DNA of North American Bigfoot

Michael Trachtengerts

The following text on DNA of North American Bigfoot was compiled with help of mail letters and discussions with Bobbie Short, William Duncan, Chris Murphy, Dmitri Bayanov, and some other researchers, whose names are mentioned in this text.

The History Channel in the U.S made up the Monster Quest documentary serial including 13 episodes on various topics. The one concerned us was aired November 7, 2007. It showed how Bigfoot visited remote fishing camp in Canada and some tissue of it and other materials for DNA research were obtained.

Scott Mosbeck owner of the Snelgrove Lodge, 250 miles north of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada rents out a single summer cabin fishing camp on remote Snelgrove Lake... this camp is heavily wooded accessible only by float plane in virtual uncharted territory. 

Evidently disturbed, either by the cabin itself or the intrusion of fisherman into his territory, a sasquatch gained entry during the off-season by force, completely trashing the interior of the cabin, tearing bathroom sink basin off the wall, clearing shelves of their content and generally destroying the inside of the building in 2002.  Black bear specialist, wildlife biologist Lynn Rogers from Ely, Minnesota, ruled out destruction by a black bear; that time of year the bears would be in hibernation.

To deter the raging Sasquatch from entering the summer cabin again, Mosbeck devised a plan whereby he would place a “nail board” in front of the cabin door on the ground; nail side up, to stop the creature from entering again and subsequent mayhem and pillaging. This board however did not have a bed of sharp nails sticking up out of it; it had what appeared to be dozens and dozens of good three-inch sharp-pointed threaded screws driven through a one-inch thick plywood leaving a good two-inches to be plunged into the bottom of the Sasquatch foot.  Stepping on such a bed of sharp screws with presumably the weight of a full grown male sasquatch would severely cripple the individual to such a degree as to deter it from cabin entry and perhaps end its hunting for survival capabilities or in any case give it a terminal case of blood poisoning… a really miserably way to end its life.

Still from the documentary that imitates approach of a Sasquatch to the cabin door with a nailed board in front of it.


Long story short:

Dr. Curt Nelson, biologist from the University of Minnesota and anthropologist Dr. Jeff Meldrum, from the University of Idaho arrived on the scene with camera crew in tow to inspect the outline of a  bloody footprint on the “screw board” and of course, collect from it, small portions of foot tissue and blood for DNA sequencing. Blood, tissue and hair were found.

The line on the board shows group of screws with marks of blood.

Mitochondrial is the most accurate method known for species identification and it should be able to determine if a hair sample is that of a man or nonhuman primate. The hair sample looked human, (uncut) but human hair has a medulla, a spongy mass of material in the center of the hair’s core. Hair presumptive for Sasquatch looked human but did not have a medulla; the hair sample matched no known primate and no animal known to science, certainly not bear  according to the program. This alone is not new to research.

They were able to extract DNA from the tissue found on the threaded bloody screws and found it was identical to human DNA, except it had one nucleotide polymorphism .....that nucleotide that was different, it was one shared with chimpanzees. They were able to extract DNA; it was primate DNA; they knew they were looking at the DNA structure of a sasquatch.  The DNA said ‘primate’ but not quite human and not quite non-human primate... just one of the base pairs is deviated from ours! (Bobbie Short)

William Duncan paid attention to some details of the case.

My wife Cathy and I finally had a chance to view the program last night.  Our impressions:

1)  The board with protruding screws was placed in front of the doorway of the cabin in 2003, in response to recurring entrance of and damage to the place by, presumably, a black bear.  The cabin is in upper Ontario (no brown bears, although I would question whether or not a polar bear might show up now and then), 200 miles from the nearest town (which has 10,000 people).  The board trick is apparently common up there as a way to deter bears from entering cabins, which are only accessible to people a few weeks out of the year.

2)  On viewing video taken for insurance purposes of the cabin damage, a wildlife biologist noted that the wholesale rampaging was unlike what is expected from a bear, and the refrigerator was not torn open for access to its insulation, which to bears smells like formic acid associated with ants' nests.  Later this same biologist studied hair obtained by Nelson and Meldrum from the board and noted that it looked human, matched no known North American mammal, but lacked the medulla expected in human hair and had a naturally blunt, not cut, end.  Basically, it matched Henner's standard for presumptive sasquatch hair.  Side note:  The type and degree of cabin damage was virtually identical to what I observed at the mountain cabin owned by Jan Carter's mother-in-law in Tennessee, where people had abandoned the place along with clothing, food and new children's bicycles, reportedly out of fear.  I witnessed repeated wood knocking in the vicinity of this cabin.

3)  The board was propped against the house and left there for two years after the owner found it with bloodstains on it.  Meldrum and Nelson arrived to check things out (how they learned of the events is not explained) and discovered that the underside of the board retained a partial bloodstain defining a footprint likely to total 18 inches, some hairs, and some tissue adhering to the screws.

4) After several days there, with the usual reliance on stringing camera traps all over the place (a surefire way to keep sasquatches at a distance, in my opinion), the group of videographers (it WAS Doug Hajicek and his group) had a rock thrown at them while one urinated from the cabin porch on their last night there.  When they threw a rock back into the woods, another was thrown at them.  It landed on the roof and was recovered the next day (a small-to-medium sized stone).  Thereafter they retreated inside the cabin, where they noted that they were rather alarmed for the first time. 

5)  The tissue and blood samples were first examined for DNA by Dr. Todd Disotel.  He could find NO DNA and said he thought it had all been degraded.  Then Dr. Nelson (a microbiologist) tried his hand at it, concluded that something was inhibiting the testing, and isolated out the galvanizing substance from the screws.  Then he was able to obtain DNA and sequence it.  His finding was for human, but with one variance that appears in chimpanzee, not human, DNA.  Dr. Nelson said that he will perform additional tests over the next year, and that he thinks perhaps his results may show Bigfoot to be some sort of human.  Meldrum was not quoted at all on the DNA results.

