This unretouched image is part of a frame from several seconds of film shot in Del Norte County, Calif., in 1967. It’s one of the scraps of physical evidence of the possible existence of Bigfoot, alias Sasquatch.  (Associated Press)

As we reported last week, a large, dark and very hairy beast has been seen walking on its hind legs through New Jersey neighborhoods for the third summer in a row. It’s clear that this being is no human. What could it be?

In this case, video captured by locals has shown that this particular furry walker is a black bear — one nicknamed Pedals for his bipedal gait, which he uses because his front paws are injured.

But the strange sight prompted more than one Washington Post employee and reader to ask this question: Could the thousands of reported sightings of bigfoot over the years actually have been walking bears?

People discussing Pedals on Reddit asked or concluded the same thing. So did people on Twitter.

We here at Animalia aren’t authorities on Bigfoot, nor do we vouch for its existence. So we reached out to the experts for some analysis. Bigfoot experts, that is.

And their response could be described as a big, collective eye roll. It turns out that bigfoot believers have heard this idea a million times — because Pedals isn’t the first bear to be seen walking upright — and they have responses ready to shoot it down.

Here’s what Matt Moneymaker, the president of the Bigfoot Field Researchers’ Organization and host of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot,” told us in an e-mail:

Could this explain bigfoot sightings? The short answer is “no”,  not even a little bit. The BFRO has collected thousands of bigfoot-related observations over the years. In not one of those observations was it noted that the witness spotted a figure they thought was a bigfoot but it turned out to be a bear walking on hind legs for an extended period. That would happen quite a bit if it explained even a fraction of bigfoot sightings. On the other hand, it is quite common for witnesses to initially think an upright furry figure is a bear on hind legs until the car gets closer and they realize it is an ape-like figure —  a bigfoot (a type of ape).

No one near Pedals’s territory in the Oak Ridge, N.J., area has reported seeing a bigfoot, he noted. Usually, Moneymaker said, people conclude something is Sasquatch only after they’ve considered, and rejected, all other possible animals.

Here’s a video Moneymaker said illustrates that. It’s a “special video in the annals of bigfoot videos,” he said, because it’s allegedly from a police dashcam and it captures the dialogue of the confused people in the vehicle. Needless to say, The Post cannot independently verify its authenticity.

Matt Knapp, a bigfoot researcher who is co-editor of the website Bigfoot Evidence — which calls itself the “World’s Only 24/7 Bigfoot News Blog” — said people who claim to see a bigfoot generally describe it in the same way. Here are those characteristics, Knapp said:

  • extremely large and covered in hair
  • human-like, with long arms, hands with long fingers, feet similar to humans’ and a flat face
  • up to 10 feet tall and weighing several hundred pounds
  • no obvious ears
  • broad shoulders

These, on the other hand, are bears’ physical attributes, Knapp said:

  • protruding snouts
  • ears on the top of their head
  • no clear shoulders when standing

A grizzly bear stands up at the St-Felicien Wildlife Zoo in St-Felicien, Quebec. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

“Skeptics will often try to explain away bigfoot sightings as misidentification of bears, which certainly in some cases they may be, but in general, bears and bigfoot look nothing like one another, according to eyewitness descriptions,” Knapp wrote in an e-mail. “Bigfoot, or sasquatch, seem to be primates based on their physical description.”

Knapp continued:

Another thing to keep in mind is that from the time we are children, we are shown images of bears. Teddy bears, books, cartoons, television shows, movies, the zoo. Even someone who lives in the city their entire life most likely knows exactly what a bear looks like from a very early age. If they were to see a bear in the wild, even the upright walking bear from New Jersey, they would instantly recognize it as a bear. Oftentimes, bigfoot witnesses have a difficult time grasping what they’ve seen. They are unsure of what they’ve actually witnessed because it doesn’t fit any images of things they’ve seen before. The only thing it comes close to matching, is a bigfoot. Bigfoot isn’t supposed to exist, so they sometimes struggle with their own experience. What you don’t hear them say is that it looked like a bear walking on two legs.

The bigfoot skeptics among you probably won’t be convinced by these arguments. But now you know that they exist — and the truth, as they say, is out there. Just maybe not in a grassy back yard in New Jersey.

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