The Centre for Fortean Zoology was founded in the UK in 1992 - nearly 20 years ago. Over the past two decades it has expanded to become a truly global organisation. We opened our American office in 2001, our Australian office in 2009, and now - in our 19th year - we are proud to welcome CFZ Canada to the CFZ global family.

Thursday 25 June 2020

RICHARD MUIRHEAD: Is this the first Canadian porcupine fish?

A rare poisonous fish, usually found in tropical waters, was found earlier this month washed up on shore near a Vancouver Island community. 

The tissues of the spotted porcupine fish contain tetrodotoxin, which can cause paralysis and eventually asphyxiation, according to Gavin Hanke, the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Royal B.C. Museum. 

It's the first time the species has been found in B.C., he said. It's been preserved as part of the museum's collection.

RICHARD MUIRHEAD: From the archives

The Belleview Times
May 31st 1912
Alberta newspaper
Burmis is a community in Alberta


RICHARD MUIRHEAD: Very rare bird in Vancouver

VICTORIA - Bird enthusiasts have flocked to Vancouver Island from all over the world to catch a glimpse of a rare bird that has touched down.

Kirsten Mills was one of the first to spot the yellow-browed warbler in Panama Flats on Friday and since then her phone has been ringing off the hook.

RICHARD MUIRHEAD: Strange howls in the Ontario wilderness

Strange howl

TORONTO -- Does Bigfoot exist? And if so, is it Canadian?

Ontario hunter Gino Meekis recorded videos of strange, loud, echoing howls in the woods that have left biologists scratching their heads.

He’d never “heard anything like this before,” he told in a phone interview. “It was more bass-y than anything I’ve heard scream before.”

Sad news

I have some sad news for you all. Robin contacted me the other day. She is seriously ill, and will not be able to run CFZ Canada for the foreseeable future. She was going to resign, but I told her that she is much loved and very appreciated member of the CFZ family, and that Richard Muirhead, Richard Freeman, Carl Marshall and I would act as placeholders until she returns.
In the meantime we are all sending her our love and healing vibes. Bloody hell I sound like an old hippie…..

Wednesday 8 April 2020

My Name is Daryl

There's a very cute insurance advertisement on tv right now.  At the end of the ad, the woman is chatting with Sasquatch, and calls him "BigFoot".  He replies, "My name is Daryl" and that is a facet of the study we don't often talk about-the psychology of the beast.

If we accept that Sasquatch, or in this case Daryl, is significantly human, we have to consider that he also has emotion. Without good evidence of interaction between multiple animals, or even interaction with humans, it's hard to gage what sort of emotional capacity this big guy has. Most often, we compare him to either gorillas or humans. Both of these have the capacity to feel and express emotion.

Given those things, what can we infer about Sasquatch? Gorillas in the wild have been well

documented to show affection. Dian Fossey’s work in the field, along with Jane Goodall who studied chimpanzees, and BirutÄ— Galdikas, who studied orangutans, not only document habits like food gathering or confrontation. All three extensively documented the interactions between the animals, and often the interaction between the researchers and the subjects.

In 1959, American zoologist George Schaller carried out a yearlong pioneering study of the mountain gorilla. In the field at Mt Mikeno in Congo. Recognized by many as the world's preeminent field biologist, he studied and lived with the mountain gorillas of the Virunga Volcanoes along the northern edge of Rowanda. It wasn't until the publication of The Mountain Gorilla: Ecology and Behavior in 1963, that the general public was introduced to how profoundly intelligent and gentle gorillas really are. Until then most believed they were considered not only dangerous when provoked, but dangerous all of the time in interactions with all species.

Shaller and Fossey were not the only field researchers to admire (and to provide valid, important information), but they are excellent resources for understanding the emotional side to gorillas. These creatures have individual personalities and rich social lives. Gorillas communicate through at least 22 distinct sounds, and a variety of other ways, including facial expressions, sounds, postures and gestures. They communicate feelings from playful laughter to frightened screams. They even belches in contented bliss after a particularly good meal.

In gorilla families, there is a distinct pair of parents and up to about 28 other individuals of both sexes. Like humans, they show loyalty, compassion, and protection of those who are younger or injured or in some other way not fully functional at an healthy adult level. Also like humans, gorillas often greet each other by touching their noses together. They are also known to give a reassuring embrace. Their reaction to challenge from other adults is also similar to human, although more guttural. It's not unusual for a dominant male gorilla to fight to the death to protect his family, but it is also common for the dominant male to kill the children in his family to get the attention and reproductive needs met.

