Sabrina Marie hovers over a pile of excrement, trying to figure out who left her there. She suspects a dog or a raccoon and is quick to rule out that it’s sasquatch droppings.
“I guess it would be a lot bigger than that,” she said.
Mary would know. She is the social media manager for the Trent University Sasquatch Society, an official club that has some 140 “squatchers”. He is registered with the school’s student union, sandwiched between other groups like the Trent Conservatives, the badminton club, and Model UN.
“I was really interested in otherworldly things and cryptozoology, so I thought this was a great opportunity,” said Marie, a fourth-year biology student at the school, located in Peterborough, Ontario, 68 kilometers northeast of Toronto.
The company, now about a year old, is dedicated to finding signs of the mythical beast. The sasquatch, also known as Bigfoot, has long been mentioned in Aboriginal oral history. It is often depicted as a giant hairy ape-like mammal, walking upright in the forests mostly of the Pacific Northwest, but ignored by scientists.
The members of the society go on an exploration, trudging through the woods to follow the advice they receive. There’s also a learning element, online meetings for weekly Q&As with researchers and sasquatch enthusiasts like the cast of Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot series.
The group recently searched a marsh outside Peterborough, where club founder and chairman Ryan Willis learned that mysterious footprints had been found.
He brings a stick, to bang on the trees and try to get a response to as well as a portable Bigfoot noise maker, to reference any howls, sniffles, roars, or moans he can hear. His eyes are open for oversized tracks or peculiar tree structures.
“A lot of the experts we talk to say you should keep going back to the same areas,” he said.
“That does not make any sense”
Willis, a fourth-year Canadian Studies student at Trent, has long been obsessed with the tradition of sasquatch and Bigfoot.
“I probably prefer [to call it] sasquatch because I think it sounds pretty professional. Sometimes you say Bigfoot and people say, ‘Ha ha, Bigfoot.'”
But he hasn’t spotted anything suspicious yet – and the recent search of the swamps hasn’t turned up anything either. It’s no surprise to Trent anthropology professor Eugene Morin, who scoffs at the idea that sasquatchs walk in any forest.
“In terms of ecology, it makes no sense,” he said.
Morin explains that a pool of partners is needed to sustain a population of mammals. He says if the sasquatch existed, there would have been many more sightings and evidence of companions, especially given their supposed size.
“I think it’s fun,” he said of the company’s mission. “It’s probably entertaining but it’s like UFOs…I think UFOs in my opinion are more likely to be [real].”
5:05This student society is looking for swamps for sasquatches
This does not discourage Willis. He wonders why people who claim to have seen something would risk speaking out.
“There’s a lot of stigma around coming out and saying you saw a sasquatch,” he said.
Talking to those who have had encounters makes you believe so. It’s murkier for other members of the company, like Allison Adam, a third-year business student who recently joined.
“I’m not ruling it out…I might have to see one to be really sure,” she said.
No reports? Don’t bother looking
Matthew Moneymaker, one of the animators of Finding Bigfoot, was intrigued when asked to speak to the group Trent. He knows of only one other school society dedicated to the search for the legendary beast, at a university in Virginia. He hopes they take off in more places.
“All these kids are really into it. They’re having a lot of fun,” said Moneymaker, founder and president of the US-based Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.
He admits that Ontario isn’t the most “squatchi” place and encourages Trent students to stick to places where sightings have been reported.
“Randomly going out, looking in the woods around campus, it’s like it’s ridiculous,” he said. “I hope this group can organize themselves enough to know where the closest reports are and that they can hang out there at night, like I did in law school.”
Willis wants other schools to start their own chapters of Sasquatch Society and bring more of it to academia. As he prepares to graduate, he hopes to travel to places with more sasquatch reports, like British Columbia, Oregon and California.
“I would like to continue to do everything I can with it and go as far as I can.”