Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cryptid Misidentifications

As I was out walking earlier, I saw a crane (the bird species, not the machine of the same name) fly by near a pond.  It's not the first time I've seen a crane in this area, and it might be the same one I've seen before.

But, even though I've seen a crane around here before, I don't see one very often.  Today when I saw it, I considered that its body type resembles drawings I have seen of certain types of pterosaurs (except the crane had feathers, of course).  I wondered if maybe people who had claimed to see a pterosaur or something like a pterosaur could have misidentified a large crane.

But I didn't wonder about it for too long.  I can't dismiss the possibility that someone might have misidentified a crane as a pterosaur, but I think it's rather unlikely.  When I saw the crane today, it was instantly obvious to me that it was a crane.  Even if it had been twice or even three times the distance away from me that it was, I'm sure I would have still known it was a crane.  Even if it had been so far away that I had to squint to see it and still couldn't quite make it out, my first assumption would have still been a crane or some other type of large bird, not a pterosaur.

I googled 'pterodactyl misidentifications', and it seems that fruit bats are a common suggestion for what alleged pterosaur sightings might be.  One article I found said that large fruit bats can have a pterosaur-like profile when seen in silhouette, especially to 'nonscientific observers', as if to suggest that identifying a bat required at least a masters degree in zoology or something.  I mean, come on, most people know what a bat looks like.  A lot of the pterosaur and thunderbird sightings I have read about - credible or not - described something larger than a fruit bat.  And I think if I were to see a larged winged animal flying around at night, my first guess would be a bat or an owl of some sort - not a pterosaur.  It would have to be exceptionally large before I would even start considering the possibility that it was some sort of pterosaur or thunderbird.  But hey, that's just me.

And what about these skeptics who suggest that bigfoot sightings are bear misidentifications?  I guess I can see the possibility of some sightings being bear misidentifications - assuming that the bear was seen from the back and only at a distance and the witness got scared and ran away in the other direction without investigating any further.  But when people describe seeing humanlike faces, how can that be confused with a bear?  And what of the size and body type?  Skeptics like using bears as examples because bears can stand on their hind legs, but bears have long torsos and short legs - they still don't look humanlike even when standing on their hind legs.

And it's not like people don't know what bears look like.  Even someone who has lived in a city or the suburbs all their life with no interest in hunting or camping knows what bears look like.  Some of the people who have claimed to have seen a bigfoot are outdoorsmen who are familiar with the area they sighted it at and the wildlife that is normally seen in the area.  So what are the odds that they would misidentify a bear as a bigfoot?

I realize there are some people out there who may be overly-anxious to believe in bigfoot and let their imagination get the best of them, but is that really what most people would do?  Wouldn't most people be able to recognize a bear when they saw one - even at a far away distance?  And I could be wrong, but even if they saw a bear at a far away distance and couldn't tell for sure what it was, wouldn't most people be likely to assume it was bear anyways?  Wouldn't most people be more likely to assume what they are seeing is something normal and common?

But like I said, I could be wrong; maybe most people wouldn't assume it was a bear.  Maybe most people do have the vivid imaginations the skeptics accuse them of having.

And here's another thought - wouldn't it be ironic if someone misidentified a bigfoot as a bear?



  1. This reminds me of the time when I was a kid in Colorado and saw what I think was a magpie flyby. However at the time I actually thought I had seen a archeopteryx and was like "Mommy I just saw an archeopteryx!" And she's like "No, that was a magpie."

  2. I agree about misidentifying known animals for cryptids as being a rather rare occurrence. Sometimes, it's the context in which they're viewed that is confusing. There's a group of birds here in Arizona that fly in a flock usually around sunset. When I sit outside, I look up in the sky and in the twilight sky, they appear pure white. The first few times I saw them, I rushed inside to say "I saw a group of white birds flying together. What the heck were they?" It's not like we have seagulls anywhere near Phoenix. So, I waited and watched them again the next day and the next. I could swear they were white birds! They turned one evening and came towards me and I watched as the light hitting them changed them back to light gray as they turned away from the setting sunlight. In that context, had I not pursued it further, I would have said "we have a flock of white birds that don't belong here." In the context of light and shadows of the woodlands, a Bigfoot could be a tree stump. He could be a bear standing on hind legs behind a bush that obscures his bottom half. He could be a hunter who appears completely blackened in the distance as he walks between trees. Still, the greater majority of sightings are very specific, very detailed, and very much not something out of context like discoloration by sunlight or obscuring of features by plant life, but are well and truly somethign independent and worthy of investigation. I believe in legends and tales, but I also believe that they were designed to explain the unexplainable. So, there is always a seed of truth. Another great post, Jeff! I always so anticipate reading your thoughts on subjects. Thanks for sharing.