September 19, 2018
Writer: Bryanna Willis
Dr. Jeff Meldrum is a professor of anatomy and anthropology. He works at Idaho State University teaching classes like human anatomy and evolution. His special emphasis is on the study of bipedalism, the evolution of walking on two legs. Animals that are bipedal include great apes, humans and an as yet unconfirmed species, bigfoot.
This weekend, Dr. Meldrum will speak at a bigfoot convention in Pocatello. He will talk about the latest pieces of evidence and science behind the Patterson-Gimlin film.
He will discuss why the film was rejected by the scientific community, but now with what we know about human evolution and a greater fossil record, that it actually precedes the knowledge of what early humans could have been like and assist in our current knowledge of human history.
Meldrum says his interest in studying bigfoot came after he was out in southeastern Washington and he came across the track of what appeared to be a bigfoot. Meldrum emphasized that when he came across the prints he had been studying how the lower parts of our bodies are adapted for upright walking, specifically feet.
“I’ve studied fossilized footprints in Hawaii and Africa and all around the world. I’ve looked at the fossilized foot skeleton of our early hominid ancestors as well as our close ancestors the great apes and so with that background I was brought face-to-face with very fresh 14-15 inch long tracks.”
He described the conditions as being misty and the ground was silty making it similar to clay.
“These tracks where so fresh that when I knelt down beside them you could still see the skin ridge detail from the bottom of the foot,” he said.
He recounts how as a child he watched the Patterson-Gimlin film and was skeptical through all those years. Now with all his experience studying these footprints he says, “that set the hook.”
That was 22 years ago and since then he has accumulated 300 footprint casts and hundreds of photographs of alleged footprints attributed to bigfoot. These form the basis of his study of the legend.
Ever wonder what a sasquatch foot looks like? Meldrum says he has observed feet that are broader than a human foot, they are flatter, which makes sense since a creature of that size would not be able to have an arch, but still have some midfoot flexibility. They don’t have a thumb-like big toe like other apes but a big toe more like ours. Their toes are longer than ours and Meldrum says this is from gripping and navigating the irregular surfaces of mountains and forests.
He says the prints he studies are “elegantly” adapted for a large primate walking on two legs. He says through studying these feet he considers it is more incredible to say sasquatch doesn’t exist then to at least acknowledge the possibility that there might be something out there.
These feet could not, he said, be formed just by making an enlarged print of a human foot, carving it into wood and then strapping it onto a hiking boot as many people have suggested.
When talking to a colleague he remembers the person saying, “Well after all Jeff it’s just a story.” To that he says, “well stories that leave footprints, that shed hair, that void scat, that vocalize, that have been witnessed by intelligent, sober, experienced hunters and agency personal, it’s a lot more than just a story.”
Meldrum says science does not start with the identification of a body.
“Ok yes,” he said, “to conclusively demonstrate the existence of body, a type specimen, a piece that is diagnostic… science starts when you have a question.”
Based on everything Meldrum has observed and studies he says he does not believe in bigfoot, he is convinced, on the basis of the evidence, that bigfoot exists. He says any scientist should be amazed to discover that there is an ancient hominoid or hominin species still existing today. He points out the discovery of bones of a species of tiny humans now called the hobbit. “That made headlines,” he said, “well gee wouldn’t you think that the discovery of or the recognition of a large bipedal primate in North America in our own back yard would be headline news?”
He says an attitude he regularly comes across is “well they can’t exist so they don’t” he said. “Well what about looking at the evidence and then thinking ‘hmm, well how could we go about this question even more incisively? How could we get that conclusive evidence for or against its existence?”
Dr. Meldrum will not be the only speaker at the Walking with Bigfoot Convention in Pocatello. Also speaking are Cliff Barackman, a cast member in the popular cable series “Finding Bigfoot,” and Becky Cook, an Idaho resident who has collected a large number of stories of sightings of bigfoot in Idaho and compiled them into two books: “Bigfoot Lives in Idaho” and “Bigfoot Still Lives in Idaho.”