When one thinks of Bigfoot habitat, Nebraska is probably one of the last places most people think about. The Pacific Northwest, Canada, even the Northeast, sure. But Nebraska? It doesn’t seem like Bigfoot country. But a teenager there has reported seeing a 7-foot tall hairy creature running across the road, and the local sheriff is investigating. The sighting is typical: a large, hairy human-shaped creature crossing the road in front of a driver, disappearing into the woods. A hair sample was found, but of course it’s still being analyzed. While it is unlikely that this is a Sasquatch (and I appreciate them quoting Dr. Jeff Meldrum, and his explanation as to why it’s so unlikely), I do like the fact that the matter is being investigated and the kid wasn’t just ridiculed out of the precinct.
LINCOLN — Before July, Saunders County Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz had never fielded a call about Bigfoot over a lifetime in law enforcement.
Now he has a big mystery on his hands.
Stukenholtz, along with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, investigated a reported sighting of an unidentified “hairy” creature in late July on a country road that parallels the Platte River. A hair sample found at the site was still being analyzed.
A 15-year-old reported seeing the creature, which he said stood about 7 feet tall on two legs as it ran in front of the vehicle the youth was driving about 5:30 a.m. The creature then disappeared into the trees along the river.
Stukenholtz, who became county sheriff six years ago after a long career with the Nebraska State Patrol, said he has no reason to believe the report was a hoax. His office is awaiting a report about hair gathered from the scene, between Morse Bluff and Linwood, about 60 miles west of Omaha.
The sheriff said that even though he thinks it’s highly unlikely that Sasquatch has shown up in Saunders County, his office has an obligation to check out credible reports.
The sighting comes as Sasquatch is enjoying a run in the media spotlight.
“Finding Bigfoot,” a reality show on the Animal Planet cable channel, follows a group of investigators trying to confirm the existence of the 7-foot-tall reclusive giant creatures.
There’s a Sasquatch Music Festival in central Washington, a Sasquatch Brewing Co. in Portland that features Hairy Knuckles Stout, and a string of hilarious TV commercials for a beef jerky company based on the gag “Messin’ with Sasquatch.”
But Bigfoot sightings are no joking matter for some.
Jeff Meldrum, an anthropology and anatomy professor at Idaho State University who has extensively studied Bigfoot sightings, said he’s skeptical of any reports from Nebraska because the state doesn’t have the expansive wilderness necessary for a large primate.
But Meldrum, author of the 2009 book “Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science,” said that despite some Bigfoot hoaxes, people shouldn’t discount that such creatures might exist.
The report wouldn’t be the first for Nebraska, according to the Montana-based Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, which lists reported Sasquatch sightings on its website.
The group lists 14 reported sightings in the state going back to 1957. The most recent sighting listed was in October 2006 at Chadron State Park in northwest Nebraska, where three hikers reported seeing an “unusually tall” two-legged animal covered from head to toe in black fur.
There were also “various sightings” listed from August 2005 “near the Missouri River” close to Omaha.
The website does not list who saw the creatures. The organization has four Nebraska-based investigators, but an official with the group said they have not probed the Platte River sighting because it was not reported to them.
Meldrum, the Bigfoot author, said he’s skeptical about the Nebraska sighting because it could not be corroborated by another person.
But Meldrum said he’s convinced that in the Pacific Northwest and other heavily wooded U.S. areas with proper rainfall there might be a “relic population of a rare primate.”
Meanwhile, rumors are flying in the Linwood-Morse Bluff area that tracks were found and that people have heard unexplained screams.
No tracks were found, according to Conservation Officer Mark Luben of Game and Parks, who investigated the Bigfoot report.
The officer said he turned over the matter to the Sheriff’s Office once he determined the report did not involve a game or nongame animal under the agency’s jurisdiction.
Luben said he has fielded two previous reports of Bigfoot sightings in his nearly 24 years with Game and Parks. One, he said, turned out to be a rabbit that had left big tracks in the snow. The tracks were misidentified by a Dwight-area resident who had recently moved to the area from Chicago.
Luben and Stukenholtz both said the teen who reported the creature sighting does not want to be identified or interviewed.
“When anyone ever says the term (Bigfoot), it’s immediately followed up by a joke,” Stukenholtz said. “They’re certainly not looking for any public ridicule.”
Every state in the Union has reports of Bigfoot, but that doesn’t mean that people are actually seeing Bigfoot in all of these places. Misidentifications probably account for a large number of these sightings, as people can see all sorts of things in the woods. But just because there are woods doesn’t mean that a population of Bigfoot could thrive in them. I’m guessing this story will turn out to be just another anectode, and the hair sample will come back a something known in the area.