Daryl Colyer has searched for the Sasquatch for almost fifteen years. His organization claims to have found a group of these creatures in a remote valley in southeastern Oklahoma. In this exclusive interview, the 55-year-old Texan explains why he thinks that Bigfoot is an undiscovered primate and why there’s nothing to the so called paranormal reports. “It’s hocus-pocus,” he says. He also tells what happened in July of 2011 when he shot at a Bigfoot in the Ouachita mountains, and describes the new technique that the North American Wood Ape Conservancy has started to apply in the field.
Daryl, have you always been fascinated with the Bigfoot mystery?
Daryl Colyer: It started out more of an interest because I was originally from an area in Texas, where there were lots of reported sightings. And growing up from the time when I was really small, my father would tell us stories. When I got older I served in the Air Force. When we weren‘t flying we had good conversations about various things. Every once in a while the subject of Bigfoot would come up. I made a promise to some of my fellow airmen that one day I would actually look into this for myself.
How did you think about Bigfoot back then?
I thought it was possibly a real flesh and blood animal; so logic dictates that it can be found with the right amount of effort. That’s what I told my fellow airmen and I said I’m going to look for this thing. I’m going to spend thirty days in a spot where people say they see it.
I forgot about all that. Then in 2003, my wife, my kids, and I were traveling through a long, vast stretch of highway through the mountains of New Mexico. My daughter, out of the blue, just asked “Daddy? Do you think Bigfoot lives out in those woods?” I was taken by surprise, and I said “Well, I don’t know.”
Then, then it all came back to me. The promise I had made to my buddies, the stories of my dad that he used to tell us; it kind of lit the candle. It was very soon after that, that I found out about Alton Higgins and what he was doing.
So you did get in contact with him.
First, I didn’t think Alton Higgins was a real person. So I did some investigating. I finally tracked him down teaching at this small college in Oklahoma. I just called, asked for him, and someone said “Just a moment,” and then I thought to myself, “Oh, this guy is real I guess!” He answered the phone and said “Hello?” I asked, “Is this Alton Higgins?”, “Yes!” We talked over an hour and a half, then he invited me to come up to meet him in a restaurant. We’ve been the best of friends ever since. It’s crazy. And now here we are, working toward making an incredible discovery.
Today, you, Alton and the others in the NAWAC are convinced that Bigfoot is real. What do you tell people who don’t believe you? It’s hard to believe for skeptics that there’s really something to discover.
Frankly, I don’t have a problem with people who find it too difficult to believe. Because I have to tell you Chris, if I weren’t out there living it, and someone were to tell me what we’re doing, I would have a hard time. Not necessarily that I would disbelieve them, but I would think it is some hard stuff to believe. But I’ve lived it. The stuff I’ve seen and experienced is incredible. And from my perspective now, for the world to think this thing doesn’t exist, or really that it can’t exist, it blows my mind. Experiencing what I have experienced, seeing what I have seen, knowing what I know, I really cannot understand is how it hasn’t already been discovered and recognized scientifically. The NAWAC is small non-profit organization composed of volunteer citizen scientists, we’re not sanctioned, we’re not even sponsored by a university. We’re not sponsored by the United States government. We don’t have a big bank account. None of us. And we’ve managed to find these things.
One would think that these things would have been found by now.
Well, I am telling you, we have found a group of them. They’re there. And if we’ve been able to find them with our limited resources, why hasn’t anybody else found them? I don’t understand. Somebody has to know. Fish and Game has to know about these things. If you spend time in the wood where these things reside, you’re going to see their signs, you’re going to hear them, you’re going to see them from time to time. You’re going to see their tracks, unless you just dismiss all that, and misidentify their signs for other species of known wildlife. I guess some people probably do that in denial. But I just don’t see how they cannot know. How can the Department of Fish and Game, the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, the Department of the Interior, how can they not notice? I just don’t know.
Do you have a relationship with officials like Fish and Game?
Not Fish and Game but we did at one time with the National Park Service. It was a very strange relationship. We used to go into NPS land, do research there. We had camera traps there. They allowed us to do it for three years, finally they just closed the door and said “We don’t want you here anymore, this is ridiculous, this thing doesn’t exist, remove the cameras at once.” That’s pretty much it. The Forestry Service, which is different from the National Park Service, told us the same thing: “This is ridiculous, we’re not gonna let you in here to capture of photo of a bigfoot, because Bigfoot is silly. It doesn’t exist.”
Why do you think they have this attitude?
