What is behind Bigfoot sightings? (Other than Bigfoot…) (Picture: Getty)
A study that claims to have solved the mystery of Bigfoot may have actually just made the whole story even more intriguing.
And while scientists love to say ‘correlation doesn’t mean causation’, this does seem like pretty damning evidence for the already sketchy myth.
The study, written by Leeds University student Floe Foxon, also found evidence of Bigfoot sightings in Florida, where there are far fewer black bears but loads of sightings.
Proof that Bigfoot – or the sasquatch – is actually not a black bear?
Let’s take a step back.
Are black bears the real Bigfoot? (Picture: Getty)
A possible link between Bigfoot and bears was first established by Professor Michael Hickerson and his colleagues in a 2009 study focusing on the Pacific Northwest – an area full of bears and forests.
Speaking to Live Science 15 years on, he said: ‘Correlation doesn’t mean causation but there might be so much correlation between black bears and Bigfoot sightings in most areas that the [simplest] explanation is people misidentifying bears as sasquatches.’
In a follow-up study, MSc student Floe Foxon expanded the range of bears crossed with Bigfoot sightings, assessing all of the US and Canada.
Sure enough, where there were more bears, there were more Bigfoot sightings. In fact, for every extra 1,000 bears, there was a 4% increase in sasquatch spots. On average, there were 5,000 bears per sighting.
Bigfoot sightings tend to be higher where there are more black bears (Picture: Getty)
But there are only 4,000 black bears in Florida, yet the area has one of the highest numbers of sightings. Has Bigfoot joined the retired classes and decamped to the Sunshine State?
Ms Foxon suggests not.
One explanation could be that while there are fewer black bears in Florida, there are a lot more people – almost 22 million, compared to less than eight million in Washington state, which has almost as many sightings.
This increases the likelihood of a person-bear interaction, and the potential for that person to interpret said bear as a mythical human-like ape.
In addition, Florida also has much less forest cover, meaning bears have fewer places to hide and so are more likely to be spotted.
Some argue bigfoot is the last member of Gigantopithecus blacki, a species of giant ape (Picture: Garcia/Joannes-Boyau)
Of course, black bears out for a wander is much less fun than the idea of Bigfoot, which has been a popular urban legend in the US for decades.
Just last October footage emerged of an apparent Bigfoot searching for food alongside a railway in a remote Colorado forest. Unfortunately for the human dressed up in a sasquatch costume, smartphones nowadays make it much easier to spot an obvious hoax than in the olden days.
And if not a person in a budget Chewbacca outfit or a black bear, one other popular theory is that Bigfoot is the sole surviving member of Gigantopithecus blacki, a now-extinct species of 10-foot-tall apes that once roamed the forests of China.
Will we ever know for sure? It depends on how sceptical you are, but from a scientific point of view, nothing can ever be said with absolute 100% certainty…