July 25, 2005

Canadian lab to test ‘sasquatch’ hair

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The debate over the
existence of sasquatch, aka Bigfoot, an ape-like creature said
to haunt the wilderness of western Canada has entered the world
of modern DNA testing.

A laboratory will test hair samples that several residents
of Teslin, Yukon, say were left when the large, but so-far
mythological creature made a late-night run through their
community in early July.

University of Alberta wildlife geneticist David Coltman,
who agreed to do the tests as a favor to a colleague, said on
Monday that scientists have cataloged the DNA of nearly all
large animals in the Yukon such as bears and bison.

"So we'll compare it to all of that, and if it doesn't
match anything, then it's potentially interesting," said
Coltman, who suspects the hair was actually left behind by a
much more mundane Yukon bison.

"If sasquatch is indeed a primate, then we would expect the
sample to be closer to humans or chimpanzees or gorillas,"
Coltman said.

The legend of a large, hairy, two-legged creature lurking
in the mountains of western Canada and the United States dates
back to before Europeans settled the continent. This was the
second report of the creature near Teslin in just over a year.

In the latest sighting, a group of Teslin residents told
the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. they heard branches cracking
and saw a large human-like creature run by a house. It left
behind large footprints, they said, and the hair tufts that
were given to wildlife officials.

Coltman expects to have his results on Thursday and said
that even if the hair turns out not to be from a sasquatch, the
process should serve as good way to get students interested in
the field of DNA testing.

"It's sort of like a wildlife CSI story," he said.