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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Non Native Species And Sasquatch Evidence Gathering

Attempting To Gather Scientific Evidence For Species Existence Using Non-Lethal Methodology.

This is from a draft paper I put together in 2009.  It was to be part of a paper I had hoped to present to the Eastern Cougar Foundation.   Comments are welcome.
 Above: Melanistic puma.

          Attempting To Gather Scientific Evidence For Species

                                     Existence Using

                             Non-Lethal Methodology.


                             TERRY HOOPER-SCHARF

                                  Exotic Animals Register [EAR]


                                           United Kingdom



From a very early age I learnt “science demands proof” and that, zoologically speaking, ”the body of evidence” is just that.  A corpse.   Without a corpse to dissect and study we are told that science cannot accept anything as existing.

The Carthaginian, Hanno, encountered a Lowland gorilla [Gorilla g. gorilla] briefly but that was two thousand years ago.  Andrew Battle, in the late 16th century had encountered Lowland Gorillas and his account of this, as well as encounters with other forms of African wildlife were presented in a book in 1614.

Skulls, parts of skeletons and even skins were brought back to Europe, the UK in particular, but those travellers presenting this evidence were often laughed out of scientific places of learning.

Even though gorillas had been exhibited in travelling menageries –we know that in 1855,Wombwell’s travelling menagerie had a gorilla called “Jenny” on display and there are news reports of gorilla [“an African wild man of the forest”] coming in by ship in 1800,it was not until 1851 that the existence of the gorilla was scientifically accepted and catalogued.

In August,1902,Captain von Beringe succeeded in killing two gorillas but recovered only one body which was sent back to Europe and classed as Gorilla gorilla beringei –the Eastern Gorilla.

We have, in the UK, tracks identified by experts specialising in Felids at zoological gardens and even former African trackers running a deer park here, as being leopard [Panthera pardus].  Anyone picking up a field guide to tracks or even accessing the internet today can identify such tracks.  There have been hairs recovered by police after “big cat” incidents that have been DNA tested by two reputable laboratories and the results were Panthera pardus

There are also tracks and hairs consistent with the Puma [Puma concolor] and lynx species [Lynx lynx].  There are many very credible witnesses who have seen cats at close proximity [0-20m] and some of these were trained naturalists and one senior lecturer in zoology at a university who was also an expert wildlife consultant.  It is fair to say that there is also good photographic and video footage of non-native species.

We also have photographic records of large cat [puma] attack on horses and a large number of photographs of sheep, deer and other prey animals bearing all the signs of typical large cat kills.  Recordings of puma calls even.

Despite this, some experts say they still want a body as “proof” –a totally pointless exercise unless it is out of curiosity [Red Paper: Felids -unpublish]
It should be unacceptable that, in the 21st century, science requires a corpse as evidence that a particular animal exists.  We can, with non-injuring ‘traps’ and other means, not to mention remote trail-camera traps, gain enough evidence that a species exists but killing an animal might have dire consequences.  What if a Felid or other animal killed is a female and has young.  Without the mother to provide food those young will die.  And without maternal training to give older cubs hunting skills they will need, those young can become “messy killers”.

And what if the animal killed is, say, the last male or female of the species,or at least last of a breeding pair?  The species is lost.

In the 1970s,there was a great debate, often heated, amongst Hominologists, those looking for the Sasquatch/Bigfoot in the USA and Canada and Almasty in the former USSR.  Leading US researcher John Green, along with Grover Krantz, put forward the same old argument “science needs a corpse as proof –so shoot a Bigfoot”.

Dmitri Bayanov, of the  Darwin Museum, Moscow, argued that, if the hominid was a relic primitive man population then shooting one would be homicide and at the time I came out on Mr. Bayanov’s side based on our not knowing how many such hominids there might be, if any, and if the last one of a breeding pair was killed the science might be happy but the species was doomed.

But in the 1970s we never had DNA testing or the other scientific and technical aids that we have today.

What I am putting forward in this paper are ways to gain evidence that science can study and base conclusions on without a body.  The methodology can be applied to most animals whether felid, canid or hominid.  It is based on past experience as a naturalist as well as other training that cannot be specified.

It is in fact an intelligence gathering methodology in which physical traces of a species as well as other visual data are gathered and analysed.  This information should then help decide the basis of how to proceed next.

