Sat. Feb 24th, 2024
Beyond the campfire light

Today’s post comes from park naturalist Roger LaFontaine, a classically trained biologist and amateur Sasquatch researcher. He has spent almost two decades researching and documenting the emergence of the Sasquatch in Ontario.

I’ve always been interested in creatures that others didn’t like: invertebrates under a log, salamanders on the ground, nocturnal critters, and even a shy mammal that lingers beyond the light of my campfire.

My interest in dark creatures began many years ago when I found a strange footprint along a river bank…

Roger with plasterResearcher Roger LaFontaine with a footprint of a suspected juvenile Sasquatch from northeastern Ontario.

Do unknown species live in the Ontario wild?

Despite being Canada’s most populous province with heavily industrialized regions, Ontario is still a pretty wild place.

forest

Ontario Parks has been protecting important areas since 1893, and the more than 330 provincial parks cover approximately 10% of the province. These protected areas offer opportunities to preserve habitats in a rapidly urbanizing world and conduct important research, especially on species at risk.

While many parks have detailed inventories of their flora and fauna, others may never be fully catalogued.

And some species are exceptionally difficult to detect.

The case of the Sasquatch

Also known as “Bigfoot,” the Sasquatch is described as a large, hairy ape, most commonly known to inhabit western Canada. Sightings do occur in Ontario, often by credible eyewitnesses. However, while we can all imagine the shape or silhouette of Sasquatch, few of us have seen the reality.

Investigator searches for evidence of SasquatchResearcher searching for evidence of Sasquatch in the vast landscape. The space where two habitats meet (called an “ecotone”) is a good place to observe wildlife.

Researchers believe that Sasquatch is a relict species of giant ape, Gigantopithecus negroi, Known from Asian fossils dating back several million years. It is believed that, like many other North American animals, including elk, Gigantopithecus It crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Asia to North America during the Pleistocene.

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Sasquatch is usually described as being two to three meters tall, with long arms, hunched shoulders, no neck, and a bowed head. The very hairy body can vary in color, with black, dark to light brown, golden, and even white fur.

sasquatch sightings

sticksIntricate stick sculpture, perhaps a Sasquatch sign (central Ontario)

In many parks, campers have reported sightings to staff, mostly as fleeting glimpses of a giant ape running along a trail, shuttle, or road. From time to time strange noises are heard around a campfire. Others simply report the “feeling of being watched” while in the woods.

Other signs the Sasquatch leaves behind include piles of carefully made sticks, scratches on trees, and of course, huge human footprints in the mud or snow.

sasquatch tracksSupposed Sasquatch tracks in shallow snow (left). Note the long stride and the large size of the prints. On the right, notice the spread of the toes and the gradual taper toward the heel.

While difficult to substantiate, these observations are truly valuable to Sasquatch researchers.

What do we know? Sasquatch:

  • Are omnivorefeeding on plants, roots, berries, fungi and, when available, meat
  • Are social creatures, often traveling in small groups or families. Many observations are made first of a juvenile Sasquatch, then of a parent caring for or carrying it.
  • Are quite capable of hiding near humans, despite its size. They are also very fast and can disappear silently into dense undergrowth. Many Sasquatches engage in “tree peeping” (hiding behind or among trees).

Blue Lake Provincial Park -The “tree-gazing” behavior alters the contour of the Sasquatch, making it difficult to detect.

  • Communicate through vocalizations.. They may even possess a voice and language not unlike those of humans.
  • Maintain a naturally low population, scattered in the landscape. They may be semi-nomadic to avoid overexploitation or degradation of their habitat.
  • Are curiosity about humans and our activitiesas they are documented to observe us from safe vantage points and have historically been shown to be completely harmless to humans.
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Does the Sasquatch need our protection?

In conservation, some species are “keystone species,” that is, those ecological effect of one species maintains many habitat characteristics important to a variety of others.

beaver streamFor “keystone species,” think beavers: a single beaver dam changes the landscape, creating habitat for a host of other plants and creatures.

Other species are “umbrella species”: protection and conservation of one species protects a multitude of others.

3 wolvesFor “umbrella species,” think wolves: Protecting large swathes of wilderness directly benefits wolves, but also supports all the other organisms living in that landscape.

While the Sasquatch has not been formally listed in any park’s official life science inventories, it is believed to inhabit some of the province’s most remote parks and requires large protected areas to survive.

Ontario Desert

Researcher Dr. Pat “Squatchy” Pratt suggests that Sasquatch may be the ultimate emblem of conservation:

“By preserving large, intact forests that could support a Sasquatch population, we can ultimately protect all the species that live there – Sasquatch acts as a cornerstone and umbrella species. While I have very little evidence of the existence of the Sasquatch, there can be no possibility of it existing without sufficient habitat. “I’d rather live in Ontario that has enough wild places for Sasquatch to live, even if it’s within the realm of possibility.”

Sasquatch is perhaps among the most vulnerable species at risk. We know very little about their ecology, distribution or habitat needs. No formal research has been done on Sasquatch, as even open-minded scientists fear losing funding over belief in a species that most have declared a myth or hoax.

It depends on you

Our parks are not just for human recreation; They also maintain the ecological integrity of our landscape.

The next time you go camping or hiking, just remember: you may be sharing the landscape with Sasquatch. Follow our Ecological Integrity Checklist to ensure you protect Ontario’s wild spaces.

And don’t be afraid. Just like you, Sasquatch is there to “get away from it all.” So if he gets the feeling he’s being watched, check to make sure he’s exploring the park responsibly and give a thumbs up to the tree line.