Momo, Old Yellow Top, The Fouke Monster. Some bigfoot have become famous in the regions they live. But leading skeptic Joe Nickell believes some of these can be identified as bears.
Having long observed that many Bigfoot sightings seem consistent with bears, I have for some time been expounding on the subject—showing that, when bears stand upright on their hind legs, they become North America’s foremost Bigfoot lookalikes (other than for people in Bigfoot suits). Bigfoot also usually behaves like a bear and is typically found in bear territory (Nickell 2013a).
The resemblance is sometimes made especially clear when we look at regional subtypes of Bigfoot—the Skunk Ape of Florida, for example, or a unique “bluish” creature seen in the Yukon. As it happens, the former, together with its bad odor, is consistent with the black bear (Nickell 2013b), and the latter is illuminated by the fact that black bears of a bluish color may be found in the southwest Yukon (Nickell 2014; Gloia 2011).
Here we look at several more of these regional variants of Bigfoot—such well-known creatures as Old Yellow Top, the Traverspine “Gorilla,” the Fouke Monster, Big Muddy, and others—to compare their appearance and behavior with those of bears.
Old Yellow Top
In 1906 at a mine near Cobalt, Ontario, a group of men saw a creature that would become known as Old Yellow Top because it was described as having a light-colored mane.
Seventeen years later, in July 1923, two miners working on their claims in the Cobalt area saw “what looked like a bear picking in a blueberry patch” (Green 1978, 248–249). One stated: “It kind of stood up and growled at us. Then it ran away. It sure was like no bear that I have ever seen. Its head was kind of yellow and the rest of it was black like a bear, all covered with hair” (qtd. in Green 1978, 249).
Actually, Black Bears (Ursus americanus) love blueberries, are indeed completely covered in hair—which may be all or partially blond—and often stand on their hind legs to better sense something that has attracted their attention (“Black Bears” 2013; Herrero 2002, 87). (A photograph of such a blond-maned bear—although a brown bear in this instance—is shown in Herrero 2002, 133.) This ability of bears to stand upright “no doubt influenced some people’s perception of them as being humanlike . . .,” according to Herrero (2002, 139).
A similar creature (not the same one of course) was seen again in the same area—in April 1946, by a woman with her son, and another in August 1970, by a bus driver. “At first I thought it was a big bear. But then it turned to face the headlights and I could see some light hair, almost down to its shoulders. It couldn’t have been a bear,” he concluded.
A passenger on the bus stated that it “looked like a bear to me at first, but it didn’t walk like one. It was kind of stooped over. Maybe it was a wounded bear, I don’t know” (qtd. in Green 1978, 249). Both men’s first thoughts were no doubt correct, as they themselves would probably have recognized had they been more familiar with bears’ stances and color phases.
A famous 1913 sighting of the Traverspine “Gorilla,” named after a community in Labrador, occurred when a little girl saw a huge, dark-haired creature come out of the woods. “It was about seven feet tall when it stood erect, but sometimes it dropped to all fours.” It left tracks in the mud, and later in the snow, “twelve inches long, narrow at the heel, and forking at the front into two broad, round-ended toes” (Merrick 1933).
Again, this is consistent with a black bear. Yes, such bears have five rather than two toes (as do most “Bigfoot,” based on their alleged tracks); however, we learn that “in mud a black bear’s toe separation may not show” (Herrero 2002, 178). Given the clue that the “two” Bigfoot toes were “broad,” the likely explanation is that separation only appeared between the second and third toes. That would give the appearance that there were just two notably broad toes. That the heel was described as “narrow,” characteristic of a bear’s hind foot (Napier 1973, 61), also helps to further identify the tracks as probably a bear’s. (The estimated twelve-inch length of, presumably, the hind foot is uncommonly large, but the tracks may have been overlaps of front and hind feet or the size could have been overestimated.) Besides, size can vary, that of the same foot impression being “different in the mud, in snow, or dry ground” (Herrero 2002, 175). The estimated standing height of the “gorilla” seems about right too, since a black bear can easily be seven feet tall—with or without a little girl’s misperception or exaggeration.
One account tells of two creatures, one supposedly smaller than the other, yet contradictorily stating, “They sometimes stood erect on their hind legs at which time they looked like great hairy men seven feet tall” (Wright 1962). Another indication that the creatures were indeed bears came from reports that the first creature “ripped the bark off trees and rooted up huge rotten logs as though it were looking for grubs” (Merrick 1933). Indeed, the Black Bear, in spring “peels off tree bark to get at the inner, or cambium, layer” and “will tear apart rotting logs for grubs, beetles, crickets, and ants” (Whitaker 1996, 705).
The Fouke Monster
Probably the first sighting of what would become known as the “Fouke Monster” after Fouke, Arkansas, near where it was sighted, was in 1953. It was not seen again until 1955 when a squirrel-hunting fourteen-year-old boy fired at it with birdshot.
He described the monster as covered in reddish-brown hair or fur, standing upright at a height of some seven feet, and having very long arms. It also had a flat nose that was dark brown. The creature “stretched, sniffing the air,” then started toward the boy, who shot at it. That seemed to have no effect, and the youth ran away. In 1971 hundreds of three-toed, thirteen-and-a-half-inch tracks were found in a bean field and attributed to the monster (Green 1978, 189–191). The Fouke Monster was the inspiration for the Legend of Boggy Creek movies (Coleman and Huyghe 1999, 56–57; Fuller 1972, 24–28). (As an example of careless research in some quarters, one source [Matthews 2008, 110] places Fouke in “Kentucky.”)
Be the tracks as they may, the boy’s description is a pretty good fit for an Ursus americanus (black bear) of cinnamon color. States one bear expert (Herrero 2002, 131–132): “An individual [black] bear’s coat color may range from blond, cinnamon, or light brown to dark chocolate brown or jet black.” (See also Van Wormer 1966, 21.) Significantly, the Fouke Monster stood and sniffed the air; that is common behavior for a bear “trying to sense something” (Herrero 2002, 139), as the creature obviously was attempting in this instance.
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