Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Evolving Evidence Collection.

Using critical thinking we must think better than in the past.  We must be able to see evidence as prospective evidence instead of labeling it as evidence of Bigfoot and trying to support the assertion. Unless you have seen Bigfoot eat or tracked one and recognized sign of what they eat, you do not know what their diet is.  Science will need more than a tracker's word.  They will need the logic behind it as well as photographic evidence backing up the tracker's suppositions. It is not enough to say, "I saw some milkweed that was partially eaten over near the track way."  You need pictures to prove it.

People often get too hopeful and ignore the obvious.  We just muddle the middle ground by jumping to the result before we really have it. Researchers often end up looking foolish to academics and skeptics this way. We must be able to look at our supposed evidence and question its existence. After all, most woodsmen will tell you that not every unexplained thing is nature is Bigfoot.  So much happens that we are not there to witness every day that it is almost impossible to say what is real evidence.  Many get the impression that there are far more Sasquatch than actually exist based upon the amount of supposed evidence that is presented online.  This leads to the obvious skeptical question, "If there are so many Sasquatch then why don't we see better evidence?" The answer is simple.  Much of the "evidence" that is presented is not evidence of Sasquatch but is evidence of unusual things that we are not recognizing. As a community Bigfoot researchers cannot agree on what is evidence in many cases.  They just present and argue the validity of the supposed evidence without ever improving on their collection techniques.

Why are we seeing what we consider a pine bed? Is it related to dead fall?  Is it related to rutting season of deer and elk as they rub antlers against trees and branches?  If not can we map the breaks in the boughs to their source? Did it all come from the same tree?  How far away was each branch broken off?  Keep in mind there are survivalists that spend far more time in the woods than most and they are creatures of comfort that wouldn't think twice about creating something softer for themselves.  In addition why do we not find hair? After all, pitch from those pine boughs would  If Bigfoot goes to the trouble to make a nest then were is the scat from the surrounding area? We have to prove this pine bed cannot be related to dead fall. We must be able to say why it is not related to elk or deer during their rutting season where they remove the antler velvet and break off branches.  Elk antlers can reach up to 10 feet high in extreme cases.

We must be able to say that scat is not related to other animals and why it is not rather than calling it Bigfoot scat just because it is a large  pile and looks human.  Keep in mind the shape of the scat for most creatures will change based upon their recent diet..

As researchers we need to be critical of tracks and our casting procedures. Pouring casting material in a certain way can cause a ripple effect that looks somewhat like dermal ridges.  Learn to pour casting material under many circumstances. Dry dusty areas require hairspray or a plastic protective spray to harden the track before casting.  Spray polyurethane works well here. Wet mud can use dry plaster before the pour to help solidify the track. Practice casting your own or your children's footprints under a variety of circumstance so you get good at it and know how to handle the problems you will face in the field. Get Snow Impression Wax for snow and make sure you use several layers before casting.  Find a track?  Cast everything even if it's not such a good track. It's usually the best choice for any type  of field casting.

Hair needs to be analyzed before it is proclaimed to be from a specific species.  We need to eliminate raccoon, opossum, elk, deer, bear, wolverine, skunk, cattle, etc. This means we need to collect a comprehensive database of hair for comparison. Not just one of each species but multiple examples under a variety of circumstances from the same area and all of it needs to be documented.

Photo and video documentation is great but it is subjective so we must learn to collect more than one type of evidence when we believe we have photo or video evidence.  Prepare the ground around your camera field to collect tracks.  Make sure you know a bear track from a Sasquatch track.  Make sure that you are not labeling it Sasquatch just because it is large.  The American Black Bear can get very large and weighs in at over 400 to 500 pounds in rare cases up to 650 pounds the largest recorded was 7.9 feet at 900 pounds. The male grizzly can go up to 850 pounds and can get to 7 feet in length (standing). The largest came in at 10 feet long and weighed from 1000 to 1200 pounds. The Brown bear (on western coasts)  will get to 3 to 3 1/2 feet at the shoulder giving a height of 6 to 7 feet but can be as large as a grizzly. A very large bear can have up to 1.5 meters between steps in a double step pattern. Running can cause this alignment as well as hurrying uphill. This makes for a huge disparity in tracks from the Southeast to the Northwest. Bear double-step looks like a bi-pedal track-way but in fact is a quad-pedal track-way that looks like it has a mid tarsal break. Photgraph your tracks in detail from multiple angles.

Painstakingly check the area for hair if you have any other supposed evidence. Once you have decided what the evidence is, get it verified by an independent expert.  There are other expert trackers in the world that would be happy to give their opinions on tracks, pine and leaf beds. Just document it and measure everything track related.  Keep in mind that this is also subjective. A good tracker however will be able to show their line of logic and how they came up with their answer instead of I don't know what that is. They will be able to give multiple ideas as to how logs land the way they do. A seasoned woodsman will often have an alternate answer that you might have to try to disprove. If you can do that then you may have real evidence

If you believe you have evidence, use your camera.  Get multiple angles on each track. Close ups to show dermal ridges if you can.  Take photos to show the nail indentations to also show that there are no claw marks.   Photograph the ends of logs that appear to be structures. Measure the area. Draw a diagram, block it off and show stumps or breaks in relation to the logs or branches in the structure. Number the ends of branches or logs and give the same number to the tree or stump it came from.  Do whatever you have to in order to get as much detail as is available and do not deviate from your procedures unless there is something that can be done better. Be consistent and be reliable in how you document all of your information.  Note the eyewitness testimony but do not use it as evidence. Use it to point to fact or other evidence but do not use that testimonial because it has no worth in science.

The bottom line is that real research takes a lot of time and patience.  It takes a methodology that must be understood and adhered to.  Others may start taking us all seriously if we can do this. Keep in mind that  negative attention received by researchers may make skeptics and scientists slow to accept all of this. More patience comes in at this point.  It will garner more respect than the willy-nilly approaches used in the past.

Check my next post on Collaboration coming out later this week.