Oct 212011

In 2006 Dr. Jeff Meldrum authored a book entitled Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science (ISBN 0-765-31216-7) which puts forth a variety of arguments for the existence of Bigfoot. An entire chapter is devoted to the analysis of a large cast that was quickly dubbed the “Skookum Body Cast.” Meldrum addresses claims that the most likely candidate other than Bigfoot for the creation of this large impression was an elk. Meldrum first offers this line drawing on page 119 which is captioned “Typical posture of a bedding bull elk, with the resulting pattern of impressions. The darkest regions indicate the position of the hooves.”

Contemporaneous with the publication of Meldrum’s book was an analysis by Dr. Anton Wroblewski, a professional geologist with a background in paleontology and ichnology. Wroblewski created a photomontage that cleanly matched the features found in a wallowing elk to those found in the Skookum Body Cast.

As we can see in Wroblewski’s photomontage, the elk’s hooves are beside the elk, not under it as in Meldrum’s drawing. In addition, an informal written analysis was posted to a popular Bigfoot Internet forum, and later reposted to the James Randi Educational Foundation forum. Needless to say, this caused a firestorm in the Bigfoot community, as the credibility of multiple Bigfoot advocates was called into question. A variety of arguments were advanced by Bigfoot advocates that the cast did not represent an elk. One persistent claim has been about how elk leave hoof prints when rising from a wallow. On page 119 Meldrum writes:

“And finally, and perhaps most telling, when an elk rises from a repose it must place its hooves directly under its weight in order to stand, leaving tracks in the centerline of its imprint, Yet there are no elk tracks located in the center of the Skookum imprint, only deep and clear elk imprints skirting the imprint.”

This claim is in direct opposition to Wroblewski’s analysis:

“Significantly, the lack of hoof prints directly within the outline of the main body print is exactly what is seen in deer, elk, and other ungulate lays (see Elbroch, 2003). Hoof prints found outside the main body outline, but related to the forelegs reveal how the animal stood up.”

Here is a set of screen captures taken from an elk hunter’s video. As we can see from the digital time display, the elk bounds out of the wallow very quickly, within a second. First off, we see from the video that “wallowing” is a dynamic activity, and the elk is in different positions at different times. Here is a screen shot that shows the elk on its side, not on its belly, as in Meldrum’s drawing.

The next still image is just after the elk has been hit with an arrow.

From there we see a quick series of positions, none of which show the elk’s hooves positioned in the main body impression. The elk has explosively heaved itself to the side, not placidly stood up in its own body impression. Remember, Meldrum claimed that an elk must place its hooves directly under its weight in order to stand which is an absolute statement. As such, Meldrum’s absolute claim is factually inaccurate.

It’s possible that Meldrum could have avoided making fundamentally flawed arguments like this if he had first consulted professional ichnologists. As Dr. Wroblewski put it:

“Mark Elbroch, whose book I used as a conveneient, (sic) authoritative, and recent reference in the hopes that BFers would actually take the time to investigate how “real” trackers work, has weighed in and agrees with my interpetation (sic) as well. There is no controversy as to the identity of this particular cast. Anyone with one working eye and an ounce of common sense can see that it’s an elk or large deer trace.”

For further reading, here is another account of Wroblewski’s analysis by Daniel Perez.

 Posted by on 10/21/2011 Bigfoot

  4 Responses to “The Case of the Skookum Elk Cast”

  1. The real world and its workings are much more interesting than a world in which phenomena are attributed to imaginary creatures.

  2. Nicely written. I was able to find one more video of an elk rising in a similar fashion. Also an nice image of an elk impression with no hoof marks inside of it is available. (i think it may have been knolls from an elk farm?)

  3. I see hooves placed within the lay upon rising.

  4. Obviously the elk must apply force at some point or points when it gets up. From the video you can see that most of the force comes from the rear legs, as its hooves are firmly planted, and it bounds so far forward that its front hooves only make contact with the ground when they are totally out of the wallow. Any load bearing applied by the front legs will be at the “elbow” joints, not the hooves. You can prove that for yourself with this simple experiment: Position yourself on the floor as if you were going to do a push-up. Instead of supporting your weight on your hands, support your weight on your elbows. Humans extend their hands forward, elk extend their hooves backward, but the physics are the same. You can feel the weight of your body on your elbows, NOT YOUR HANDS.

    The video clearly shows the elk roll-heaving to its left. You would certainly find rear hoof prints near the main body impression BUT NOT DIRECTLY INSIDE IT as Meldrum asserts. You might find the impressions of the “elbow” joints of the front legs, but probably not the hooves. If you found hoof impressions they would not be from the plantar surface. But most importantly neither the impressions from the rear hooves or the front legs would be found within the main body impression.

    At this point the Skookum Elk Cast is like the Shroud of Turin; its promoters just can’t give up their icon, and will defend it regardless of how irrational it is to do so.

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