I don’t know. My guess is that has something to do with these government entities are composed of bureaucrats, who are content to just draw a paycheck and get off work at 5pm and that’s it. It would be probably a bloody nightmare for them to have to manage this kind of species that suddenly appeared on the radar.
Do you think there is some truth to conspiracy theories, that government knows about Bigfoot and want to keep it secret?
If there’s a conspiracy I think it is more down on a micro-level, or just individuals don’t want to talk about it. Maybe a local field officer puts out a memo “you get reports of this thing, just throw it in the trash” or whatever.
Can you tell me about the area that you are doing your research in, the Ouachita Mountains?
The Ouachita Mountains are located in Arkansas and Oklahoma and are geologically very old. It’s extremely rocky terrain and has dense forest. Much of the range is impassable, particularly for humans on feet. On an off-road vehicle, horse, or mule you could get around easier, but it’s largely undeveloped. For the central part of North America I would say the Ouachita Mountains are very remote. The counties where we operate in Arkansas and Oklahoma, they are among the least populated counties in the region. The climate is very moderate as compared to the rest of North American and it gets a lot of rainfall on an annual basis.
The NAWAC claims that a group of Bigfoot lives in this area. Your goal is to get a specimen, to kill one. Why?
I think that’s the only thing we can do. We’re talking about an ape that’s seven to eight feet tall, that resides here in North America and has yet to be discovered. Science needs a body that can be independently verified, poked, prodded, dissected, validated as a specimen of a novel or even relict species.
What do you say to people who criticize this approach?
It happens all the time, that’s how new species are discovered. Every time you go to a museum and see the the collections there, you’re looking at specimens of dead animals that were collected. I’m not talking about the 19th century. I’m talking 21st century. We have to have an independent, verifiable type specimen that science may independently verify.
All other endeavors have failed so far. Photography, videography, footprint casts, DNA. Nothing seems to convince the scientific community, and, to be honest, the evidence presented so far is quite poor. I do agree with your approach. Getting a specimen is the only way. But I ask myself: What if Bigfoot is much closer related to us humans than other great apes? What if it is a Homo species?
Homo erectus was capable of creating tools and fire. Homo neanderthalensis created tools, created fire, and wore clothing. They had jewelry, sang, and had music, apparently. We haven’t found any evidence that Bigfoot uses fire or sophisticated tools—no spears, no arrows, etc.—which would seem to indicate that it must be more primitive than even Homo erectus.
But the way the creatures moves, bipedally. I mean, the creature in the Patterson film looks and moves very human-like.
It’s a freaky mixture for me. I have seen them in person. The Patterson image looks just like that. At the same time, these things are capable of things that humans can only dream of. They’d beat the most advanced athlete in the world. This thing would leave them in the dust (in a foot race). The one I saw cross the creek, the one that I saw when it stepped on that rock and then hopped on to the bank; our youngest, biggest guys couldn’t hope to do that. This thing is far more powerful and gifted athletically beyond what any human could. So, if it’s gonna be related, it’s gonna be a distant relative. Orangs, chimps, gorillas, as distant as that.
Because they are seldom seen, some researchers think that Bigfoot is more active at night. What do you think?
Our research indicates they are just as active during daytime as they are at night. They move about at night as easily as they can by daytime. However, we do not think they are exclusively nocturnal animals. The vast majority of our sightings are during daytime. If they weren’t active during daytime, we wouldn’t see them.
The NAWAC’s position is that Bigfoot is an ape of some sort. Purely a flesh and blood animal. But there are quite a lot of Bigfooters out there who think that the creature is something “paranormal”, not just fringy, crazy people, but mainstream researchers like Thom Powell, Richard Germeau or Henry Franzoni. What do you say to these guys?
Nothing, except that’s all hocus-pocus. We think it’s a flesh and blood animal that is extremely intelligent and has an extreme amount of athletic prowess as compared to humans. It has just remained in the shadows. Even the known apes are very tough to find. Even when you know where a group of chimps is, it may take a trained group of biologists six weeks to try and find it. I think that’s what we’re dealing with. Even though you think that North America is settled and it is, the Western half of North America is, by European standards, very scarcely populated. There is just a ton of space. Millions and millions and millions of acres of forest and land, mountains where people don’t live.
So you think there’s nothing to these claims of strange lights and disappearing Bigfoots?
I have not, nor have our teams observed anything that would give any credence whatsoever to a paranormal aspect. Nothing has been reported to me, to any team, and I’m talking about going all the way back to 2004. I guess, if you wanted to attribute ghosts and poltergeists to what we’re hearing, I guess you could do that, but we haven’t observed anything along those lines.
