Ireland’s Abhartach

AbhartachbyDavidDaleTrust our Irish friends to come up with a monster of a cryptozoology legend! This time, it’s a horrible dwarf that may have influenced the legend of Dracula due to its propensity to come back from the dead – and demand a bowl of human blood! Let’s investigate this mysterious creature and see if there’s any truth in it – or perhaps it’s just a dose of blarney! ( Artwork right by David Dale.)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day friends of CryptoVille! Here’s a tale I think you’ll like, especially on this festive day! Here’s how it begins:

In 1875 Patrick Weston Joyce wrote of the creature called the Abhartach in his book, The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places.  This is the excerpt from his book about the Abhartach:

“There is a place in the parish of Errigal in Derry, called Slaghtaverty, but it ought to have been called Laghtaverty, the laght or sepulchral monument of the abhartach [avartagh] or dwarf. This dwarf was a magician, and a dreadful tyrant, and after having perpetrated great cruelties on the people he was at last vanquished and slain by a neighbouring chieftain; some say by Fionn Mac Cumhail. He was buried in a standing posture, but the very next day he appeared in his old haunts, more cruel and vigorous than ever. And the chief slew him a second time and buried him as before, but again he escaped from the grave, and spread terror through the whole country. The chief then consulted a druid, and according to his directions, he slew the dwarf a third time, and buried him in the same place, with his head downwards; which subdued his magical power, so that he never again appeared on earth. The laght raised over the dwarf is still there, and you may hear the legend with much detail from the natives of the place, one of whom told it to me.”

ClanDoyleChieftainWiki quotes another version of this tale wherein the creature is described as a “meamh-mairbh” which means “walking dead” in Gaelic. He was killed by a man named Cathan (according to the Irish article listed below in the References section), believed to have been a local chieftain. He had to kill the Abhartach twice because it kept coming back from the dead. (Artwork left actually depicts a chieftain from the Clan Doyle.)

After it came back a second time, Cathan consulted a Christian saint to determine how to dispatch the monster. The saint told Cathan that the Abhartach was an undead, which is why he kept coming back from the dead demanding a bowl of human blood each time.

The saint told Cathan it could only be killed with a sword made from yew, and it had to be buried upside down with thorns strewn around the grave, and a large stone placed on top of it. It wouldn’t kill the Abhartach permanently, but it would subdue him and his magic. Cathan did as he was advised and the Abhartach never returned.

EvilWizardIs there any truth to this tale? Believe it or not, some people think so. Remember, though he’s called a Dwarf, he was considered a very evil wizard. Others say he was deformed in some way, regardless of his appearance, he was a creature to be feared – one with terrible magical powers.

Truth Stranger Than Fiction

It turns out there is a place in Ireland to this day called “Giant’s Grave,” sometimes called Leacht Abhartach (Abhartach’s sepulcher). It lies out in the open in the middle of a great field. The area where it’s located is called Glennullin (eagle’s glen) in the county of Derry, in its northern region. There is a mess of thorns covering the grave, almost obscuring a huge stone lying beneath it. Right next to it is a big Hawthorn tree that grew from the thorns originally strewn on the grave.

AbhartachGraveTodayWith HawthornTreeAccording to an article for historyireland.com, professor Bob Curran (who specializes in Celtic History and Folklore at the University of Ulster, Coleraine), “The land on which the grave is situated has acquired a rather sinister reputation over the generations. Locally it is considered to be ‘bad ground’ and has been the subject of a number of family disagreements over the years.” (Photo left of the actual site with the Hawthorn tree in place.)

Trouble began in 1997 when the locals attempted to clear that land and get rid of the gravesite. According to the locals, several strange things occurred:

  • When trying to cut down the tree, a brand new chainsaw malfunctioned three times.
  • As they began to lift the great stone lying over the grave, a steel chain snapped, injuring one of the workmen and his blood poured out soaking into the ground – a detail the locals dwell upon given the creature buried below.
  • Bob Curran himself reported having “a severe and inexplicable fall after visiting the site.”

Folklorist Curran goes on to explain in his article, “The spilling of blood was not uncommon amongst the ancient Irish. … The roots of this tradition undoubtedly go back into pagan times and may have a connection with the returning dead. The horrors of the Famine considerably added to the lore.”

Abhartach01He continues, “Although most cultures have vampire stories, such tales have a particular resonance in Ireland. Here, interest in and veneration of the dead seems to have played a central part in Celtic thinking. One of the great festivals of the Celtic year – the Failte na Marhh (Feast of the Dead), celebrated 31 October (Hallowe’en) – honored the returning dead from beyond the grave or from the ‘Otherworld.’”

Connected to Dracula?

