelicans are found far inland where there are large bodies of water. I’m not sure about Washington. And they DO look prehistoric in a cute sort of way.

  11. thehoch responds:

    The Wenatchee man didn’t tell police it was a pterodactyl that caused him to drive his car into a light pole…what he really said was….”terrible lack of skill” caused the accident.

    Obviously the young man has a “lisp” and had downed two bottles of Nyquil before getting behind the wheel.

    See this is why people don’t take cryptozoology seriously…! Come on peeps!

  12. edgar responds:

    After over two years of lurking, I can’t believe this is the story that drives me to finally register and post a comment.

    Wenatchee and the Olympic National Park are in the same area only if you consider, say, New York City and Buffalo to be in the same area.

    I lived just across the Tacoma Narrows from the Olympics for twenty years before moving back to Montana last year, and can tell you with absolute certainty that the “usual suspects” for misidentification as pterosaurs , such as pelicans and herons, live in the area. Also, in the twenty years I lived there, I cannot recall a single report in the local media of ‘pterodactyl’ sighting, until this one.

    I don’t doubt that Loren has received such reports. However, people like me who lived there over the last couple of decades seem unaware of them.

    As to the report itself, all I can say is that earlier this year here in Montana, a driver arrested at the scene of an accident apparently blamed it on a unicorn, and that a ‘clean’ breathalyzer test is no guarantee that the driver was not otherwise impaired.

  13. CamperGuy responds:

    Obviously it was a Bigfoot but he didn’t think anyone would believe him.

    If this were just an untrue story to cover up driver error I think it would be unlikely the story teller would think of pterodactyl as being in the top ten of believable excuses.

    I think the question remains what was seen?

  14. Remus responds:

    A VERY impaired (hungover) friend of mine once threw himself into a stream (losing most of his fishing gear) and yelling ((expletive) me!)) as a Great Blue Heron flew toward us over the water.

    He later told us he was sure the bird was a pteradactyl.

    Best laugh we had all summer.

    The mistake is actually understandable if the bird is flying straight toward you with its trailing legs hidden behind it.

  15. sschaper responds:

    fur plus egg-laying = monotreme suspect. To me, at least. I suppose a flying platypus isn’t as eerie as “flying reptile”

  16. MOGUY responds:

    Good thing there is not a breathalyzer for THC.

  17. jodzilla responds:

    At least he didn’t say he saw a pink elephant. Now THAT’S a cryptid!

  18. Kushtaka responds:

    Before I moved to Alaska, I lived on a wild bird sanctuary in the sub-tropics. I saw ALL KINDS of feathered friends. And, yes, there were a few culprits which *might* be mistaken for a pterodactyl by a witness caught by surprise by the sight or sound of such a large winged creature overhead — i.e., Crane, Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great White Heron, etc. However, that being said, I’ve also studied Native American mythology for over 20 years. The Thunderbird is almost a UNIVERSAL belief amongst indigenous peoples throughout the globe. Some kind of “great bird” of unnatural size HAS BEEN SEEN by MODERN PEOPLE, myself included. It is interesting to note that the Thunderbird — as depicted by many First Peoples in Alaska — is represented as a LARGE WINGED CREATURE, with a TOOTHED BEAK, and a HEAD CREST. The Thunderbird of Native mythology sure resembles a prehistoric creature, such as this one.

    I’m not saying I believe the un-drunk driver. We don’t know his mental state, with or without alcohol. I am simply saying, I enjoy hearing about modern reports of large winged creatures in the world today. I’m thankful we have places like Cryptomundo on which to share them and discuss them. Thanks, Loren!

  19. Timebandit responds:

    I have lived in Wenatchee for 20 years. About 800 yards from where the incident took place is an old bridge built at the end of the 19th century and is now part of the Wenatchee Loop Trail. I noticed a very large nest at the top of the bridge and asked a city worker if it was an eagle’s nest. The city employee said he lives near the river, not far from the old bridge, and he could attest that it is a great blue heron that nests there. I think he’s right, because I saw one earlier that day as I walked the loop trail along the Columbia river. Then again, Officer Smith could have heard it wrong…I was pulled over once and she was not interested in hearing anything I had to say and then made outlandish statements that she claimed I had made to justify the alleged speeding ticket but not before putting on quite a histrionic show on the side of the road.