And we must never forget the "Absence of Evidence" often quoted by what are called the "skeptics". Irving Copi the American philosopher, logician, and university textbook author. wrote:

"In some circumstances it can be safely assumed that if a certain event had occurred, evidence of it could be discovered by qualified investigators. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to take the absence of proof of its occurrence as positive proof of its non-occurrence."

This is something that Carl Sagan once wrote about.  The argument from ignorance for "absence of evidence" isn't necessarily fallacious.  For instance,  that a new, potentially life saving drug poses no long term health risk unless proven otherwise. It might be argued that were such an argument to rely imprudently on the lack of research to promote such a conclusion, it would be considered an informal fallacy- whereas the former can be a persuasive way to shift the burden of proof in an argument or debate. 

 Carl Sagan criticized such "impatience with ambiguity" in cosmologist Martin Rees' maxim, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" (Sagan, Carl (1997). The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine. p. 213. ISBN 0-345-40946-9. OCLC 32855551)

To put it in another way: jurors at a trial might be told by the prosecution that a defendant had been heard to say in a heated argument "I will kill you!"  Ten days later the subject of this outburst was fond dead.  Therefore the defendant did it.  The defendant is known to have had a violent past. The defence would then claim "where is the proof?"

I was once astonished when Sagan, again, stated that there is no evidence that extraterrestrials (in "UFOs") are visiting the Earth -but there is no evidence that extraterrestrials (in "UFO") are not visiting the Earth.

A scientist at whatever level -university big name down to the lowly naturalist- must always keep this in mind in whatever field they are involved in.
 "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"
 Feed-back is always welcome.

Terry Hooper-Scharf


Feedback was quite negative and every and any  excuse was offered because it was quite clear that whom ever owned the cameras wanted to be listed as the owner of evidence gathered by camera and to have the sole right to sell or use the footage/images without any consultation.  The very idea of a Field Study Team was laughable.

In fact, many were still citing World War One and World War Two as vital points in the release of non native cats into the UK.  Many citing unidentified USAF units as having "Big Cat" mascots (the Puma is not a big cat but of the medium sized cat family) that they dumped in England at the end of the wars.  

Sadly, all this information they gleaned from one main source -myself and the old Exotic Animals Register (EAR) Bulletin. By the late 1990s research had shown that there were no traceable USAF units with big cat mascots in the UK and I proved, along with the assistance of a university, that various cats, canids (Jackals, wolves etc) were being released with public knowledge for hunting as far back as the 18th century and well into the early 20th century.  "Cribbing" other peoples research means you never know how old the info is that you've stolen!

But back to the main subject at hand.

In 2011 I posted the following as it seemed as relevant to Sasquatch as it did to UK non native cats.

On Gathering Hard Evidence Of Sasquatch

Wild living creatures are not going to be fooled by some hide or even people using "scent hide" sprays.  The 'charge' seems almost similar to some Sasquatch approaches to tents -they know someone is inside and it might well just be a "brushing against the tent" to us but to Sasquatch it could mean "Hey -I'm out here.  My area."

    If we accept that Sasquatch exists then we have to accept that it has spent many thousands of years adapting to its environment and being able to know when something is "off" in its habitat.  We have stories of bow-hunters covered from head to toe with camouflage in elevated seats that Sasquatch approach and even sniff out. There are even cases of Sasquatch turning to look at 'hidden' hunters.

    I think those looking for Sasquatch need to change their mindsets. Do not hide your scent.  Let any Sasquatch become familiar with it and take it from there.

    If camping in a known Sasquatch area and if it is believed one is active at the time then a trail cam or two could be set up around the camp.  Putting out bait such as fish, meat or fruit is probably not a good idea if you are in a flimsy tent and in bear country. Note also that bears seem attracted to the petroleum in the plastic casing and have been known to smash trail-cams by tooth and claw. This is rather like bears being attracted to the formaldehyde in refrigerators because it smells ant-nest like.

    In a cabin somewhere it might work.  For one thing a cabin would be fairly secure from bear attack and, in the past, have been fairly good protection in what have been called Sasquatch ‘attacks’.  These attacks may be the Sasquatch asserting its territory and making it clear that it owns this particular area.

    Snellgrove Lake and the cabin located there seems to be one such case.  Stone throwing, pounding on the cabin exterior and even, when no one is there, breaking in and trashing the interior. This raises several possible avenues for investigation and research.

    Firstly, of course, there is the idea of hiring the cabin for a year and record and monitor any possible Sasquatch activity.  A good plan of action for a year would be needed, though it should be adaptable.