Curran credits Patrick Weston Joyce for connecting the legends of the Abhartach and what Curran calls “an Irish vampire tradition.” Interestingly, Joyce published his findings in 1880, which Curran points out was seventeen years before the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula classic. At the time, Stoker was a civil servant working in Dublin.

Curran believes Stoker must have read Joyce’s book and used the Abhartach as a basis for his vampire legend, Count Dracula. Here’s how Curran connects the dots:

dracul“Might not the legend of the vampire-king, coupled with the strong tradition of blood-drinking Irish chieftains and nobles recounted to him as a child by his Sligo-born mother and the Kerry maids who worked about his Dublin home, have eventually coalesced into the idea of Count Dracula? Certainly, Stoker was not writing from any great experience of Eastern Europe. He had never been there and was relying heavily on tourist accounts of the region. His experiences may have come more directly from Irish folklore. Even the name has Irish resonances. In Irish, droch-fhoula (pronounced droc’ola) means ‘bad’ or ‘tainted blood’ and whilst it is now taken to refer to ‘blood feuds’ between persons or families, it may have a far older connotation.”

Isn’t that interesting? First of all I never knew Bram Stoker was Irish. Then, I never realized how this fascination with bloodletting permeated the ancient Irish landscape. Further, I thought Stoker had been to Eastern Europe, at least prior to writing his classic tale.

I think both Joyce and Curran make a good case that the legend of Dracula was actually born in Ireland. But is this Abhartach still causing trouble for the local residents today?

Well, I’ll let you decide. ;)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhartach

http://www.historyireland.com/18th-19th-century-history/was-dracula-an-irishman/

 

 

Mokele Mbembe — Africa’s Last Dinosaur?

mokele_mbembe_attack_by_benwootten-d5wuvcbMokele Mbembe is a huge dinosaur reportedly still living in the rivers of Western Africa. Sounds like it should be easy to spot, right? Not so fast. CryptoVille investigates this mystery to see if there is any truth to this huge cryptozoology tale. Are the regional natives right about the existence of a huge water creature that looks very much like a dinosaur? Let’s see! (Artwork right by Ben Wootten.)

I recently watched an excellent episode of Monster Quest (S 3 E 18) where they explored the legend of the Mokele Mbembe. I had heard of this creature before in an episode of Destination Truth, when Josh Gates and his crew went looking for the animal, but came up empty. I thought that was pretty much the end of it. But the Monster Quest show has got me thinking again, and I’d like to share this with you.

The Mokele Mbembe (whose name translates to “one who stops the flow of rivers”) lives in the rivers along the border of the African countries of Cameroon and the Congo. Three rivers converge there and of them the Dja River is a hotspot according to the local people, and so is river that converges with it, the Boumba River. What I didn’t realize about this area is that it’s classified as a rainforest so the area is remote and very hard to access.

MenFightingItMaking access even harder is the political situation in the Congo. It’s a wild and dangerous place and the people that live there seem to be wary of straying across any borders or territories, apparently for good reason.

Cameroon is about the size of California with less than half the population, according to Monster Quest, so that leaves plenty of room for large animals to hide in the rainforest.

There’s only one major problem. Mokele Mbembe is said to look like a sauropod dinosaur, but they died out before the great mass extinction, so how could one have survived this long? Further, it would require quite a few of these animals to ensure a successful breeding population. Could the area hide that many huge creatures?

Historical Sightings

A guest of the Monster Quest program, biologist Dr. Ray Mackal (retired from the University of Chicago) said the first mention of this beast in the Western world occurred in a priest’s notes in 1776. His name was Abbe Lievain Bonaventure Proyart and he was writing about the area’s natural history. He noted a creature, “which was not seen but which must have been monstrous: the marks of the claws were noted on the ground, and these formed a print about three feet in circumference.”

CanoeMenLater on in 1870, a British entrepreneur, Alfred Smith, recorded hearing of this creature, but it was referred to as the “Jago Nino” which translates to “giant diver.”

In 1909 a German, Hans Schomburgh, and a hunter from England told naturalist Carl Hagenbeck about an animal described as a “huge monster, half elephant, half dragon.” They both said it lived in the swampy areas of the Congo.

There have been other sightings and expeditions to search for the animal in recent times. If you want to see a complete list, see the Wiki link in my References section below.

The natives living in the area for ages have known of its existence and accepted it as part of their world. They are afraid of it, though, because they said it can break their wood-hewn canoes and kill people.

Mokelefootprint1In 2006, someone named Peter Beach was exploring the area for the Mokele Mbembe and claims to have found huge footprints in a muddy shoreline (Photo right). He took photos and also made plaster casts of the impressions. Science doesn’t seem to have been convinced by the footprint cast, so it seems we have to set that aside, at least for now.

Beach’s theory was that the creature was eating leaves from the tree canopy overhead when it made the impression in the mud.

