As a girl unafraid to acknowledge her place in the food chain and, therefore, willing to admit a healthy fear of alpha predators, I spend an inordinate amount of time running remote trails and plotting how I’ll fight back should I bump into one of those charismatic creatures.
Mountain lion: fight back. Black bear: play dead. Grizzly: a mixed bag of not running, playing dead, and fighting back, depending on how the bear is feeling that day. Shark: punch in the nose. I don’t anticipate a shark encounter on a trail run, but preparation and alertness is far and away the best way to prevent any animal encounter from turning aggressive.
Here’s where things get sticky. Some people suggest we should be bolstering the alpha predator list with the likes of Sasquatch (Sasquatches?), chupacabras, and Loch Ness Monsters. I’m willing to go out on a limb and not further clutter my brain with imaginary throwdowns between myself and this mythological trio. But Adventure Journal has been asked to entertain a Faustian bargain of sorts. Of Sasquatches (Sasquatchi?), chupacabras, and Loch Ness Monsters, which is most likely to be real?
Let’s rule out Nessie right away. The “Nessie Lives” theory is based on the notion that s/he is a species of plesiosaur, a.k.a. a Mesozoic era swimming dinosaur. Okay, it’s plausible. Crocodiles, anteaters, and platypusses were from the Mesozoic and they’re still kicking it in 2016. The breakdown in the Nessie argument is the controlled environment. We can find shipwrecks in the middle of the ocean and send spacecraft to Mars in the middle of the universe. It’s inconceivable to think we couldn’t use technology and human sight to find an aquatic dinosaur in a lake. Loch Ness is large (22 square miles and 755 feet deep in places) and murky, but, please.
Chupacabras are relatively new bloodsucking creatures, dating back only to 1995. These vampiric, stocky beasts – or goat suckers if you prefer the literal translation – are reputed to be the size a Newfoundland dog with spines running down their backs like a stegosaurus. A few people, likely drunk on vodka, have reported sightings in Russia, but for the most part, chupacabras are a distinct phenomenon of the Americas.
The first reported sighting in 1995 was made by a woman in Puerto Rico. Is it a coincidence that she described the creature as looking exactly like the beast from the horror movie she’d just watched the night before? We think not. Our opinion is bolstered by the official record and a five-year investigation by the writer, Benjamin Radford, in his seminal book, Tracking the Chupacabra. Later sightings were reported by ranchers in the Southwest United States, Mexico, and Colombia. The reports are eerily similar: The prey is found dead by a clean puncture/bite wound that allows the animal to bleed out.
If you live in the Southwest, it is inevitable that the local news will follow a chupacabra report at least once a year, usually twice. Live at 10. People will lock their doors and force their children to play inside. They’ll show a sheep carcass and someone will give an interview while holding a shotgun, as they stare militantly across the western horizon.
So is the chupacabra real? More real than Nessie? Yeah, we’ll lean toward a yes on this one. But goat suckers aren’t mythological, miniature stegosauruses come to life. They’re dogs and coyotes with a serious case of mange. Sad all the way around-for both the canines and our illusions.
Which brings us to the most tempestuous minefield of a myth there is: Sasquatch. Everyone knows the physical description of Sassy, alias Bigfoot: a bipedal, apelike creature, who stands up to 10 feet tall and is headquartered in the Pacific Northwest. But unless you’re someone who’d like to be a reality TV star, there is no compelling evidence that Sasquatch exists.
The “evidence” out there ranges from laughable to infuriating, considering the people planting it think we don’t recognize the acrylic Bigfoot costume direct from central casting. There are blurred photos, footprints clearly created with a homemade stamp, and recorded bellows and growls where they didn’t even bother to edit out the microphone feedback.
The cruel twist to this quandary is that between the Loch Ness Monster, the chupacabra, and Sasquatch, it’s most reasonable to assume a Sasquatch-like creature could exist. Remember the tragic video of an injured bear in New Jersey from last year? For a terrifically sad reason, the black bear walked upright on its two hind legs. Could there be a small lineage of bears that evolved to walk on their hind legs in the Cascade wilderness? Possibly. There certainly wouldn’t be many, and like all black bears, they’d prefer to have nothing to do with humans. They’d also be slower, so they’d be even more prone to keep their distance.
The chances that the Sasquatch family is actually an evolutionarily refined bear family are statistically nil. But if I’m mentally preparing a response to seeing Sasquatch, a chupacabra, or Nessie on the trail, my time will be best spent on Bigfoot. And if Bigfoot is a bipedal bear, I think I’ll just carry a box of berries and tell him to have a nice day.