Area X, NAWAC

What’s going on in Area X?

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This is a good starting point for a newcomer to the topic of Area X and the endeavors by the bigfoot research group North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC). It’s a collection of statements NAWAC member and spokesman Brian Brown gave in 2015 in a Q&A at Reddit. I’ve copied the most interesting answers and rearranged them for a more enjoyable reading.

The US research group North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC) claims to have found a new species of ape or hominin in a remote valley in southeastern Oklahoma. The researchers, including several academics, want the ultimate proof: a corpse. Only then, they emphazise, could science and the authorities be convinced of the existence of the species.

I’ve written quite extensively about this group. Their reports are more credible than those of other Bigfoot research groups. This is mainly due to the large number of scientists who are involved. Six participated in recent field studies, including biologists, for example Angelo Capparella, who teaches at the University of Illinois.

I’ve interviewed Capparella as well as member Daryl Colyer, who claims to have had several sightings.

In the course of putting together new articles about the group I’ve found this interesting Q&A on Reddit with NAWAC member and spokesman Brian Brown. It gives some good infos about their approach and their experiences in their research zone which they call Area X. Here’s the Reddit Q&A.

Please note: This Q&A was recorded in 2015. A good hub for more recent info is the NAWAC website woodape.org.

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Brian Brown on what got him interested in Bigfoot:

Brian Brown: Like a lot of guys my age, it was Steve Austin, In Search Of, and Boggy Creek. Plus, I grew up in California and took a lot of trips into NorCal and the PNW. Bigfoot was everywhere in the 70s. Kind of like today.

…on how Area X was chosen as a research location:

X was found the old-fashioned way. Alton Higgins studied maps of the region and spent time on the ground around there looking around and meeting locals until he connected with those would eventually lead us to X. The first organized searches for evidence of bigfoot were actually conducted by the BFRO. When Alton and a few others (including Daryl Colyer) left the BFRO, research in X continued under the NAWAC (then called the TBRC).

…on the amount of time the NAWAC spends in Area X and the number of people per expedition:

During the summer, it’s often continuous for up to three months. There might be a day or two when nobody’s there, but that’s rare. Sometimes, there’s only one person there (usually between teams when one has to leave before another arrives) but two is generally the smallest. The most we’ve had down there at any one time is something like twelve.

Many of us would like to be there as often as possible. But, we all have day jobs and families and other obligations. We work over the summer because it’s the time we’ve found the apes more likely to want to interact in close quarters. We’ve played around with start dates and have found if the foliage isn’t about 80-90% leafed-out, they’re less likely to come close.

…on wood ape activity in Area X in 2015 and in general:

It ebbs and flows. Last year, for the first several weeks, things were quite slow. It was very wet there and the cold spring had kept the foliage from leafing out as early. Once things dried out and the creek went down and the plants got their full compliment of leaves, activity picked up. This year, they just seemed to be employing different tactics (though activity levels are about normal overall). The tree breaking, for example, has been used a lot more than in years past.

They didn’t seem, until quite recently, to be “playing” as much as they used to. They’d make a noise in one place and we’d run over to investigate only to have them bang on something where we just had been. Of course, with Overwatch, our behavior has changed, too. We stay close to the cabin more than in years past. It could be we’re seeing their change in behavior mirror our change.

…on game cameras and photographic evidence:

We haven’t really been trying lately. We’re focused on recording their behavioral traits and securing proof of their existence. In our collected opinion, a photo will never be “proof” of anything. We do practically nothing to try and capture one in an image.

In the past, we’ve deployed dozens of game cams over several years and never got a picture. Our experience with them suggests to us they may be able to detect their presence (though certainly not their purpose). We’ve looked into the question of infrasound as a way they may be detected (because some ascribe the use of infrasound as a component of the animal’s physiology) but found the cameras don’t make any sounds like that.

…on why the wood ape seems to be able to elude game cams:

Our current hypothesis is a combination of their furtive nature along with a possible ability to see at least partially into the infrared spectrum (all game cams use IR light to operate at night) allows them to avoid the cameras. But we can’t really say for sure why they do it or how they detect them.

The IR hypothesis is based on observation. They avoid the game cams (which don’t just flash when they take a picture — they will also flash at other random moments to ensure focus). Last year, we spent a lot of money on an IR security camera system. Similarly to the game cams, they only approached the cabin when the system was off. Not when it was on.

Some would say a more likely scenario is we’re being hoaxed by people who don’t want to be seen on camera. There are several reasons this is not the case, but the most important one (and perhaps the only one that really matters) is that we shoot at these animals when we have a clear shot (this has happened a handful of times). I can’t imagine a hoaxer that is so dedicated as to continue his efforts in the face of that.

Regarding infrasound, it was a hypothesis based on one that’s been floating around in the bigfoot community for some time. We worked with a bioacoustics expert to find out if it was possible explanation to camera avoidance. Turns out it’s not as the cameras don’t make any infrasound (or ultrasound).

