The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is wild country and quite different than the lower part of the state. The peninsula has almost 30% of Michigan’s land area, but only 3% of the population. Nearly the entire Upper Peninsula is heavily forested and nearly inaccessible. The eastern portion is a lowland swamp that is part of the Great Lakes Plain, while the elevation rises to the west making the terrain more steep and rugged. Taken as a whole, you couldn’t ask for better habitat for sasquatches.
The photographs that brought us to the Upper Peninsula were taken by a local Yooper (as the residents of the Upper Peninsula call themselves) named Craig Sulk. He owns 80 acres adjacent to his home on which he regularly hunts. He has about ten motion-sensor trail cameras deployed throughout this property at all times to monitor the deer population and their habits.
On May 9, 2012 a camera obtained a series of three photographs taken over a two minute interval. The first photograph shows a deer sniffing a stump in the foreground. The second picture shows the same deer in pretty much the same position, but in the background is a shadowy man-shaped figure standing a distance away. The third photo has the deer looking to its left, but its ears are listening out to its side instead of the direction the deer is facing. The shadowy figure in the second photograph is nowhere to be found in the first and third photographs which means it is not a play of light and shadows, but rather something that moved into and out of frame while these three pictures were taken.
Craig says he reviews something on the order of 20,000 photographs a year, yet he has never seen a person in any of the photographs that he didn’t personally invite onto the property. There are a couple of other isolated homesteads nearby this location, but they are few and far between. Still, the fact that there are some people living nearby means we cannot totally dismiss the possibility of the figure being that of a human, however unlikely it might be. It should be noted that Craig felt it was most unlikely that someone would be on his land uninvited because of how remote the land is, as well as the fact that he would probably shoot at a trespasser.
On site measurements put the figure at 35 to 40 yards away from the camera. The comparison photographs we took of Bobo gave us a very rough estimate of the height of the figure, which we roughly determined to be around six feet. I believe that Bobo was standing a bit closer to the camera than the figure was, but even with this discrepancy the figure wouldn’t be anywhere near the size of an adult male sasquatch.
Since the figure stood at a height that is well within human range, we were not able to definitively say that Craig’s photograph shows a sasquatch. However, complicating the lives of bigfooters like myself is the fact that not all bigfoots are huge. In fact, it is my belief that female sasquatches tend to be in the 6 -7 foot range on average, which would make them exactly the size of the figure in Craig’s picture. Complicating things even more is that every 8 foot tall sasquatch at one point in its life is 6 feet tall. While it is not certain that Craig captured a photograph of a sasquatch on his trail camera, it is entirely possible.
By far, the most commented-on portion of this episode was Matt’s claim that sasquatches create light with their eyes with some sort of bioluminescence. While I disagree with this, I feel I should first explain why Matt believes this and could possibly be correct. Matt may be eccentric, but he’s not stupid. He has gathered quite a few reports over the years of people who claim that they have seen glowing red (or other colored) eyes that were too bright to be explained by them simply reflecting the ambient light. Also fueling his belief are the reports of bigfoot eyes glowing more brightly and then fading while the witness is observing the creature. Matt has therefore come to the conclusion that bigfoots can do this at will, and they do this in order to identify and differentiate other members of their own species from the similarly-shaped humans.
While it is well known that many organisms create light with their own biochemistry, none of these species are mammals, let alone primates. The vast majority of bioluminescent creatures are invertebrates, but there are a few fish with that ability. The only reference I can find of any mammal having any sort of relation with luminescence was a paper published in the journal of the National Center for Biotechnology Information entitled “Spontaneous and Visible Light-induced Ultraweak Photon Emission from Rat Eyes.” This paper detailed the finding of parts of the eyes of rats that emit very weak light, seemingly emitted after “charging” by the higher energy photons passing through the eyes during normal vision. These ultra-weak photons, it is suggested, could be the source of what is called “discreet noise” in the eye, or sort of a visual white-noise. Still, this is a long ways from creating light at will from the eyes.
I have given Matt’s hypothesis a lot of thought, and he and I have had more than one conversation about this phenomenon. There are some problems with his hypothesis, such as the idea that the light created inside the eye would therefore blind the eye. After all, if our ears emitted music, it would be difficult to hear beyond those sounds. There is also the problem of this being totally unprecedented in mammals. There should be some other species that can do this same thing. After all, all other bigfoot behavior can be found in other species.
