Published: 12:15 PM - 10-31-11
Growing up on the prairies, the oldest daughter of a dad who liked to hunt, Cindy Dosen learned plenty about hunting and animal behaviour.
But what happened to her four and a half years ago, an incident that changed her life, was unlike anything she witnessed during those years.
"Having that experience, (hunting), really prepared me for going out in the woods," said Dosen. "But it did not prepare me for what I heard that day."
It was around 12: 45 p.m. on April 2, 2007, and Dosen was taking photographs near Maple Mountain of tree structures that resembled bigfoot evidence she had previously seen online. Suddenly, a group of deer ran past on a game trail, clearly fleeing something - Dosen suspected a cougar.
When she emerged onto the road, she could see a dark shadow, and took off running back to where she had parked. The creature she had spotted repeatedly let out a "yell/scream/roar" - she later came close to duplicating the noise online by combining the sound of a mountain gorilla and an African lion - and followed her, about 20 metres behind, she suspects, breaking trees and pushing bushes over, until she got to her car.
"It's like it was herding me along," she recalled.
Dosen drove home to Duncan, walked in the door and started crying, bewildered as to what had just happened.
"Be careful what you wish for," said her husband, Bob - a nonbeliever, for the record.
Dosen had dabbled in learning about bigfoot in the early 1990s and again not long before her encounter, before she went out to take the photos. Not particularly interested in sasquatch research at the time, she was just seeing what she could learn on the Internet.
"I'm a curious person, always looking for something," she said.
The incident near Maple Mountain provoked her curiosity even further. Dosen is now a field researcher and investigator for the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization - a "squatcher" in the parlance of the researchers themselves.
Dosen is one of five or six BRFO investigators on Vancouver Island, who spend time in the back country, looking for evidence, filing reports and compiling information about bigfoot sightings.
"Basically, we traipse around the woods at night," she laughed.
Researchers make calls and noises, and sometimes get return calls or wood knocks in response. They use night-vision equipment and thermal imaging to record the presence of unidentifiable animals.
"We do get verification of upright hominids, looking at us or skulking behind trees," said Dosen.
What the squatchers do isn't just try to convince skeptics of the existence of bigfoot. They are doing everything they can to find proof.
"It's more scientific, rather than just going out there and telling the world, 'There's bigfoot out there,'"
said Dosen Researchers make casts of footprints and handprints, and collect hair, blood, skin and tissue samples. Whenever the DNA is tested, results are inconclusive.
"It is all compared to everything and anything, and it comes back 'animal unknown,'" said Dosen. "The problem is that we don't have a dead animal to compare it to."
Tracking down a bigfoot carcass is harder than it sounds. For all the time Dosen has spent out in the woods, she has never spotted a dead bear, she points out. In a damp environment like the Pacific Northwest, animals decay rapidly. Some ape species are also known to cannibalize their dead, or toss leaves and branches on them, similar to a burial.
"It's sort of like a needle in a haystack," said Dosen. "It's easier to find them alive than dead."
For all their efforts to do things by the book, the bigfoot community has rarely been able to get scientists on board, for a number of reasons.
"Most of us have no or very little scientific background," said Dosen. "Trying to get professional people involved is very hard. Most investigators are people who have had personal experiences."
Even people who have had experiences like Dosen's are reluctant to come forward because of public perception.
"There are a lot of reports from people who want to stay anonymous. They don't want to be labelled as kooks. They don't want to be part of it until it comes to light."
There are also sasquatch fabrications, which of course researchers find frustrating.
"That is our biggest setback," said Dosen. "For every genuine sighting, there are probably 10 that are false."
The BFRO still makes an attempt to investigate every plausible report.
"We go out of our way to pick it apart and tell the public when they have been getting hoaxed," Dosen explained. "We go out of our way to kill a hoax right off the bat."
As it turns out, Dosen lives in a hotbed of alleged sasquatch activity. There is even a Hul'qumi'num word for sasquatch: tth'amuqw'us.
"The Cowichan Valley has historically had a lot of sightings over the years," she noted. "Lots and lots."
Most of those sightings occur along the Cowichan and Chemainus rivers, although Dosen is hesitant to reveal exactly where.
Dosen will continue to search for proof of bigfoot's existence, in the Cowichan Valley and beyond.
"It has now been integrated into the rest of my life," she said. "It used to be a hobby, but now it's a quest for knowledge."
Anyone with bigfoot-related information should contact Dosen at email@example.com or 2507484470. For more information on the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, vist bfro.net
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