In conclusion, and to clear up some points, Meldrum and Nelson were at the cabin and collected the samples no earlier than 2005.  Disotel was unable to get any DNA results, while Nelson, by further refining the sample, got very compelling results.  Meldrum was never quoted on the subject of the DNA results.

Regarding contamination:  A DNA expert at Wayne State University analyzed Carter Farm hair several years ago and concluded that sasquatches may be some sort of humans.  He also deliberately contaminated dog and cat hair with human DNA and the result still was positive for the source species (dog or cat), not for human.  In other words, if there was any old DNA on the screws that was not human, perhaps bear, it should have shown up for Nelson if it wasn't completely degraded.  Both Meldrum and Nelson remarked during the filming that the blood and tissue samples appeared easily still intact enough to yield DNA.  You have to suspect that the DNA Nelson found came from the source species, not from contamination.

Likewise, scat collected in 2002 by me under clean conditions from an abandoned barn loft at the Carter Farm yielded dog, bat and human DNA.  The loft was inaccessible to dogs, there were dead dogs, one skeletonized and hanging in a tree, in the vicinity, and something had left extensive piles of roughly human-sized scat in the loft.  Under these circumstances it is not unwarranted to conclude that something with human DNA was eating dogs and using the barn loft as a latrine, activities not associated with Homo sapiens sapiens as we know them.

The new findings support the earlier findings.  Once again, it doesn't make much sense to continue to try to catch John Green's (and Jeff Meldrum's) solitary dumb ape when the situational and genetic evidence both strongly point to a much smarter quarry.

Jeff Meldrum gave such answers to Dmitri Bayanov's questions:

1. Why did it take so long to announce the breakthrough result?

It is not really "breakthrough."  We are talking about a mere 300 base pair sequence. This is extremely small sample -- nothing near a publishable result which would be many thousands of nucleotides.  I was unaware that Curt felt confident that more sequence could be attained. I need to discuss this with him as well as see to follow-up of the hair identification

2. How solid is the lab that did the DNA testing? Did other labs confirm the finding? Will it be challenged by skeptics?

Curt is an excellent scientist and very capable. Of course it will be challenged. It is extremely preliminary and tentative.  The best we could hope is that it will spark some interest and possible attract some funding to follow-up.

3. Will you come up with a formal statement on this achievement? When?

I am not a molecular biologist and have no direct involvement in the analysis, therefore I could only repeat what Curt has already stated on the documentary.  I will discuss with him the prospect of at least a discussion in the RHI Newsletter.  I have been swamped with symposia and conferences and have fallen behind, but intend to have the web portal up during the winter break between semesters.

At last we in Moscow got DVD  with this documentary. Dmitri Bayanov made transcription of discussion with main researcher of Bigfoot DNA Dr. Curt Nelson, a biologist with the University of Minnesota. We saw that the footprint and its study were only a part of the show.

Narrator:  Dr. Curt Nelson has also been doing DNA tests on the blood, hair, and tissue samples and suspects there is an unknown substance, or inhibitor, present that is interfering with the DNA extraction.  Nelson must first identify the inhibitor and remove it from the sequence.  The inhibitor has been identified.  The galvanizing on the screws was mixed in with the animal DNA.  Nelson can now nudge DNA from the purified samples.

Nelson:  Scientific evidence, at this point, is now suggesting there really is an animal there.  I cut it out, I re-purified it, and amplified it again using the same primers, and I got a very strong reaction.  When I did that I got rid of the inhibitory stuff by running it out that way.  And I found it was identical to human DNA, except it had one nucleotide polymorphism.  That nucleotide that was different was a difference that is shared with chimpanzees.  I got DNA that was primate DNA, and I knew that I might be looking at the DNA of a sasquatch.

Narrator:  The DNA says primate, but not quite human and not quite nonhuman primate.  One of the base pairs is deviated.

Nelson:  What we have to do now is look at more DNA.  We have to sequence more of it.  We have to design primers to amplify different regions of the DNA so that we can get sequence across the mitochondrial genome and determine whether or not it is just human DNA, which seems unlikely that something -- like a human -- would step on that board like that.

Narrator:  Great apes share nearly identical DNA with man except for a 35-base-pair deviation.  The Snellgrove DNA sample has only 1 deviation.  According to Nelson, there is only a 1 in 5,000 chance this is human DNA.

Nelson:  What we're looking at is the blood so far.  So if we can find that same sequence exists in the tissue and hair, that indicates that an animal that bled there and left the tissue there and the hair there was all the same animal, and produce the same sequence.  That's important to tie it all together.  And that could take a year.

Narrator:  It appears science may support the probability of a primate that is not quite human and not quite ape.  But just what left the bloody footprint at that Snellgrove Lake cabin?

Nelson:  Is it possible that the creature of Snellgrove Lake was a real animal?  You add it all up, and it's very interesting.

The conclusion to contemporary knowledge made Dmitri Bayanov:

Looks now like not much of a breakthrough but still a big step in the right direction. What's important is not that the DNA is human (we had that before), but that it is somewhat different. That's what I had anxiously been looking forward to. If we had always nothing but human (i.e. sapiens) results, the mainstream would never pay attention to it. Besides, that would be used by those who claim that "wild men" are just wild men, i.e. Homo ferus, human outcasts who have gone wild. This explanation is quite popular. With the DNA somewhat different from sapiens, we are firmly on the track of evolutionary hominology. The question now is how much or little different. Neanderthal DNA naturally comes to mind for comparison.