You came very close to the NAWAC’s goal. In 2011 you shot at an alleged Bigfoot (the report can be read here). So far, NAWAC researchers have shot twice at purported wood apes. But no bodies were recovered. Why?
I can explain why I didn’t kill the one I shot: It’s because I had the wrong gun and the wrong load in my shotgun. We’re talking about an animal that is over two meters in height and probably weighs 300 to 500 kilograms. So there’s a conventional explanation why I didn’t bring it down, because I didn’t hit cleanly. I did not hit it with the right weapon and I believe where I hit it was up here in the upper back, in the trapezius muscles or upper latissimus dorsi and those things are super developed in this animals. Even the blood spatters that we found were indicative of of a shallow buckshot wound. So I’m positive I didn’t hit him with anything but the first round. So that’s why I didn’t take it down.
What about the other shooting?
When Travis took the shot in 2013 there was clear evidence that indicated his bullet hit a limb and ricocheted off. It’s a freak thing, it just happened. It’s like Travis said afterwards, this thing was touched by an angel.
He was sure that he hit it, right?
Positively, absolutely certain. He called out to Alton, “Get to the cabin, I hit it!” So they waited ten or so minutes, which is typically what one should after shooting a large animal. You know, you don’t want it to run away. So they waited for about 10, 15 minutes and Travis was positive it was lying there dead. Just like when I shot it, I thought it would be lying there on the ground. I just don’t know too many things that can take a 000 buckshot round from 30 yards and survive, or at the very least get knocked down. There were no signs that what I hit was knocked down.
But he had just fired a 30-06 rifle at 20 yards. He was thinking, “That’s it, we’ve done it.” When I walked up when I shot mine and when Travis walked up to the spot where he shot his, you know, it wasn’t there. I’m sure he shared the same emotion I felt. Just disbelief, great disappointment.
In your case, you found blood splatter on stones, right?
Yes, a week later.
Did you get it analyzed?
Yes, we sent the blood to be analyzed. It was very disappointing. The lab is a very well-known highly reputed lab, not in the United States. They told us they could not even verify it was blood which was puzzling from what we had determined. We’ve had five rocks in total, we still got two left, by the way. We still have two rocks. They’re just stored away. On the first two, we had two of our guys, a trauma surgeon and a micro-biologist, conduct blood testing. They did verify the presence of blood on the first two rocks. When we got the results from the lab our faith was shaken a little bit. So we’re withholding the other rocks.
Do you plan to get them analyzed in the future?
That’s the plan. DNA-testing is advancing, and we’re hoping that at some point in the future there will be some really good advance that will make it easier. And if we get a body, I‘ll just say when we get a body, we can use the rocks maybe at that time. Maybe they will take us more seriously at that time.
You’ve also collected some hairs, when you had one creature coming to the cabin and touching one of your members through an open window.
Yes. The hair sample was sent to Bryan Sykes. There have been a lot of people who have been critical of Doctor Sykes. We called him into question as well because he never even responded to us. He never even acknowledged that he got the samples we sent him. He never even acknowledged after we wrote him a number of times, trying to find out what had happened to our hair sample. And then he put out this paper that said this one sample was some sort of relict polar bear and the one sample from Texas was human hair. We found out later that he claimed that that was the hair we sent in from the Ouachita project. We’re still not sure what he did with our hair sample. The experiences with independent labs have left a very bitter taste in our mouth. I gotta tell you, we’re not really trusting a third party lab these days.
I don’t think they take it serious enough. It seems to us that instead of trying to get the truth wherever it will take them, they go into the process saying something like “We got these supposed blood samples (wink-wink) from unicorns, but unicorns don’t exist, therefore how can this be a blood sample of a unicorn?” And that’s not science, it’s dogma. Science should always be about discovery, advancement, finding out new things, right? The approach should be to see where the data leads. That’s science.
Do you still have hair samples that you could send to another lab?
No we do not.
Can you tell me about the new radio-tag system that the NAWAC has started to use?
It’s a tracking tag that biologists use for conventional tracking of wildlife. You have a turtle for instance, you attach the tag to the turtle and six months later you can come back with the electronic gear and you can re-acquire the signal from the tag on the turtle and relocate the turtle to see what sort of range it has and that sort of thing. One of our biologists, from Maine, suggested that we find a way to use these small radio-tags with a string-trap. So our guys put their brains together and devised a method to hang the tag from the string-trap. Then we had to solve the question of “How do they stick to the target species?” Apes are notorious for removing tags, so we had to figure out a way the tags would stick to an ape without it knowing it, or a way that would make the tag exceedingly difficult to remove, even for a powerful, intelligent ape.
