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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wildlife researcher brings Bigfoot legend to life at library

October 22, 2009

BY JEFF MANES, POST-TRIBUNE CORRESPONDENT

Most folks would skedaddle if they were in a secluded forest and came face-to-face with a very hairy biped standing 8 feet tall and weighing a quarter-ton.

Especially if the creature, with long arms akimbo and angry eyes aglow, unleashed a scream that would make a banshee blanch.

Larry Battson would die for such a close encounter. He has researched and pursued Bigfoot for more than 25 years.

Battson, 57, lives in Putnam County. He's a licensed wildlife educator by trade. In 1979, he founded Wildlife Services Inc., a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to using rescued wild animals to educate the public.

But it was the legendary primate, also known as Sasquatch, Yeti and the Abominable Snowman, he recently discussed at the Lowell Public Library.

There were no empty seats in the library's program room.

"In 1983, I was contacted about displaying an innovative exhibit for an outdoor show in Cleveland," Battson said. "At that time, I was a skeptic, but I said, 'What about Bigfoot?' "

Battson's skepticism soon faded.

"The more I researched Bigfoot, the more I began to believe."

Books about Bigfoot were displayed at the library, including what is considered the bible on the subject, "Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us" by John Green.

Also on hand were posters, a footprint cast, recordings of hideous woodland noises and, of course, the famous 30 seconds of 16-millimeter film shot by Roger Patterson in 1967 of a female Bigfoot in Bluff Creek, Calif.

But it might have been Battson's retelling of anecdotes from eyewitnesses that captivated his audience most.

He spoke of a person who claimed Bigfoot had learned to imitate his voice and would call his Rottweiler by name in an attempt to lure the canine into the woods.

June 9, 2009, was a momentous day regarding Bigfoot.

"I was asked to share my years of research and documentation at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va.," Battson said. "That was a groundbreaking event, because Fish and Wildlife employees weren't allowed to utter the word 'Bigfoot' before that."

When nonbelievers ask why Bigfoot hasn't been captured after all these years, Battson says: "Anthropologists know there are tribes in New Guinea that exist. But those people don't want to be found."

Battson said Bigfoot has been sighted in every state but Rhode Island and Hawaii.

A woman from Dyer, wishing to be known only as Margo, slowly raised her hand.

"About four years ago, I was driving on Indiana 35, just north of Indiana 10 in Starke County," she said. "It was nighttime. I was heading north when something came out of a swampy area from the west. It was huge and walked across the road on two feet.

"I stopped the car in disbelief. I was shaking so badly that my daughter had to drive the rest of the way. I don't know what it was. That's why I'm here tonight."

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