  20. plant girl responds:

    I wish I could witness such a creature, however the sightings seem to be rare and unsubstantial.

  21. Double Naught Spy responds:

    This story just gets better! A scary heron, a weaving not quite drunk driver, a female Barney Fife, a funny statement to the press. Can the Men In Black be far behind?

    I’ve been to Wenatchee, but I don’t recall even seeing a heron. Lovely area, nice town.

  22. Alligator responds:

    This has to be in the top ten “ridiculous reasons I crashed my car” given to the cops.

    When my boys were little I used to tell them that the blue herons flying by were actually pterodactyls. They took my word for years. It was fun.

    As for the American Indian descriptions of Thunderbirds, a lot of people are giving it very pterosaur like characteristics. Descriptions vary somethat from cultural group to cultural group. All the legends I have heard describe it essentially like a giant eagle or vulture in appearance. Wing flapping produces the thunder sound and the lightening issues from its mouth and sometimes its eyes. Also, it is a spirit creature not a physical animal like a normal eagle. Same for the underwater panther, erroneously called a “water monster” by whites. It is the corollary of the water horse and kelpie of Celtic lore. There are a quite a few depictions of Thunderbirds in American Indian pottery and pictographs and rock art throughout the country.

  23. jerrywayne responds:

    A very, very slim news item redeemed by a nice little lesson in natural history. Thanks, kind host.

  24. Zebster responds:

    Could it have been a bat? Bats are more similar visually to pterosaurs(similar wing structure, lack of feathers, etc.), and it’s far more likely that there is a large unknown species of bat in the pacific northwest than a ‘living fossil.’

  25. Valen responds:

    Backing up Timebandit, I have seen numerous great blue herons and they look very much like a Pterosaur when they have their neck extended. They pull their neck in once in flight, but with it extended, they do look absolutely prehistoric.

  26. Rillo777 responds:

    Let’s see: There were witnesses to the crash. Traffic even stopped for the man’s car before he crashed. Never mind the possibility of whether such a creature could live there or not. I would like to know why HE was the only one to see it!

  27. DARHOP responds:

    Give me a break. I’ve lived here in Washington for 39 years. Not far from the Olympics, about 15-20 mins away. And I have never ever heard of a story like this. I seriously doubt their are pterodactyls in Washington. I have Blue Heron that land in my back yard. In fact one sleeps in the creek or up in the tree. They are big birds. They have eaten my Koi before. But I still don’t think I could mistake one for a pterodactyl, buzzed or not.

    Oh, and they do make a breathalizer for THC.

  28. Loren Coleman responds:

    Well, just because someone that has lived in the area for almost four decades hasn’t any knowledge of the history of sightings there doesn’t mean that others haven’t seen these flying cryptids or that reports haven’t been filed.

    The peak of reports I heard about were in the mid-1970s, which, of course, would have been over 30 years ago. Hardly anyone has paid much attention since then (except a few of us, one driver, a police officer, and apparently a bored reporter).


  29. DARHOP responds:

    You are absolutely right Loren. Just because I have not seen or heard of these reports doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. The reports that is. I still have to say that in my honest opinion, which means absolutely nothing. But for what it’s worth, I say that there are no pterodactyls in Washington State. And I’m sure I’m not alone on that feeling.

  30. ChicaBruce responds:

    Great story!

    I live in an area where there are lots of blue herons flying around. I’ve also spotted one clumsily navigating the chaotic thermals which swirl around the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan–as it was being chased by a peregrine falcon!

    I don’t think you could easily confuse the shape of a blue heron with a pterodactyl but in Brazil, huge frigate birds are a common sight, soaring around the mountains. Their boomerang-like shape is eerily similar to that of pterodactyls but I don’t know if frigate birds are common in that part of Washington State.

  31. CryptoHaus_Press responds:

    did the officer in question record what the claimant was drinking prior to his sighting and subsequent accident?

    i’m betting it was Thunderbird, the cheap rot-got wine! 😉

  32. mgrissom810 responds:

    ok well i dont know if anyone will read my reply but the other day as i was headed to my classes…I saw what at first i thought was a bird kite…I live in michigan and its february…anyway….i did a double take and it looked no joke like a pterodactyl….maybe it was a crane as my husband said but i have seen cranes before and if i could see pics of all michigan birds, migrating and not, i could pinpoint the exact one….the bird freaked me out as i was not expecting to see such a sight….

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