I can’t imagine how they’d know that they’re there to record images of their presence. They know we put them there (certainly watched us do it) and know we spent a lot of time fooling around with them. That’s likely enough to make them very wary of them.

There other examples of animals avoiding trail cams (like wolves). A quote from here:

“All coyotes were wary of cameras, leading to relatively low numbers of photo-captures, most of which occurred at night. Alphas were significantly underrepresented in photographs and were never photo-captured inside their awn territories. Betas were photographed inside and outside their territories, whereas transients were most often photographed on edges of territories. Both alphas and betas were photographed more often on territorial edges when outside their territories. We next addressed the question of how alphas were better able to avoid photo-capture. Alphas tracked human activity within their territories and presumably learned the locations of cameras as they were being set up. They did this either by approaching our location directly or by moving to a vantage point from where they could observe us. Betas and transients either withdrew or did not respond to human activity. Trials in which a dog was present were more likely to elicit an approach response from alphas. Avoidance of camera stations and the tracking of human activity implied wariness toward objects or locations resulting from their learned association with human presence rather than neophobia to- ward the objects themselves.”

The bottom line is, not all animals walk blindly in front of trail cams. Some actively avoid them. Coyotes aren’t the only example.

…on the utility of video evidence:

The best HD camera you can pick up at Best Buy doesn’t have the resolution of the film Patterson had loaded into his camera. And digital manipulation today makes anything produced an entirely different ballgame. Patterson, if he was hoaxing, had to do it practically. Today, you don’t even need a guy in a suit.

Even the best film we have on the topic is often dismissed casually by those who know nothing about it or how it was produced as a fake. We’re only more suspicious of videos now than we ever have been.

I (and the group) just don’t believe video of the kind you’re describing can or will be obtained or that, once collected, will prove anything. But that’s just a difference of opinion and the only way to see who’d right will be for someone to collect that video. I wish them luck. Hopefully, I’m wrong (but don’t think I am).

…on recording video through the rifle-scope thermal camera:

That would mean more batteries to deal with and cables running off a loaded firearm in the dark that could get caught on something and more tech that needs to be dealt with. A thermal image of a wood ape would be great, but we’ve prioritized the collection of physical proof over imagery. I hope we’ll be able to use these thermals for photographic collection of evidence once the animal is proven.

…on how to hunt the wood ape:

Mostly by using thermal scopes mounted to high-power rifles. The thermal scopes can image through opaque plastic (like a split trash bag). We perform what’s called “Overwatch” whereby we sit quietly in a structure elevated off the ground covered in this plastic and scan the area surrounding the cabin in which we stay (and the apes have, on many occasions, approached and interacted with).

…on the types of guns and caliber the NAWAC uses:

Many of us carry .45-70s with 350 grain magnum rounds from Buffalo Bore. A number carry 12 gauge shot guns with rifled slugs and a few carry .30-06s and 308s loaded with Barnes TTSX 180 grain. Nearly all of us are carrying sidearms. Either .45s or .40 S&W.

…on the pro-kill stance:

We are pro-science in whatever form. Our logic is spelled out here. Also, the thoughts of a member who formerly thought as you do.

…on the procedure after getting a type specimen:

We have an outline of a plan. I think that’s the best we can do. The reality of having the specimen will likely go in directions that are hard to know, but generally speaking, we will do as much documentation as possible and invite experts not commonly associated as “bigfoot experts” to examine the animal or whatever we have prior to making a public announcement. We will NOT tease or otherwise discuss it until the time comes to make the full announcement.

…on NAWAC members taking a shot:

The shooters are usually aiming for center mass. Our rules state that the shooter has to have a clear shot of an obvious ape, so that can include just seeing the outline of the head and shoulders, either in daylight, via spotlight, or thermal. In the Echo Incident, for example, Colyer saw the profile of the animal turned about 3/4 away from him as it moved through some trees. He could clearly see it was covered in hair and had a pointed head. That’s enough under our ROE to take a shot.

We don’t take shots unless we have a very good one to take. We’re trying to avoid just wounding the animal. Also, many of these encounters are over very quickly. Too quickly to get your weapon and draw a bead. My own lasted just a handful of seconds and involved a fast-moving target at a distance. We can’t sit with weapons ready 24/7. It’s just not practical.

From a purely practical standpoint, the best target would be an adult male (presuming they have a social structure not unlike a gorilla troupe). It’s unlikely any other animal in their group will interfere for an adult male. We doubt any of them will interfere anyway, but it’s probably more likely for females and juveniles.

…on whether the wood ape resembles the figure in the Patterson film:

In at least one case. “Old Gray” is very much Patty-like but the others are thinner (sometimes about human-sized or smaller, sometimes taller than an average human). At least one has a very athletic build (V-shaped). The Patty-esque build seems to be in the minority.