We are most familiar with human emotion, of course. This is largely because we have them, and we can be empathetic with others of our species. While we usually don't kill our children out of jealousy, we do often have the emotion behind it. We also easily see those among us that have personality "flaws" like addiction or psychosis. Similarities between the emotional development of the bonobos and that of human children suggest that great apes regulate their emotions in a human-like way. Research by Zanna Clay, PhD, and Frans de Waal, PhD, showed that bonobos recovered quickly and easily from their own emotional upheavals. Clay notes that bonobos more often gave body comfort (kissing, embracing, touching) to those in distress. They show hints at emotion regulation, such as the ability to temper strong emotions and avoid over-arousal. In some cases, they do this better than humans.

If we accept that Sasquatch is a composition of the evolution of apes and humans, it follows that Sasquatch, like Daryl, would have these emotions. Field research has shown that they are definitely curious. Reports of the animal visiting campsites and going through the items there, as well as reports of them standing in the distance or some sheltered space and observing human researchers are common. Humans have a fascination with the divide between their species and animals, so it follows that bigfoot would be equally fascinated with the similarities and differences between their species and humans.

No documentation exists of how Sasquatch feels about us, or even about others of the same species. It is logical to assume they have families, with times that are both loving and challenging. All animals show fear in some way. But what about the more complicated emotions like grief and a sense of humor? Dr Gary Stanley's work with Koko (the gorilla who could communicate with American Sign Language) has given us insight. Koko's trainer and long-term companion, Penny Patterson, thought Koko signed in novel ways and showed complex emotions. Patterson documented that when a cat that Koko loved was killed in an accident, Koko signed: “Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love.” Linguists and experts in sign languages disagreed with some of Patterson's conclusions. Sign language has complex grammars, like spoken tongues in expressiveness. Koko’s ability fell short of a fluent human signer, and Ms Patterson was Koko's interpreter. This invited the question of how much she was inferring what Koko “must have meant”.

Despite the disagreements between researchers, it is abundantly clear that gorillas and humans both have extensive emotional capacity. It follows, then, that sasquatch would have this as well. In fiction, like "Harry and the Hendersons" and the more recent " Missing Link" it is clear how much the missing "stars" connect and express feelings. In the similar "Smallfoot" offering, the roles are reversed. The sasquatch in that film sees humans as mythical creatures in the yetis’ imaginations. Across the board, the "beasts" are shown to have not only empathy, but also the ability to feel lonely. This may not be too far from reality. Given the relatively small number of living sasquatch, it is reasonable to imagine feelings of loneliness, and even fear that the loneliness will not end.  Perhaps if we consider this as we do our fieldwork, it will bring us closer not only to answers, but also to a connection with the beast.

More Reading:

Tuesday 17 March 2020

This is Real

Last night, I re-entered Canada.  I was given a pamphlet and told to self isolate for 14 days, simply because I had been in the United States.  This is common among all of our countries, and it does affect this study.

I would suggest that all research be done at home, online for now.  There are volumes of work on unusual animals and this is an opportunity to learn about them.  It's also a great time to learn basics like biology, climatology and all the other "ologies" that affect the living world.  Many universities offer online learning, and it's wonderful even if you don't get the credit or the degree. Doing it online keeps you safe from this virus.

Stay out of the field.  We don't know if this bug will spread to the animals around us.  Additionally, one should never go into the field alone and right now isn't the time to hang out with others.

We are always asking others to take our study seriously.  We want to be respected as researchers.  Let's take this latest challenge seriously as well.  You may feel great, not know anyone exposed, and find it difficult to understand what the big deal is.

I assure you, it's a big deal.  It's probably the biggest deal of your adult life.

What it isn't, however, is something to panic over.  We've weathered, MERS, SARS, H1N1, the AIDS epidemic, and more.  We will weather this as well.  The way to do that is to be kind, be patient, and to help others, even if they are strangers.

Help others.  Stay away from rampant, unsupported rumours.  Don't let social media panic take over.

Be well, physically and mentally.

Just do it.

Monday 3 February 2020

Oh Okopogo

Is it not enough that the Okanagan Valley has Sasquatch?  Apparently not.  Lake Okanagan has it’s own “monster” that the locals (and Cryptozoologists) call Ogopogo and the first nations call Naitaka, or “spirit of the lake.”  Ogopogo has been allegedly seen by Aboriginal people since the 19th century.

Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Canada, and its strange alleged inhabitant has been witnessed many times over the past couple hundred years.

Blake Neudorf shared his strange footage on YouTube earlier this month. It was taken nearly two years ago in Kelowna, BC, on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake. He and his father had been fishing on a dock there, when they saw something in the water. “Something massive,” as Neudorf puts it in the video’s description.