    Secondly, there is evidence gathering with no cabin base but outside of fishing season so that humans cannot mess evidence up.  In 2002 I was asked by police wildlife crimes officers to draw up some guidelines on gathering evidence of large, non-native cats.  The following is based on these guidelines and though it refers to large cats it can be applied to Sasquatch.

    For over thirty years, since the sightings of puma (Puma concolor) in the Scottish Highlands and also Wales which first got me involved in acting as a Police Advisor on exotic animals, there has been a problem regarding collecting evidence.

    Firstly, there are many people who set themselves up as “Big cat investigators”.  Most of these people do not even have the basic knowledge of a naturalist let alone the knowledge required to assess sightings of large felids.  Many cases over the years have resulted in what has been claimed to be “irrefutable proof –hard evidence” of what has been termed the “UK Big Cat”.  Newspaper photographs of plaster casts of paw-prints said to have come from such animals have invariably shown claws and tell-tale features of canid tracks.   

  It should be noted that there are good photographs of casts showing details of large felid tracks.
However, these pieces of “evidence” are treated as belonging to the alleged investigator.  Many such pieces of evidence are unbelievably destroyed once the person jumps onto another subject –I am aware of two cases in which good large felid track plaster casts were dumped in waste bins along with incident reports simply because the person involved had lost interest but was not going to give his “hard work to someone else”.  Also, maps, photographs, plaster casts and much documentation has been destroyed by the families of investigators after their deaths as “just hobby junk”.

    Since the mid-1990s, many people have jumped from investigating unidentified flying objects (UFOs) to delving into the paranormal.  When those subjects prove boring these individuals suddenly find a new interest in “UK Big Cats” –it tends to get them into the newspapers and even onto local television more because it is not so fantastical as, say, UFOs.  “Cryptozoology” is the current new craze.

    I have spoken to these people quite often and it is amazing just how little they know and several even noted that they were looking into why “Big Cats” were not seen in the Winter and had a theory that they might hibernate!

    But even those slightly more credible individuals were unwilling to supply casts or photographic evidence pertaining to exotic felids.  The same attitude applied: it was “their” evidence.

    There were, up until 1998, some thirty plaster casts of tracks held by private individuals that were quite clearly diagnostic of exotic felid ranging from lynx (Lynx sp.), puma (Puma concolor) and leopard (Panthera pardus).   These have all been clearly shown in press photographs.  Such casts would provide good, solid evidence of exotic felids but even the offer to buy some of these casts has been turned down.  Others have vanished along with the no-longer-interested investigators. 
 Above: nailed board found outside cabin at5 Snellgrove Lake.

    Hair samples have also been shown in photographs, as have alleged scat – shockingly, mainly held in un-gloved hands and with the holders face close enough to taint any possible results that might exist.  Other samples shown in plastic bags are often removed to show TV or press cameras.  Some samples held for ten years or more would be pointless to attempt DNA analysis on. 

    The reason why these samples have not been forwarded to a laboratory is purely cost.  Fresh samples analysed by two labs pertaining to a felid sighted in Lincolnshire did return Panthera pardus DNA but this has only ever been publicised at a local level. That said, the photograph of the alleged ‘big cat’ taken on another occasion is of nothing more than a black domestic cat thus proving why all evidence must be clearly checked because, despite a very good description of a leopard seen at zero feet (just over 3 feet/90cms) from the observer the photograph taken was of a black cat seen from a distance –no one was interested in setting up cameras and leaving them in situ.  So called ‘investigators’ with but also without permission of the property holders camped out in tents and one police officer told me “It was like a mini Glastonbury at times –there was even music from radios!” and, naturally, a reclusive cat is going to be attracted to that!

    Photographs or video footage of felids can tend to suffer from distance between camera and felid or, more often, suffer from the fact that there is nothing to compare the size of the cat photographed/filmed to.  A couple of pieces of video footage do contain such items so we know the cats filmed were large.  In one video clip the cats can be quite clearly seen and there are enough items in the clip (as well as some recorded on video later) to estimate size accurately –as in the Jagouarondi footage from Surrey.

    Of course there are photographs of livestock kills that bear all the characteristics of large felid attacks.  In some cases it has been possible to photographs wounds on horses and ponies (such as “Bianca” at XXXXXXXXX farm) and measure and match said wounds to large felid dentition.  Many farmers have offered to keep sheep or other animals killed by what they claim are large cats so that proper post mortem may be carried out to ascertain the truth.  Sadly, cost and transportation of such animals to a veterinarian willing to carry out this work has been a major stumbling block.