…on his own sighting in Area X:

In short, I was among a group of four people who witnessed two apes (a larger one and a smaller one) run up a hill from a distance of about 50-60 yards. They were extraordinarily fast and smooth. The slope they were going up levels out at a ledge and one of them was seen walking along that ledge by one of the guys in our party when we ran over to where they were.

If you want to hear about the event and other things that happened that week, you can listen to this. My account starts at 57 minutes in.

…on wood apes tactics:

They often seem to be playing a game of cat and mouse. We’ve often had situations where they make a loud sound in one area that makes us go investigate only to hear a similarly loud noise back where we started. They also are very fond of throwing rocks. Most often, they’re relatively small, but they get quite large on occasion (softball to cantaloupe-sized).

…on whether the wood ape is a nomadic or migratory creature:

We believe the apes are there year-round, though they keep their distance in the winter due to lack of cover. Beyond that, I have no idea. I think what’s most likely is that some live in groups like these and are essentially permanent to the area while others, either from being spun out of the troupe due to age, conflict, or whatever, become more nomadic.

There’s so much we don’t know. How big of an area does one need? Are they territorial with one another or from one group to the next? Or do they live in relative harmony? They don’t seem anywhere as aggressive as chimps. They’re more like gorillas or bonobos.

In any event, yeah. They seem to stay put. At least this group.

…on the strangest thing the NAWAC has experienced in Area X:

Strangest. Hmmm…

The “rain of rocks” is very odd in that I can’t for the life of me figure out how they’re doing it. I talked about that on a podcast once, but I don’t recall which one right now. I can get into it in more detail if you like.

Having really big rocks (like, softball size and up) tossed from tens of yards away and strike structures is “odd” in a “oh, shit” kind of way.

The whispering vocalizations at least three of us have heard are pretty weird. The chatter in general is weird, really, whispered or otherwise.

…on “samurai chatter”:

We’ve heard the chatter several times. I’ve heard it whispered in my presence. We unknowingly recorded some of it three years ago. You can hear that here.

…on eye shine:

The eye shine I’ve seen that I think is very likely to be from wood apes has always been red-orange and very intense. Others in our group have seen probable ape eye shine that’s green.

The “Bright Eyes” incident, where an ape was hunkered down behind a low pile of rocks and an ATV before being detected due to it’s eye shine, was bright green. We know that was an ape because, as soon as those on-site reacted to its presence, the eyes rose from about 2-3 feet off the ground to about 7-8 feet and took off towards the slope of the mountain.

Note that we’ve never seen anything like a spontaneous, internally generated eye glow. It’s always been pretty clear reflection of light, even from a pretty dim source. However it happens, their eyes are incredibly reflective.

…on whether the sasquatch is “unnaturally” strong and fast:

I don’t know about “unnatural”, but yes, they are fast. Much faster than I would have expected. Unnervingly fast. Combined with the ability to also be very stealthy. With regard to strength, we’ve experienced some very large rock throws from a large distance and the tree breaking (which has continued this year and, if anything, has only gotten more frequent), so I’d also say they appear to be very strong.

…on wood ape movements:

Can’t say anything about fine motor skills or climbing technique as we’ve never seen them do those things. We have seen them in trees and immediately after coming down from them, so we know at least the young ones spend time up there. We hypothesize that older and larger ones go up in trees, too.

In a couple of cases, we’ve seen then running in a bent-over fashion. Not using their arms/hands for locomotion, but keeping their backs down and parallel to the ground, arms tucked up to their torsos. In these cases, they are incredibly stable and smooth. No bobbing up and down. Seems like a very efficient use of power and would likely be a good way to torpedo through heavy brush (though the few times we’ve seen them do that they’ve been in the open). I can’t compare them to any other animal except perhaps a feline when they’re moving like that. Very smooth, very fast, and typically nearly silent.

We’ve also seen them just walking like a person would, up on two legs. Again, they’re incredibly quiet when they want to be. That’s one of the mysteries about them we can’t answer. Sometimes, they’re very stealthy and can move silently while other times they’re quite noisy. Seems to be a skill they turn on and off as necessary (when they’re noisy, it’s usually when they don’t know they’re being or about to be observed).

We have also seen smaller apes run like chimps. That is, on all fours (not unlike the Prince Edward Island video). In fact, had we not known the apes were there and can walk and move in all these different ways and get over seven feet tall, that particular encounter could have left one to think they had just seen chimps and not wood apes.

…on whether the NAWAC has taken skeptics into Area X:

The best match for the kind of person you’re talking about is David Mizejewski. You can hear an interview I did with him in X here.

We’re not in the eco-tourism biz. That’s Moneymaker’s purview. We have taken non-members in there, but they’re typically individuals who can be helpful to the group post-discovery.

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photo credits:

– The picture shows a creek in Area X. It was provided by the NAWAC.

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Chris Kummer is a journalist and historian based in Switzerland. He focuses mainly on scientific controversies and inquiries into so-called paranormal phenomena.

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