What was the solution?
Our guys came up with this this technique that uses a cocklebur, a gnarly little seed pod that is common in Texas and other parts of North America. They are insidious little things. They have little barbs or needles, and when you step on one, it feels like you‘ve stepped on a shard of glass. When these burs get in animal hair, or even human hair, you literally have to cut the hair to remove the cocklebur. So Mark McClurkan, our resident MacGyver, cut in half a cocklebur and he connected the radio-tag to the cocklebur, glued it together, then dipped it into rat-trap glue to make it even more gnarly and sticky, and then we could hang the tag-cocklebur combination from a string-trap, and hope an individual of the target species would walk through the string-trap and have the device stick and then embed in the animal’s hair. The ape, hopefully, would not realize the tag had become attached, and once the tag becomes detached from an activation magnet, it sets off the tracking receiver, and you can then start scanning for the signal. We had seven of these things out since June or July 2015.
Were they picked up?
Yeah, one was activated and apparently attached to something. We lost communication with the tag for a few months. We have five pilots in our organization, who began devising plans to conduct an aerial reconnaissance of the area with the tracking equipment in the aircraft, trying to re-establish contact. In December, we had an aerial team that made contact with the tag, approximately three miles north of where the tag was initially activated. About three weeks later, we acquired the signal again with a ground team. This time two and a half miles farther east and north. As the crow flies from the original position the tagged animal was now four or five miles away during the dead of winter. The black bears in the Ouachita Mountains have a denning season from December to March. So we ruled out black bear as a candidate.
What holded you back from getting to the location of the signal?
The terrain is very inhibitive. We tried tracking it on foot; we had ground teams there. We just don’t have the agility, the strength, the hardiness, and pace to negotiate that terrain on a level that matches animals. You can get to some places in there by motor vehicle, but doing so announces your presence to everything in the area. Whatever we tagged fled when attempted to close on it, and then escaped over the roughest nastiest terrain imagineable, leaving us far behind. What’s more, we just didn’t have the resources available to put helicopters in there for any length of time.
So what’s your tactic now?
We are going to have got to lure it in somehow. We’re going to have to bring it to us rather than us going after it. Once we can determine its general area, the plan then becomes, well, we re-establish contact. Maybe using some sort of conventional ape sounds or some kind of recorded wood ape sounds or even wounded prey sounds, something natural that will stimulate their curiosity. I think that’s probably the only way we’re going to bring this tagged animal in.
I think it’s a great idea.
We believe it’s repeatable. You know what? At this point, that animal, whatever animal it is—we believe it is an ape—either it doesn’t even know it has the tag on it, or the other possibility is that it is on an animal that can’t remove it. I find that hard to believe just because of the totality of all the data we have. How the tag was originally positioned, its movement, how much it has moved, the length of time and distance we’ve been tracking it, it’s been an incredible journey, over six months, and we’re still tracking it! It appears to be a huge range in the making. If you look at the map, it’s like a semi-circle. It has moved from the original position all the way up here, all the way over, then back down, apparently trying to move back to the area of the original position. It‘s crazy! But there it is.
Do your operations get bigger every year? Do you stay longer in those areas, do more people go? Or is it the same every year?
They’re about 120 days in length, and it’s been that way for the last four years or so. That’s really about the maximum time we can spend before we run out of manpower and resources.
And it’s holidays, right, that you take off from work?
Yeah, we take vacation time. I get five weeks total paid time off from work; on an annual basis I spend about one week vacationing with my wife, the rest of the vacation time I’m tracking these apes. That’s pretty much for everybody, they just burn their vacation time in those woods. Some of the guys are retired, like Alton; he spends usually four, five, six weeks out there on different teams. I’m usually there for three or four teams. But yeah, we have to burn our personal leave time.
It’s a big effort. For me, reading the reports, hearing the stories of your organization is not only entertaining but also very promising. I’d say keep up this work. I wish you and your organization the best of luck, Daryl.
Thank’s. We’re going to continue as long as we can.
For more infos about the NAWAC visit woodape.org.
– The pictures of Colyer and Higgins were provided by the North American Wood Ape Conservancy.
– The picture of the Ouachitas was shot by Justin Meissen (via Flickr).
Alton Higgins / Anthropology / Area X / Bigfoot / Controversies / Daryl Colyer / Homo erectus / Interview / NAWAC / Neanderthal / North American Wood Ape Conservancy / Oklahoma / Ouachita Mountains / Primates / Sasquatch / Texas / Travis Lawrence / Wood Ape