   Work has also been carried out by a university on dentition marks on carcass bones that clearly show a large felid was involved.

    There has been enough evidence over more than thirty years to conclusively prove the existence of specific exotic cat species in the UK.  It is, sadly, of no use after so long and with so many “Big Cat investigators” involved in in-fighting.

    What is needed is a concerted effort to not only film/photograph exotic felids but to gather hard evidence that can be studied and from which DNA evidence can be obtained.

Plan Of Action

    Over the years certain areas have become known large felid “hot spots”.

    Certain farms are frequently visited, have livestock killed by or just passed through by large felids.  Farmers and locals have been more than willing to have investigators keep observation of these areas.  The problem is that felids have not just good hearing and sense of smell but seem able to, via instinct, know when something is different or that people are nearby.  These animals live and survive on their instincts and are never going to show themselves out in the open.

    We have enough evidence in the form of reports from observers and enough has been done to establish geographical territories and note prey animals.  This needs to be backed up by hard evidence.  Hard evidence that it might be possible to gather from known areas frequented by these felid.

    MAP 1 shows a rough idea of ‘Corryn Gwall Farm’ which allows us to show how evidence might be gathered

    Farms tend to be somewhat more cluttered than this diagram shows but it does represent a number of known, regularly frequented farms.  It is necessary to maximise the number of ways in which to gather evidence, as shown in the next diagram.

A-G indicate locations for camera traps able to take daytime/night time images.  As these are usually fastened to posts or other objects it is possible to move them should it seem one particular route is used more often than others.  The beauty of these cameras is that their use is quite flexible.

    A  is fastened onto a tree looking up a rough track approaching the farm.  This is a track that other wildlife may use as animals tend to use “game trails” rather than trudge over or around obstacles in wooded areas.  This camera would need to be focussed at a point where a marker post has been left indicating various heights (30 cms, 60 cms and 90 cms) so that any animal photographed can have its size accurately assessed. 

    B would be focussed on the same track but pointing down the track so that an image of any animal can be captured as it heads toward the farm.  Again, a height gauge post would be placed on the track.

    C is, of course, dependent upon whether there is a convenient pond from which wildlife might drink.   Damp mud could also provide spots from which tracks might be cast.  It is always worth considering placing a drinking point if no pond exists and to make sure the ground around it is always wet.  However, this is all dependent upon the property owner.

    D would be positioned at the front of the house looking up any entrance/approach road.  Large felids have been reported entering/leaving farm courtyards by the main entrance.  It would also show where a felid might be heading so that a camera trap can be moved to that area.

    E camera could be trained on the pond/water source and any wall leading to it.

    F could be angled to take photographs of anything approaching/getting over a back wall or fence.  There are a large number of reports in which felids have jumped up onto  a wall and remained there for several seconds to one minute, looking around.

   G This should be fastened to a tree or post pointed in the direction of any livestock that is reportedly attacked frequently.

   All of these cameras must have a height gauge post in shot but, as noted, all are flexible in where they can be placed.

   In the diagram a short hurdle has been placed across the rough track.  Something around 50-60 cms in height ought to suffice.  The idea is that deer or other animals can walk over or get under the hurdle but that a felid moving over it might leave hair samples behind.  There are a number of ways in which such hair can be caught.  The idea of placing a string of barbed wire across the top is ruled out as there is no wish to injure any animals.

    Favoured methods are:[1] “roughed up” wood that can snag hair, and,[2] double sided tape.  Obviously, the obstacle would need to be checked each morning and any hair collected and placed in a sealed plastic bag.

   The double-sided tape hair snag would also work on a fence or at strategic points along a wall.  Again, this would need checking each morning. So that there is no question as to where hair has been found it is important that, before removal, it is photographed in situ.  Sterile gloves must be worn and any sample placed in a sealable plastic bag marked with date/time collected as well as location taken from.  

   The same applies to any unidentified droppings found.  Farmers and others living in the country tend to know what a fox, deer or badger dropping looks like but it should be a case of “unsure –secure” and a sample collected and bagged as per hair samples.  In addition to this it might be worth placing a marker where the dropping was found for future reference and to see whether droppings are deposited there regularly.


   The importance of photographing any trace evidence before bagging cannot be over-emphasised.

   When it comes to tracks the person checking each day or who lives on the property should be given a guide to tracks of deer, rabbit, badgers, foxes, dogs and felids so that they can eliminate non-felid.

