A Jefferson County resident contributed evidence to what is being heralded as the first scientific research study that proves the existence of Sasquatch, or Bigfoot.
If you are already laughing, well, the researchers have been through that before.
"I've been laughed out. It doesn't feel good," said Rich Germeau, 36, a resident of the Eaglemount area. "It's hard. This thing is a lot for people to swallow. It's pretty overwhelming, too. I think there is some post-traumatic sense that can go along with seeing these things [Germeau said he has seen a Bigfoot twice]. It rocks your world. It changes your whole foundation. It's a life-changing event."
Germeau, 36, is a former law enforcement deputy and detective who spent nearly five years devoting most of his free time to searching for Sasquatch signs on the Olympic Peninsula.
Evidence he helped uncover is part of the Sasquatch Genome Project, which an Oct. 1 press release claimed has produced scientific DNA evidence of what it purports to be Sasquatch, otherwise known as Bigfoot.
More than half of the 35 samples delivered for the study came from Washington State, and a lot of those were from the Olympic Peninsula. The study has garnered national publicity, pro and con; links to video, including purported Bigfoot images, are posted with this story on ptleader.com.
Germeau, who as a detective was trained to look for facts, admitted this is something a lot of people have difficulty accepting.
"It's not supposed to be real," he said of Sasquatch. "You try to wrap your mind around it. I was always interested in the topic, but no way I thought something like that could outsmart us. Too many people are out in the woods hunting and logging and doing everything else, for this to be real. But it is. I don't know what else to tell you, but it is."
Germeau, who was born in Jefferson County and moved away with his family as a child, said his first encounter with Bigfoot was on a sunny July day in 2001 while on patrol near LaPush as a law enforcement officer. A two-legged, barrel-chested, dark-brown, furry being dashed across the roadway in front of his patrol car.
"When I seen it I hit the brakes and actually stopped in the road," Germeau said. "It's like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. My mind was saying, 'Was it human?' when my eyes told me it was not."
Germeau remembers it being an estimated 8 feet tall and possibly 800 pounds, moving in a gliding motion, with no head bob and minimal arm swing. "In four steps it had cleared the road. It didn't even look at me."
His sighting was just a few weeks after an apparent Bigfoot was seen along the Hoh River. When he told fellow law enforcement officers, "they all kind of laughed at me."
But Germeau took it seriously. A lifelong hunter and fishermen who regularly trekked alone into the Olympic Peninsula woods, the sighting had a profound effect.
"It changed my behavior in the woods because I was aware of something that wasn't supposed to be real," he said.
Germeau relocated to Eastern Washington in 2002, and then returned to the state's west side, working for eight years as a deputy sheriff, and later, as detective, for the Mason County Sheriff's Department.
About 2008, he became involved with a group of people who actively seek Bigfoot evidence. One thing led to another, and he partnered with a man from Belfair on a project to place game cameras on ridge tops and saddles where a Bigfoot could cross.
By 2009, the group had more than 50 motion-triggered cameras in the woods. However, the game trail cameras produced "pictures that aren't really going to convince anybody," Germeau said.
But one camera box in July 2009 was covered with saliva, as if something had put their face against it. Germeau swabbed the case for DNA samples, and handled it like evidence from a crime scene.
It was a while longer before a testing laboratory was found that would accept samples of hair and DNA collected at various places around the U.S., and testing was started in November 2009.
The study, “Novel North American Hominins, Next Generation Sequencing of Three Whole Genomes and Associated Studies,” was conducted by a team of experts in genetics, forensics, imaging and pathology, according to a press release. The team was led by Dr. Melba S. Ketchum of DNA Diagnostics in Nacogdoches, Texas.
The study was announced last November, but only published this month in the DeNovo Journal of Science.
The study's overall cost, an estimated $500,000, has been sponsored by private benefactors; the same way the game cameras Germeau used were obtained.
In total, 111 specimens of purported Sasquatch hair, blood, skin, and other tissue types were analyzed for the study, according to a press release. Samples were submitted by individuals and groups at 34 different hominin research sites in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. Ketchum’s team sequenced 20 whole and 10 partial mitochondrial genomes, as well as 3 whole nuclear genomes, from the samples.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) comes from mitochondria, energy-producing organelles in the cellular cytoplasm, and is passed down on the maternal lineage across generations, the press release explained. Nuclear DNA (nuDNA) is the genetic information contained in the cell nucleus and is the equal combination of DNA from the parents of an individual.
“While the three Sasquatch nuclear genomes aligned well with one another and showed significant homology to human chromosome 11, the Sasquatch genomes were novel and fell well outside of known ancient hominin as well as ape sequences," Ketchum said in a press release. “Because some of the mtDNA haplogroups found in our Sasquatch samples originated as late as 13,000 years ago, we are hypothesizing that the Sasquatch are human hybrids, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens.”
Hominins are members of the taxonomic grouping Hominini, which includes all members of the genus Homo.
Germeau said his second Sasquatch sighting was on Nov. 11, 2010, on Harstine Island in Mason County. People who had been staying in an isolated home reportedly had been hearing strange noises, so the Bigfoot hunter group set out a series of trail cameras.
Germeau was there one day, by himself, checking the cameras and said he had that feeling like someone was watching him. In the near distance he began to hear noises, including what might be the sound of a buck deer snorting.
"I was bending over working on this camera and right in front of me, I heard an exhale and I knew what it was," Germeau said. "As I start to look up, this thing is standing next to a maple tree about 20 yards in front of me. It is massively huge. It kind of bends its knees and shoots across this opening, and it does it in one motion, and disappears into the brush. It moved super fast, like 0 to 45 [mph] in 0 seconds."
The incident spooked Germeau enough that he later called his Bigfoot hunting friends and told them he was quitting. But one of them agreed to return with him to the scene to search for evidence. He said they found partial tracks on a spongy cedar knob about where Germeau had been hearing noises.
"There were two of them the whole time," he said. "One of them was diverting my attention while the other one was pretty much by me the whole time."
Germeau believes Sasquatch are smart, agile and wary. He thinks they eat whatever a black bear would eat – from meat to berries to bugs. He thinks a Bigfoot views a human as a source of entertainment.
Changes in Germeau's personal life have led to changes in his time available for Bigfoot hunting. After an unsuccessful political campaign in 2010 to unseat the Mason County sheriff, he left law enforcement "for a less stressful career."
"I'm pretty much done with [Bigfoot hunting] now," Germeau said. "These things don't want to be found, anyway."
He believes the Bigfoot figured out the trail cameras. "When you find all these cameras turned around on the trees, it tells me they're just screwing with us."
But he does feel like his efforts, and hundreds of trail miles hiked, have not been in vain.
"I set out to gather evidence and I felt like I had some experience from my professional life to assist me." Unfortunately, the goal of getting photographic evidence "did not happen, but we got crummy game camera photos and DNA."
Although many scientists do not agree, Germeau believes the DNA tells the story.
"The evidence is there. The DNA is the DNA. You can't fake DNA." Germeau said. "The samples all match together, and they are novel – don't match anything in the database. I think this is probably the biggest science discovery of at least the last 100 years, to have another species walking around North America. Ninety-nine percent of the world don't know they exist but there are hundreds of them and they live right in your backyard, behind your fence."