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Wednesday, 15 February 2006 00:00

The hunt for Bigfoot comes to town

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Stealth is not the preferred modus operandi of the Bigfoot team when they roll into town. Their black suburban, bound to elicit double-takes, is stenciled in large letters along both sides with the team’s name: Searching for Bigfoot.

The high profile is part of a clever strategy. Parked broadside at their motel on U.S. 441 in Cherokee, the logo attracted a steady trickle of onlookers, each — surprisingly — with a story to share. Perhaps their dog was devoured in its pen one night. Or their cousin saw a gigantic footprint while fishing. Or their neighbor heard strange howls that were neither an owl or a coyote.

“Nobody wants to talk about their experiences until the big-time Bigfoot hunters come to town because there’s finally someone who will listen to them,” said Tom Biscardi, the lead Bigfoot hunter with the crew.

Confronted with naysayers, the team whips out a traveling museum — two trunks of plaster casts of large foot and handprints, each with its own story of discovery.

Biscardi, 58, has been tracking Bigfoot for 30 years. He claims five sightings and numerous footprint finds. Biscardi is partly motivated by a self-described obsession.

“I’m on a quest. I’ve spent 30 years on this,” Biscardi said. “There is no stone that can be left unturned. The next one might be the real deal.”

But Biscardi’s other motivation is money, like deepsea divers who spend their lifetime searching for sunken treasure ships.

“If one of these things is found, there’s no telling how high is high,” Biscardi said. Biscardi carries a net and tranquilizer guns and plans to take the creature alive if he finds one.

Searching for Bigfoot Inc. is a for-profit company. There are a handful of investors who will get a cut of the profit if the team scores. Meanwhile, Biscardi’s day job is as a Las Vegas show producer and the owner of a company called Celebrity Images. Biscardi is the only Bigfoot hunter who’s tracking wardrobe is a grey velvet leisure suit with double red strips down the side.

A big concern is that when he does find Bigfoot, the government will take it away from him.

“We have had the guys in the black suits contact us before when we thought we had one,” Biscardi said. “There are government teams out there searching for Bigfoot right now.”

The government could steal Bigfoot and deny its existence or claim ownership of it. Either way, Biscardi loses the big payoff he’s counting on. What then?

“We go out and find another one,” said Biscardi, displaying the eternal optimism that evokes the confidence of his team.

Biscardi estimates there are roughly 3,500 Bigfoot in North America. His theory is that Bigfoot is an ancestor of homo sapiens that never completely died off, possibly Australopithecus boisei or Australopithecus robustus.

A small but cut-throat group are included in the top echelons of Bigfoot research. Mention the name of another Bigfoot expert and Biscardi will more than likely respond with unflattering remarks. His top complaint is that other researchers don’t do the fieldwork he does.

“They are armchair quarterbacks,” he said. “We are a very aggressive team. We go out and don’t leave any stone unturned.”

Biscardi worries that in addition to the feds, other Bigfoot researchers will try to steal the creature if they catch one.

“We are dealing with a very volatile situation here,” Biscardi said. “If we did find one here and we got it, we would have to fear for our lives.”

Biscardi also said that too many Bigfoot experts keep data to themselves so their competitors won’t get a leg up on them.

“If everybody ever got together and collaborated and put their findings together, we would be very close to solving this thing,” Biscardi said.

Biscardi said it doesn’t bother him if people think he’s crazy.

“What could possibly be said about me and my crew that hasn’t been said already. I know it and the guy in the sky knows it and that’s all that matters,” Biscardi said.

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