I think there is another explanation more grounded in anatomy that isn’t dependent upon a totally unprecedented phenomenon in the animal kingdom. Bear with me while I explain.
First of all, sasquatch eyes are very large, which makes sense considering how large the creatures are overall. With human eyes being on average about an inch in diameter, bigfoot eyes should be at least 1.5 inches in diameter, or even larger. Keep this fact in mind while I continue.
Light enters they eye through the pupil, or the dark circle at the center of your eye. The colored part surrounding it, known as the iris, is actually a pair of muscles that expands and contracts the pupil to control the amount of light that enters the eye. The iris contracts the opening of the pupil in bright conditions, and widens it in the dark (expanding to about 9 mm in diameter) to allow as much light in as possible. The wider the opening, the more light can be gathered. This light is then focused on the retina at the back of the eyes which absorbs the light and sends the information the brain through the optic nerve.
Most witnesses who encounter sasquatches at close range note that they do not observe the sclera, or the white part of the eye surrounding the iris. Some witnesses have noted a white sclera in sasquatches when the bigfoot glances to one side without turning their heads. This is important to note because some apes have dark scleras. The white sclera is readily visible in nearly all humans.
Since the sclera is not usually seen in sasquatches, it seems that the entire visible part of their large eyes is taken up by the iris (most often brown in sasquatches, but not always). Since so much of the visible part of the sasquatch eye is taken up by the muscles that expand and contract the pupillary opening (as compared to a human), it seems reasonable to assume that sasquatches might have the ability to expand their pupils far wider than humans can. Add this to the fact that their eyes are bigger to begin with, then they would certainly have a much more efficient light-gathering organ than we humans do. This alone would go a long ways towards explaining their excellent night vision. (There might even be more factors contributing to their excellent night vision, such as an increased number of rod cells on the retina, the presence of a tapedum lucidum, or even a different shape to the eyes, such as what is found in owls, that could increase the light-gathering abilities of their eyes even more.)
To illustrate how much of an effect a greater pupilary opening would have on the light-gathering capacity of the eyes, let’s do some math. The average human pupil dilates to about a diameter of 9 mm. This diameter yields an area of about 64.6 square mm. At twice the pupillary opening of a human, which is about 18 mm, this would make the area of the pupil a staggering 254.5 square mm. That gives four times the amount of area light can enter the eye. It’s possible that the sasquatch pupil can open to even larger diameters than this, which would further increase its light-gathering abilities.
Now, let’s get back to the eye glow issue. Most, but not all, bigfoot eyeshine is described as red. Human eyes shine in flash photography with a red light because the flash is reflected off of the blood-rich retinas at the back of the eye. Perhaps the sasquatch eye is so efficient at gathering the available ambient light (even in very low-light conditions), that it can focus what little light there is on the retina and have some reflect back at the witness. In dark conditions, it wouldn’t take much reflected light to stand out against the black background, and would indeed appear to glow. (The reports of other eyeshine colors in sasquatches suggests the presence the reflective layer behind the retina called the tapetum lucidum, which is commonly found in nocturnal animals. However, the inconsistency of reports leaves this presence far from certain.)
The concern of sasquatch eyes glowing brighter and fading in the presence of a witness can also be addressed by the above hypothesis. One of the physiological effects of stress and/or fear is the dilation of the pupils. In other words, when we are under stress our pupils open wider. It can be safely assumed that some sasquatches experience greater stress when they are confronted with a human presence. It makes sense that their pupils would dilate, allowing even more light into their eyes to be faintly reflected off the backs of their pupils, thus increasing the red light seen by a witness. Stress reactions in sasquatches in the presence of humans is corroborated by the reports of them “smiling” or baring their teeth at a witness, which is a well-documented stress reaction in great apes.
Matt might be correct in his hypothesis that bigfoots create light with their eyes. However, I believe the above explanation goes a bit further towards explaining the eye glow sometimes seen in sasquatch sightings. Only time will resolve this issue, and in the meantime we as researchers have to continue gathering information to support our hypotheses.