Local bigfoot believers have plenty to be excited about. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (bfro.net) vetted three different western Montana sightings within the last year and found all to be credible. A new Spike TV reality show called “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty” is scheduled to debut in January and features nine teams hunting the alleged species throughout the Pacific Northwest. And Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” recently filmed an episode outside Bozeman, checking out suspicious footprints and interviewing witnesses who claim to have seen the elusive creature in the area.
Matt Moneymaker, the founder of BFRO and host of “Finding Bigfoot,” says this type of increased attention will only help to convince skeptics of what he’s been preaching for decades: “There are bigfoots and they are here to stay.” We caught up with Moneymaker to talk about the bigfoot legend and the probability of finding one in the Rocky Mountain West.
BFRO takes great pride in “scientifically investigating” alleged sightings. What’s your process for assessing reports?
Matt Moneymaker: If you talk to enough eyewitnesses, it isn’t difficult to figure out which ones are lying and which ones at least believe what they’re telling you. The whole feel of the conversation is different than when you’re talking to someone who’s making something up. I can’t get too much into specifics, though, because I wouldn’t want hoaxsters to know what we’re looking for. What I can tell you is we have various levels of investigating. We talk to the witness on the phone. We meet the witness in person. We talk with the person in the place that [the sighting] happened. By that point we’ve heard the story enough times where you can hear if certain things change.
How many investigators does BFRO have?
MM: About 250 take on the responsibility of following up on reports. It’s important for us to have enough people to meet demand because once you’ve seen a bigfoot, you usually want to tell your story as soon as possible.
A lot of people flat-out don’t believe you or what you’re doing. How do you respond to them?
MM: Doubters and skeptics are very uninformed. They’ve been more exposed to the cartoon commercialization of bigfoot, and they mistakenly think that that’s what we believe. It’s incorrect. Listen, I’ve stood 15 feet away from a bigfoot. I had one walk up to me, growling, before it turned and left. Until you see something like that and it’s just an abstract thing, you’re going to have doubts.
What determines people’s beliefs are the beliefs of their peers and their parents. If all the people around you think that there is no such thing as bigfoot, then you’re going to tend to believe that. Most people are not going to pursue this on their own like I did.
Most people think bigfoots don’t exist, and they’re totally wrong. Most people also think there’s such a thing as God and Jesus, and they’re wrong about that too.
You mention the cartoon commercialization. What are some common misperceptions about bigfoot?
MM: The most common is that there’s only one. That’s not what we believe. Also, that they tend to attack or menace people or that they partake in some of the scenarios you see in the Jack Link’s [beef jerky] commercials. Any sort of elaborate interaction between the bigfoot or the witness is unlikely. A real, honest-to-god encounter with a bigfoot doesn’t last very long. It’s just like any other animal. They’re fairly rare, nocturnal, and they don’t want anything at all to do with humans.
So, do you consider Montana prime sasquatch habitat?
MM: Absolutely, and there’s a particular reason: the number of deer and elk and pronghorn in the area. It’s a good environment to provide the hoofed animals that are really the staple of a bigfoot diet. We believe they’re in the Bozeman area, around Yellowstone, and also in and around Missoula. We have the reports. We know they’re there.