By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
In November of 1997, a man and his brother were cutting firewood ion the road from Cody to Yellowstone’s east gate, when they were startled by a strange sight in the distance. Looking through binoculars, this was their report:
“It was definitely upright, walking on two legs. Though there is no way to say at this distance, the specimen appeared to be between 6 and 10 feet in height. More striking, however, was its mass. The creature, covered in dark hair, almost seemed fat. Maybe obese. This was no bear. I saw it walk for a good 100 yards and it never came down on all fours.”
Over the last 50 years or so, there have been 28 reported sightings in Wyoming of a tall, muscular creature, covered in dark hair, with long arms, leaving behind huge footprints.
More than 10,000 people in the continental U.S. have claimed to have had encounters over the decades with creatures known as “Sasquatch.” Those claiming to have seen or interacted with the legendary beasts often are met with disbelief — and suspicion.
But that disbelief is slowly dissipating. A survey in July by Civic Science found that more Americans believe in Bigfoot than they have in the past. Over the past two years, the number of adults in the United States who believe that Bigfoot is a real, living creature has gone up from 11% of those polled in 2020 to 13%.
But for many Wyomingites, Bigfoot’s existence is old news, as sightings have been reported throughout the region for decades.
Bigfoot In Wyoming
The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), founded in 1995, documents sightings of the mythical beasts in North America. According to the BFRO database, the most frequent sightings in Wyoming have been in Park County – nine incidents have been reported over the years there, compared to other counties (Lincoln has had four sightings; Teton and Carbon counties have 3 each listed in the database; Uinta has 2). Seven other Wyoming counties have each had one reported sighting of the elusive Sasquatch: Crook, Fremont, Johnson, Sheridan, Sublette, Sweetwater and Washakie.
“I do know that there are several sightings that have occurred in Wyoming,” said noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich. “Everywhere from up near Jackson, to the Wind River Range, to where I grew up, outside of Cody.”
And although skeptics may balk, some of the reports have come from highly credible sources.
In 1978, two trained geologists were on their way into Yellowstone National Park, driving west on Highway 14 at approximately 1:45 a.m., when they were startled by a “large, dark shaggy figure” coming up out of the ditch.
“As we approached the figure at a speed of about 45 miles per hour, it looked first at the vehicle (we noticed the yellow reflection from its eyes that is seen in a dog’s eye when the light catches it at night) then deliberately turned it’s head away from the lights. That motion was non-human or bearlike, in that the shoulders, chest, and head moved simultaneously as it caught sight of our vehicle and then turned its face away from the headlights.”
The geologists agree that the creature was between 6-7 feet tall; weighed between 600-800 pounds; and was most definitely not a bear. Neither was under the influence of alcohol or medication, and neither professed to believe in ghosts or other unexplained phenomena.
The most recent listing on the BFRO page for Park County was the account of a family of four touring Yellowstone National Park in July of 2002.
“I was in my parent’s car on the northwest side of Mt. Washburn in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming when my mom, dad, brother and I saw a humanoid figure, too tall to be human, walking upright along a ridge around 300 yards off. It looked hairy, and between 8 and 10 feet tall. It was around noon and it was partly cloudy and my family was scanning the ridge for bighorn sheep when we saw it.”
The most famous of all the Wyoming Bigfoot stories, however, was the account of Wyoming Game and Fish biologist John Mionczynski, who spent almost two hours on a bright, moonlit night in the Wind River Range in 1972 in a standoff with what could only be described as Bigfoot.
“Around midnight, I heard something outside, it was kind of a rumbling sound, like somebody snoring,” Mionczynski told listeners of the “Sasquatch Tracks” podcast this past December. “And I saw a shadow come by.”
Mionczynski said the nearly full moon was bright, and the silhouette cast by the moonlight made him think a bear was nosing around at a bacon grease stain on his tent. So he smacked the beast through the canvas wall.
“I took my right hand and just whacked it with the back of my hand, and yelled real loud right then, and that scared it,” he said.
But the creature didn’t move too far away, actually returning to the sidewall of his tent two more times. When Mionczynski reached out a third time, he realized this was no bear.
“This time when it came back, the silhouette was different – it was standing upright,” he said. “I hit it with my hand… and the instant I did that, I saw the silhouette of an arm come down on the top of my tent, which was about six foot four height.”
The arm was long, covered with hair… and there was a humanoid hand at the end of that arm.
“The silhouette of the hand on the top of my tent – and I say that rather than a bear paw, because digits point straight ahead on a bear paw, and this had obvious fingers, four fingers and a thumb that was opposed.”
The beast pushed down hard on the top of Mionczynski’s tent, collapsing it on top of him. Mionczynski said that must have startled the creature, which he still, in his confusion, thought must be some sort of bear.
Mionczynski clambered out of his collapsed tent and sat near the fire, holding his firearm, knowing the beast was still nearby.
“I started dozing off,” he said, “and I woke up to the sound of something hitting the ground.”
Several more similar sounds followed, and Mionczynski realized that something was throwing …pine cones.
“A pine cone seemed to fall out of the tree, and it landed next to the fire,” he said. “And then another pine cone and then another pine cone. And I realized there was no wind blowing. These cones were not falling out of the tree. They were being lobbed at me from behind this little pine tree… and that went on for about 40-45 minutes.
“So that was the extent of that experience,” said Mionczynski. “It threw pine cones for 45 minutes and then it left.”
Local Agencies Weigh In
When he reported the incident to the District Ranger for the Shoshone National Forest upon his return, Mionczynski was told that he was not alone. The Forest Service had received numerous reports that summer of 1972 of strange sightings and occurrences in that section of the forest, similar to his experience.
In recent years, though, wildlife agencies like Wyoming Game and Fish are unaware of any sightings of hairy, humanoid giants.
“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” said Corey Klass, Wildlife Supervisor for the Cody Game and Fish office. “But that being said, I don’t know. I can only answer based on my time and experience.”
What We Don’t Know
Although there is yet to be scientific proof that the Bigfoot creatures exist, Ulrich pointed out that there is much yet to be discovered in our world.
“Think about what we are absolutely convinced we knew 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 10 years ago, to what we know now,” Ulrich said. “Imagine what we can find or discover or know in 10 to 30 to 50 years from now.”
Unusual happenings, strange sightings and mysteries will continue to keep us guessing, said Ulrich.
“When I was younger, I was convinced when my family was camping up Francs Fork outside of Meeteetse that a juvenile Sasquatch had wandered into camp,” he recalled. “The smell was right. The behavior was certainly consistent with what little we know about Bigfoot.
“Unfortunately, it was just my little sister who hadn’t showered for a few days.”
And the legend continues.