    The idea of a sand-trap located on the property should be looked at.  A 90 cms x 90 cms area covered with 3-4 cms of sand (or substitute material) might solicit tracks so that it can be assessed what is visiting the property.   

   It must be made perfectly clear that even with all of the above it is not a case of evidence of any type being obtained within a few days or even weeks.  We know that certain felids wander their territory so even when they return it is no guarantee that evidence will be obtained.  It might take a year but the chances are improved if the owner of the property has seen the felid or has noted where it seems to go to/come from as they do seem to be creatures of habit at times.

   The cost of game trail cameras and DNA analysis are the big drawbacks unless a backer can be found.

   I think that regular trail-cams can be used but, in the case of Sasquatch, need to be placed higher up a tree (so bears cannot get to them) and angled.  Any number of trail-cams are available but even though they can take a large number of photographs the batteries will die and once the card is full that is it –just after that last image is taken Sasquatch could walk right in front the camera, sit down and peel a grape!  So, every week or so the batteries will need checking and the card replaced.  This adds more human contamination/smell to the area.

   I believe that the best way forward are cameras such as the Raptor Cellular camera system that will capture a photograph and email it to you via a cellular network upon motion-activation.  The built-in camera will capture colour photographs during the day and via a no-flash Infra Red mode at night. All photos are stored on the included UBS Flash Drive and the battery operated system can last several months in a remote location –I’ve heard of several adaptions of these devices to solar energy where a solar panel is placed high in a tree meaning that you can get endless image feed.

   With cameras, hair traps and so on, enough evidence can be gathered to satisfy most scientific minds without the need to kill – though some claiming to be “scientists” have stated publicly that “nothing” will convince them and a couple have stated that even a body “does not mean there is a population.”

    There is another question that needs to be addressed.  Whether to go armed when looking for Sasquatch?  We know nothing about these creatures but if they are similar to gorillas then the chasing/charging at those who encounter them could just be juvenile status posturing.  Gorillas will try to sort out disputes amongst their group without violence if they can.

    However, we have seen via the work of Steenburg, et al, that females have been encountered as well as possible family groups.  If Sasquatch have learnt anything from observing hunters it is that they kill wildlife.  Humans thusly equal a possible threat to young or females.  Any creature that can kill large wild hogs and deer with its bare hands is a potential danger to humans if encountered in the wrong situation or if the human involved breaches some territorial taboo.

    Remember that the Sasquatch hunter is going to be out in sometimes mountainous or hilly forestry making a fast exit impossible. If cornered by a Sasquatch and the animal does not back off what options are left?  I do not advocate immediately shooting any Sasquatch because of “false charging” but I do think that there is some form of protection –after all, Sasquatch seem to have bears in their territories and if you attract an aggressive bear to you…

    The whole point is, however, to gather as much physical evidence as possible –there is no such thing as “too much evidence”!

Today we see on TV, Swamp Monsters, Mountain Monsters (along with many paranormal programmes) where it does not take 15 minutes to realise they are faked and for fun -"This program is intended for entertainment purposes only" says it all.  But why do former credible TV stations such as Discovery and History offer up so many fake programmes?

The answer is simple.  Finding Bigfoot has gone on for many years.  They have yet to find Sasquatch and when you find the Bigfoot Research Organisation leader, Matt Moneymaker has had to have harsh words with producers over "dubious practices" you ask "if they did film something would we believe it?"

Ditto Monster Quest -highly sensationalistic with "killer" this and "deadly" that added to "rampaging", "out of control" and "potentially lethal to humans" you get the point.  Yes, some good footage of very large -unidentified- squid but that's it.

TV execs want people to watch their programming -its what makes the money.  So it's easier to make the faked ones "listen -a disembodied voice!"/ "Was something just thrown?" and even (Mountain Monsters) some of the worst fakery of creatures and so on you can find.   Because people can laugh or -sadly- believe because they are seeing something not just a search turning up nothing.

With everything going on at Snellgrove was it really going to be that hard to set up cameras around the cabin often the focus of these visits?  You can have solar powered/sat-link up cameras so that you do not have to be there.  Or even rent the cabin and set up the cameras for several months.  Think about it: a film or TV company might spare a few surveillance or even game trail games added into the mix.  A few thousand dollars -but getting footage or still photographs of a genuine Sasquatch would net -appealing to greed here- millions in licensing, exclusives and so on.

But it's cheaper to make fake programmes.  

For a good and valid project you need a backer with money and an interest in the subject.

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