Today, in a great Skype interview from the Discovery offices in New York, Matt Moneymaker, president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization and star of Finding Bigfoot, answered some questions that Huliq readers have pondered in the comment sections of previous Huliq articles about the hit Animal Planet series.
Q: On the show, the team often finds areas that are deemed “squatchy,” but after a day or two of observation, the hunt is over. Are there times when the hunt may be longer than what the scope of the TV show is able to show viewers?
There’s been a few episodes where we’ve stayed longer. We’ve stayed two weeks or two and a half weeks rather than nine days. And, on those occasions, we’ve gotten better recordings, etc. I was just at dinner with some of them last night, and we were talking about that, how we need to—once we’ve got a fix on an area—we need to stay a few more days.
And, he explains, the production of the show sets limits and necessarily creates constraints on how long they can be at any given location.
So far, it’s been on the production side. They have to spend money for every day they have the crew out there, and so the limitations come from them, not from us. We’d like to stay a little longer, and when we have, like in Australia and northern California, we’ve had better stuff happen. And, maybe even better stuff would have happened if we’d stayed longer than that. But, when you’re on the road, you go from location to location, the plane tickets are already bought, the cars are already reserved, everything is already set up. So, one thing with TV production, you have to stay on schedule.
What we can do is kind of learn from our mistakes, so to speak, but that’s one of them: We have to stay longer if we’re gonna get something.
Q: Why not set up motion-detecting cameras in the areas you have searched on the show?
We’ve used cameras for a long time, and they work, they’re good, but you have to be able to go back and get them. And, if you leave cameras too long in the field—unless it’s on private property or they are really well-hidden—they’ll get stolen. We’d be losing a lot of money if we did it that way but, moreover, it’s not being able to go back and retrieve them.
Matt explained that he has, in the past, asked local people to go back and retrieve them, but, laughs that he has hidden them so well that they could not be found. “So, to make them so they can’t be stolen, you’re also making them so they are hard to find,” he laughed, shrugging.
Q: People seem to have most of their “sightings” during the day; are searches carried out during the day, as well?
We have to draw them, get them to come to us. When people see them during the day, it’s random happenstance, like they are literally crossing paths. We don’t have time to just wander around. We have to draw them toward us. We know from past experience that if you do that at night, in the dark, they will approach a lot closer. They feel a lot more comfortable under the cloak of darkness than in the daytime.
Also, they can see you from further away and see what you are. We’re going out there, imitating their sounds, they’re curious. We’re making them think that we might one of them, and they have to get much closer to see that. In daytime they wouldn’t, but at nighttime they do, and that’s when they might get close enough for us to film them with a thermal camera.
Q: Have you ever found Bigfoot scat/droppings?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. When we’ve been shooting the show we haven’t, but I was doing this for years before that, and found scat several times that I’m pretty sure belonged to these animals. People assume you can get DNA out of scat, but it’s not as easy as you think. You can get DNA from very, very, very fresh scat, and even then it’s a process, because there is so much bacteria in scat, and they’d have to be able to pull out epithelial cells from like the intestinal lining. It’s just not easy. Scientists, they want to try and get DNA from hair; they don’t want to try and pull it out of scat.
Q: Of course, it is not the team’s intention to ever hurt a Bigfoot. But, does the team carry a tranquilizer gun, if not for research purposes, then perhaps for protection?
No. We’re really trying to film them. We’re not trying to tranquilize them or shoot them or to catch them. To tranquilize one, you’d have to be able to get fairly close to one, and obviously have to see it pretty well. If we can do that, then we can film them, and we’d be happy with that. Just put it this way: If you can’t get close enough to film one, you’re not going to be able to tranquilize one, either, he laughed. So, it wouldn’t help.
Q: Some people believe that Bigfoot is a human ancestor; you believe it to be a species of ape. Why one versus the other?
I think that by knowing the history of it … sightings tend to radiate out of Southeast Asia, down in the same part of the world where orangutans are from. And, that is where Gigantopithecus was from. I’ve always thought that their descendants are probably on the same line of apes as Gigantopithecus. I don’t think they are human ancestors, because they certainly wouldn’t be something like Neanderthal or any of the recent ancestors, because they don’t use fire; they don’t make tools; they don’t live in big groups; the way the young ones climb around in trees is much more like an ape than like any kind of a human. It’s really more like an ape that the adults walks upright than like a human that just grew giant and grew hair.
