Sunday, October 25, 1998

There’s Science To Finding Bigfoot

By Rick Baker

Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana

ISU professor brings scientific methods to search for man-beast In a Tupperware container deep inside an Illinois State University refrigerator lie a few wisps of fur that could hold evidence of whether the legendary Bigfoot lives.

More likely, the hair is that of a black bear, says professor Angelo Capparella.

Regardless of the DNA test results, the fur samples are part of what Capparella said is the first expedition for Bigfoot to use scientific methodology.

The phenomenon of Bigfoot dates back to the 1950s, when loggers clearing roads in Northern California’s Six Rivers National Forest heard the eerie howls and found the massive footprints that led the Bigfoot name.

Since then, thousands of devotees have tried to prove the creature’s existence.

But Capparella, a slight man with glasses, is a scientist. He’s made his career discovering new species of animals – specifically birds, such as the three previously unrecorded species of birds he’s found in expeditions to South America. Science, he said, can bring “rigor and respectability” to the quest for Bigfoot.

Personally, he is reserving judgment on the question.

“It strains the imagination to think there’s a large undiscovered primate out there. I’m just as skeptical as anyone,” Capparella said. “But after all these years of reports no one’s tried to apply these scientific methods.”

Specifically, Capparella is tracking evidence: looking for waste and hair, checking if reported sightings coincide with the flowering stages of plants that could be food sources.

“The ultimate specimen we’re looking for is a DNA sample,” Capparella said. DNA samples are compared to existing animals to see if they match any other species.

“That can tell us if we’re dealing with something new here we’ve never seen before, and where in evolution it fits,” he said.

On an expedition organized by the International Society of Cryptozoology, a Tucson, Ariz.,- based group, Capparella and two others spent five weeks in California’s Bluff Creek Canyon, where a 1967 film captured the image of an upright, lumbering and furry creature.