“It was huge,” he writes, “I would say at least 60 feet long….you could visually see it rolling in the water.”

Neudorf and his father tried to chase after it in their truck, but they never saw it again. Was it Ogopogo?

There have been other filmed sightings, as well. One happened in 1968, which reportedly was followed up with a computer analysis that determined the sighting was indeed of a “solid, three-dimensional object.” The television show Is It Real? in 2005 found that, while it was likely an animal, its size was possibly “overestimated.”  In 1854, settler John MacDougall was swimming his team of horses across the lake. N’ha-a-itk pulled the team down and he realized that his canoe, which was tied to the horses was being pulled down as well. He cut the poor animals loose, and narrowly escaped with his life.

What do you believe?

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Saturday 1 February 2020

A Creepy UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Nahanni Valley is approximately 500 km (311 mi) west of Yellowknife in the Canadian
Northwest Territories.  It is nearly untouched.  The area has been designated a UNESCO Heritage Site, Meeting their criteria for promoting international collaboration in education, sciences, and culture in order to "increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights". UNESCO is part of the United Nations.

Because it is remote and almost untouched, there are many stories of strange phenomena.  One areas is known as “The Valley of Headless Men.”  Many people have disappeared here, then turned up without a head.

Indigenous Dene tribes, Also known as the Athapaskan peoples, have inhabited the region  for over 30,000 years, with one language and sustained by the land. Nahanni  means “The People Over There,” and is thought to reference a tribe of mountain dwelling people known as the Naha, who mysteriously vanished. It is likewise told that about 44 people had vanished in the valley by 1969.

Other phenomena have been reported from here as well. Mysterious lights and UFOs have long been sighted in the valley, as well as other unusual aerial phenomena.

The area is also known for its cryptids, as it is believed by some to hold a remnant population of a type of bear-like carnivore called the bear dog, or Amphicyonidae, which was thought to have gone extinct in the Pleistocene epoch.

In addition to this strangeness, an ice cave called Grotte Valerie hosts ancient skeletons of over 100 sheep were found, apparently having starved to death  around 2,500 BC. The find has earned the cave the nickname of “The Gallery of Lost Sheep.”

Some say that the valley is cursed.  The native people of the region have always believed that some evil, supernatural force is to be blamed for the tragedies. Some think that the deaths were the result of the ghosts of the mountain Naha warriors, risen from the dead to drive away the white man as they were known for beheadings.  Some even suggest a secret entrance to the Hollow Earth somewhere in this valley, or that it is a "vortex" or “thin spot” in the veil that separates different dimensions.

Skeptical theories point to the attacks being carried out by hostile native tribes or rivalries between miners scrambling to find the mythical stores of unfound gold. Disappearances could be the result of any number of dangers to be found in the wilderness.  The area is a place of extreme cold, with unexplored caves, gullies, jagged rocks, and grizzly bears.

Ultimately no one really knows what decapitated these bodies or what happened to the people who disappeared.

Mountain Beast Mysteries reviewed a book called LEGENDS OF THE NAHANNI by Hammerson Peters.  Mountain Beast Mysteries is a YouTube channel dedicated to providing information and stories on the subjects of Bigfoot and all the conspiracy theories related to it.

More Reading:

Saturday 25 January 2020

How Would You See This?

There doesn't seem to be much happening in Canada these days, so have a look at the latest from Washington State, about 100km from the border.  In a tweet, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) released photos of a shadowy figure that resemblance Sasquatch.

Sasquatch spotted!!! I'm not superstitious... just a little stitious. Have you noticed something strange on our Sherman Pass/SR 20 webcam before? If you look closely by the tree on the left there looks to be something... might be Sasquatch... We will leave that up to you!
 — WSDOT East (@WSDOT_East) January 22, 2020

In this still image, taken by webcam , the so-called Sasquatch appears to be mid-stride walking on Sherman Pass, into the forest of the Pacific Northwest.  The area is a hotspot for sightings.  

I have to wonder how this relatively ambiguous black figure was spotted.  Is there someone assigned to watching the cameras for Bigfoot?  Here's a cropped close up of the figure.

I don't find this photo particularly conclusive.  This could be a lot of things.  It would have been much more interesting if someone had made the effort to go check the spot for tracks/footprints.

The Kelowna Now Facebook page discussion of this even has garnered over 560 comments.  Most were just tagging friends to show them the article or something funny but respectful.  The western provinces of Canada generally embrace Sasquatch, whether real or myth. One of the posters puts it well:

Laurie Smitty Smith I believe they are out there...but this ...skeptical

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