But, they are intelligent. For their lifestyle, they are very smart, but apparently they don’t need to do a lot of the things humans need to do. But, if they were an offshoot of a human line, I think you’d see additional things about them that you don’t see. Like, I think they would appear in larger numbers, and I think they would make some kind of tools. But, at least the numbers of them in a group—when you find tracks, it’s usually never more than three sizes ... most of the time, tracks are by themselves. Even human ancestors lived in small tribes—family groups, there might be 10, 12, 20—and these animals, there’s nothing to indicate there are ever that many in one place.
Q: Most apes are primarily vegetarians, although some, like the chimpanzee, may include meat in their diets. Why do you feel that the Bigfoot does include meat in its diet?
For a long time, I had no reason to know one way or another. But, when I lived in Ohio … in the early ’90s … I put ads in the newspapers asking for sighting reports or any information … the farmers that would call me, they asked me, do these things go after deer, because they kept finding these deer carcasses, and they couldn’t find out how they were killed. It looked like all their guts were pulled out, but they weren’t shot by anything, they didn’t have any bite marks. And, that was my first inkling that yes, they might go after deer. But, then I found the carcasses myself in other places. And, then we just noticed we heard other stories of people seeing them pulling deer, road kill deer, off the road and walking away with them. So, it was a whole bunch of observations—observations by other people and by myself.
Then, when we started doing expeditions, one of the formulas for figuring out where to go, once we had sightings plotted, we would figure out where deer would be, where the deer were concentrated, and that’s where we would go. And, that’s when we would get these things to come around. So, they were behaving a lot like predators, and they were predators in areas where there were deer. It was kind of circumstantial, but, yeah, that’s probably what they do.
Also, animals that are vegetarians, they have a whole different digestive system. Like gorillas, these big pot-belly critters, because they need it to digest all this food. They [Bigfoot] kinda have the body shape of humans; that would be something that would be omnivorous, not something that is mainly a plant eater, because an animal that size, they’d have to eat so many plants, that they would get that big belly like gorillas or orangutans, that are purely vegetarians.
Q: How do you think the deer are incorporated into their diets?
What we found in the deer carcasses is that the liver was always missing, also the gallbladder. It seemed liked there were particular internal organs they were after, and the liver would be a good thing, because it’s full of glycogen and lipids and Vitamin A; it’s got all of these things that would help, especially the nocturnal animal. It’s just the biggest score. Also, if you don’t have canine teeth, it’s difficult to rip through and chew raw muscle, but a liver you could just bite right into. For the amount of energy they would have to expend, generally the biggest score is just those internal organs, again, the liver, gallbladder—oily organs would be the choicest part of the animal for them.
Q: How are town hall meetings advertised?
They’ll put an ad in a paper or at a radio station, telling people if they want to attend, we’ll provide an email address, and they can send an email there and basically get a reservation. We have to limit the number of people who show up, because hundreds more people will show up than will fit in the hall.
This however, is since the show has been on the air, Matt pointed out; previously, they not only advertised for people in the area to just show up, they also contacted people they knew to have had sightings in the area, and let them know that there was going to be a town hall meeting, if they would like to attend.
Q: What is in store for Finding Bigfoot fans this season?
We’re going a couple of international places; we’ve got a lot of good witness stories, a lot of good recordings; I’m not supposed to say all of the other kinds of juicy stuff we got out of it, but we do get some good stuff in this season—including some legit footage we’ve come across.
Beyond the Interview
My personal impression of Matt Moneymaker is that he is as enthusiastic “in person” as he is on television. He projects sincerity regarding both his research and his beliefs about the existence of these animals. He is also presents himself as being very intelligent, and is well-spoken about how and why he believes what he believes to be true regarding the existence of Bigfoot.
One of my favorite things about the BFRO team on Finding Bigfoot is that they are so completely and enthusiastically convinced that they WILL find a Bigfoot. Today is a new day, and it is another day to go forward with the search. And, after talking with Matt, it is clear that he realizes viewers need to see more of the “why” behind the search, along with the search itself, in order to communicate effectively just what Finding Bigfoot is all about. So, don’t be surprised if Season Three of Finding Bigfoot gives fans a better look into the reasons for the search, in addition to providing an insider’s view of the search itself.
Stay tuned and find out more on the season premiere of Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet, this Sunday, November 11, at 10 p.m. E/P.
Image: Animal Planet