TV Bigfoot chasers expanding search to Kansas

1/18/2013

By AMY BICKEL

By AMY BICKEL

Special to The Telegram

It's hard enough to find the elusive mountain lion in the Kansas wild.

But it's not the puma that has a national television crew converging on Kansas this month. Instead, they are searching for a giant camera-shy, hairy ape-man.

Some call him Sasquatch. Others Yeti, Yowie and the Abominable Snowman.

Greg Wood calls him Bigfoot.

He lives, it appears, near Cheney Reservoir, at least, that is where Wood snapped a photograph of a brown, fuzzy — um — something.

Wood, The News' webmaster from Burrton, took the photo in February 2012 and posted it on his blog, "Way Off the Trail." He titled it Bigfoot.

Now, the object in the photo has drawn the attention from producers of the Animal Planet series Finding Bigfoot, with the cast and crew filming in the region over the next few weeks.

"I had no idea, no clue it would be this big," Wood said Wednesday.

An avid hiker, Wood said it is his first sighting.

It appears to be Reno County's first sighting, as well.

Bigfoot stories have circulated for centuries. Native Americans even told stories around their campfires of an ape-like being.

Most dispel it as a myth, just like the leprechaun and Easter bunny.

Yet, there are a few who remain undeterred by the taunting naysayer, such as the researchers with the television program. This small but enthusiastic group claims there is enough evidential proof that a primate human exists.

An adult Bigfoot is said to be between 7 to 10 feet in height and 10 to 15 percent of encounters have a "disagreeable stench," according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.

Matt Moneymaker, the BFRO's president, is part of the cast Wood will meet, along with researchers James "Bobo" Fay and Cliff Barackman, as well as skeptical scientist Ranae Holland. The show features the four searching North America for Bigfoot — examining videos, footprints and photos like Wood's with the goal to capture proof.

The show is in its third season and airs at 10 p.m. on Sundays.

Wood signed a nondisclosure contract, noting he couldn't say much about the upcoming shoot. Show Producer Sean Mantooth said it would be the show's first time in Kansas.

"It was Greg's photo that brought us here," he said, but added that Wood would be one of several Kansas residents featured in the segment that could air as soon as this summer.

"A lot of people have seen them in Kansas, and we'll be out looking for them," Mantooth said.

In fact, there have been more than 30 sightings in Kansas, according to Moneymaker's Bigfoot organization. The most recent was in June by a Pratt County couple.

Their encounter is chronicled on the organization's website.

"We were returning home from Pratt. Heading east on Highway 54 approximately 5 miles, we saw a creature about 200 yards south of the highway standing upright. It was maybe 9 or 10 feet tall. This was at about 1:30 p.m. It was looking back toward the highway as we passed it then ran southeast toward a stand of trees. I estimate its stride at about 5 or 6 feet at a leisurely gate. Telling my wife and daughter what I was seeing, my wife looked over and saw the same thing I did."

But does Bigfoot really exist, and in Kansas?

"I like to say I don't not believe," said Mantooth. "I rule out nothing."

Wood himself can only say "anything is possible."

But in the newsroom Wednesday, talk was skeptical.

"It bares the uncanny likeness of a stump," said Managing Editor Mary Rintoul.

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