The second season of 'Finding Bigfoot' premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday.
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Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Skunk Ape. Yowie. Yeti. Abominable Snowman. In Texas you might have heard of the Caddo Creature, the Lake Worth Monster/Goat-Man, or the Liberty County Monkey Man.
There are many names for the hairy humanlike creature that walks on two legs and has eluded searchers for decades. Even Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot series has been unable to find the ape-man typically described as being 6 to 8 feet tall, with a massive, bulky build.
The Finding Bigfoot crew has not visited Texas yet, but something is out there deep in the Big Thicket, say members of Texas groups dedicated to hunting the beast.
Ken Gerhard of the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization has never seen one, but he thinks technology will help solve the mystery.
''I have been immersed in Sasquatch research for a number of years, and I can tell you in my mind a mountain of evidence supports the existence of these creatures," Gerhard said. When hunting season ends, he will return to the woods to look for tracks, hair, and habitations and to listen for vocalizations at night.
There have been sightings along the Trinity River corridor, and a cast of a suspected Bigfoot track was made in Sam Houston National Forest, said Gerhard, a San Antonio cryptozoologist who co-wrote Monsters of Texas with Nick Redfern.
Texas is in the top 10 states for Bigfoot sightings, Gerhard said, outranked only by Washington, California, Oregon, Ohio, and Florida.
''Eventually someone is going to come up with some evidence, although it is very frustrating that we have not found a body yet," he said. "And it is a very good argument against Bigfoot's existence."
Exactly, said Mike Cox, a spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which discounts the idea of Bigfoot running around the woods. Someone would have found some verifiable piece of evidence by now, TPWD biologists contend.
"The theory is that with as much traffic as there is in East Texas that sooner or later a Bigfoot would not stop, look, and listen and make the mistake of walking out into traffic and become the victim of a hit-and-run," Cox said. Or a hunter would mistakenly shoot one.
Texas has 180 known mammals ranging from bats to white tail deer, Cox said. Bigfoot is lumped with the cryptids, legendary creatures.
Bigfoot makes TPWD's top 3 cryptid list. The department gets more calls about chupacabra, which biologists think are mangy coyotes, Cox said. Bigfoot, which they call pure folklore, ranks No. 2. Then there are sightings of lechuzas, usually along the border and generally thought to be swooping owls in the night sky, not swooping witches.
As a student of Texas history and mythology and a hunter, Cox appreciates the intrigue of the Bigfoot story.
"I've been out in some pretty desolate places in the pursuit of game, so it has crossed my mind: What would I do if I was sitting up in a deer blind and ... waiting to see a big buck come out of the brush and instead I saw another creature come out. But it hasn't happened yet to me," he said. "It's fun to imagine what might be there."
Biological sciences professor Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University is convinced Sasquatch is not a myth.
Meldrum, who dislikes the tabloid connotations of the name Bigfoot, studies primate comparative anatomy, especially footprint evidence. From tracks he has analyzed, Meldrum leans toward the hypothesis that Sasquatch is a species of large ape. Yet the creature does not exhibit evidence of material culture or use of tools, fire, or home bases.
The author of Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science says the popularity of the Finding Bigfoot TV series makes researchers more skeptical of Bigfoot reports.
"You have to be careful. I have been out with people for whom every overturned rock, every bent twig, every bump in the night is attributed to Bigfoot," he said.
Vaughn M. Bryant, professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University, became involved in Bigfoot research in the early 1970s at Washington State University, an area where Bigfoot is a tourist attraction.
Although he is open to possibilities, Bryant says he can't be a Bigfoot believer without physical evidence. "Photos and footprints are not enough. They can and have been faked fairly effectively," Bryant said.
His specialty is paleo nutrition and the study of coprolites, or fossilized feces.
"Quite frankly, I have tried to get out of the Bigfoot-poop business because it is very time consuming and didn't really lead anywhere productive," Bryant said. At A&M he is studying excrement found in the Paisley Caves of Oregon that is 12,000 years or older.
Plus, he noted, most universities don't encourage their professors to publicly ponder Sasquatch.
"If you are in academia, if you start talking about Bigfoot, people start to wonder: Has this guy lost his mind or what?" Bryant said.
Lyle Blackburn, a member of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, has heard snickers when he is asked: "Do you believe in Bigfoot?"
It is a question that provokes the author of the upcoming The Beast of Boggy Creek: True Story of the Fouke Monster. "Belief implies some sort of faith. Either the animal exists or it doesn't. There's no faith to it," Blackburn said.
The Bedford resident described Bigfoot as one of the larger mysteries of the world. "The point is, I like camping and I like hunting and I like mysteries, and it sort of combines all that," he said.
"It's not about the end goal always. It's about meeting people, having fun and hearing some really cool stories. So if you look at it that way, it's an interesting subject, and if turns out to be true, all the better."