People have been reporting evidence of Bigfoot for several hundred years. Its other nickname, “Sasquatch,” is in the language of the Salish Peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. But sightings of Bigfoot are by no means confined to that region.
Check out a map of Bigfoot sightings. It also includes the eastern United States with gaps in the western deserts and the Midwest. Wait, doesn’t that look a lot like the distribution on this map showing the known range of the American black bear (Ursus americanus)? Indeed!
And a recent study confirms that the similarity is not likely accidental. After decades of false identities of hairs, poop, or other signs of bigfoot, the study authors proposed that Bigfoot has a very simple explanation. In a regression they found a statistical correlation between Bigfoot sightings and black bear populations. (Compare this hilarious bear footage to the "Best of Bigfootage," and you be the judge.)
Regardless, bears do a lot of Bigfoot-like behaviors, like lurking in the woods and swaying back and forth. Bears rub themselves against trees maybe to scratch an itch or to leave odorous pheromones behind to message other bears.
A new study, noted that tree rubbing — along with clawing and debarking that bears tend to do — releases resins that stick to bear fur and may serve as insect repellents. The researchers gave ticks a choice in a tube of tree resin on one side and water on the other and observed that their preference was clear. Says study author Agnes Blaise, “It was really obvious they [ticks] hated the beech tar. Some were really speedy, running around and hiding under the water.”
Returning to Bigfoot footage, check out the pale coloration on this animal. So, maybe sightings of the dark Bigfoots are really black bears, whereas other sightings are legit. Uh, no. The fur of black bears ranges from dark to a cinnamon brown, grayish, or even blond.
Researchers recently figured out the mechanism behind the color variation. In the 2022 study, they focused on the cinnamon color that’s especially common in the American southwest and uncovered a genetic mutation that decreased the bears’ eumelanin (black or brown pigment), allowing more of the pheomelanin (red or yellow pigment) to show. And the researchers hypothesize that it evolved for camouflage.
“Based on its wide range today, the TYRP1R153C mutation that arose in black bears over 9,000 years ago probably gave an advantage to the cinnamon [colored] bears,” says study author Emily Puckett.
Whether you encounter a pale Bigfoot or a cinnamon black bear, there’s reason for caution. Watch how store employees react to a 500-pound hulking, furry intruder.