CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Judging by the number of people willing to spend up to $500 to look for him/her/it, Bigfoot appears to be alive and well in West Virginia.
The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, a group that sets up hunts for the legendary creature, will conduct a four-day search this fall through the Mountain State's hills and hollows. According to the organization's website, all available slots for the Sept. 20-23 outing have been filled.
Russ Jones, a Charleston-area chiropractor and one of the Bigfoot organization's local investigators, said the interest being focused on West Virginia isn't surprising.
"West Virginia is 16th in the nation for Bigfoot reports," he explained. "With our small [human] population and relatively poor Internet access, I'd say we're pretty active."
He said the state averages about 100 reports a year, of which perhaps 15 to 20 could be termed "solid."
"We're talking about good reports from reliable witnesses, people you think might actually have seen something," he said. "We're talking about policemen, who are trained to observe things, or people who are active in the outdoors and are able to accurately identify wildlife."
The most reliable reports get written up and placed in the Bigfoot organization's online database. Currently, the database lists 80 such encounters dating back to 1969.
Jones said a couple of the more recent credible incidents occurred in Greenbrier County, between Lewisburg and Alta along Interstate 64.
"We had two sightings within five miles of each other, and they were both from credible witnesses," he explained. "We're interested enough that we plan to put out [motion-sensing] trail cameras near the interstate to try to get a picture."
Jones said he isn't sure where September's search would focus.
"We usually make that a last-minute decision based on where we're getting fresh reports. We'll also look at the database to see which county has the most September sightings," he added.
"If I were to guess, I'd say we'd probably end up in or around the Monongahela National Forest. Greenbrier and Pendleton counties have the highest numbers of encounters."