Appearance and Behavior

Natives describe the creature as between 25-30 feet tall (7.6 – 9 m), 26-29 feet long (8 to 9 m), reddish brown colored, with a frill of some sort along its very long neck. The head is supposed to be snake-like. The locals say it mainly stays submerged in the rivers, but at night comes to the shore to eat leaves.

dino30Mokele Mbembe is seen during the rainy season, but in the dry season, it disappears. The locals say they believe it goes down and hibernates in the natural caves that line the river, particularly along the Congo side of the river. They report seeing what can only be described as air passages dug along the riverside that go far back, beyond anyone’s ability to see into. Once the passages are dug, they dry out in the air and become as hard as cement, thus insuring a steady supply of air to the creature(s) somewhere below.

The Monster Quest show found structures that looked just like air passages but were unable to explore more thoroughly because of the danger of militias appearing from the forest at any time.

UnderWaterWhen they searched the river with a fish finder they saw many intriguing serpentine shapes, all of large size but nothing more definite than that. The problem is the poor visibility in the river. As one of the explorers said it’s like searching through chocolate milk, you can’t see anything.

Adding to the difficulties, explorers have to contend with violent thunderstorms from which they have to run and seek shelter. Then add in the known animals living in the area that pose threats to humans, plus the snakes, alligators, and bugs of every sort and variety. It’s a very tough job.

Science Looks Into the Mystery

In an article for Live Science, writer Benjamin Radford describes the Mokele Mbembe with several major differences. Instead of being a reddish-brown color, he reports it is brownish-gray. Further, Radford describes them as supposedly eating elephants, hippopotamuses, and alligators! If this beast is some sort of sauropod, then it was an herbivore. I don’t know where he got this data from, but it does not correlate with the description given by the local indigenous people.

WithHippoRadford is a confirmed skeptic, as demonstrated in his article for Live Science. He claims there is no real evidence as to the existence of these creatures and he sites several failed expeditions in the modern era to prove his point.

He even begins his article with an explanation of how fiction, from Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 thriller, The Lost World, through to Jurassic Park, has formed our opinions on the likelihood of dinosaurs still living in remote areas of our world today.

Don’t Be Discouraged

What I find amusing about Radford’s article is that right next to it in the margin is an ad for another Live Science article from August, 2008 by Jeanna Bryner, Surprising Number of Lowland Gorillas Discovered in Africa. The author describes how surprised science was to find so many of this known-by-science species of apes living in the Congo. They had no idea they were there.

EatingLeavesI wonder why they are surprised? What have we just said about the Congo? It’s remote, it has few inhabitants, it’s ravaged by political infighting, it’s riddled with predators ready to kill humans, and if you survive all that, the weather will kill you.

In the case of the Mokele Mbembe, add this to the roster of problems: they live in a murky river where visibility is almost non-existent. And they wonder why no one has caught any meaningful evidence of this beast?

javan-rhinocerosLet me share these related fun facts with you, to highlight how science can be a bit thick at times. It wasn’t until 1998 that science got adequate proof as to the existence of a 4,000 pound land mammal – the Javan rhino. How do you miss a 4,000 pound mammal that lives in scrub land and from the photos I’ve seen is plenty tall enough to be seen over the scrubby grass and bushes? (Photo left.)

In a December 2013 article for inhabitat.com, Tamsin Woolley-Barker shares with us the news of a newly discovered pygmy tapir (Tapirus kabomani) that is the largest terrestrial mammal found since 1992. (She may not have heard about the Javan rhino.) She describes the tapir as “a shy and elusive fellow, living below the radar in the grasslands and forests of Brazil and Colombia.” This animal (photo below right) weighs a quarter of a ton. How does one miss a 500 pound animal anywhere? Did the locals know about its existence? Of course they did.

TapirusKabomaniNow just because science has missed the boat in both these instances (and probably more), I have to say, that alone does not mean the Mokele Mbembe really exists. As much as science annoys me in this regard, I do hold it in high esteem because it gives us plenty of insight and principles on which to operate in our natural world. That’s a very good thing.

Believing in Possibilities

I’m not a scientist and I’m not a “cryptozoologist.” I am just a woman who wants to know the truth, and that’s probably true for many of my readers, be they men or women.

mokele_mbembe2I believe in possibilities. To begin with, I listen to what the locals have to say about their environments. Who knows it better than they do? Add to that, the descriptions they give follow a natural order, in other words the animals are behaving in a way we can understand based on what we know about other animals already recognized by science.

Finally, science is discovering new, unknown species of animals every year, by the hundreds. So it’s a learning process for all of us.

I think there are very tantalizing clues that there may just be some large reptilian sort of creature living in the rivers of western Africa. The Monster Quest show really captured my interest, further supported by Josh Gates’ exploration of the area. It doesn’t have to be a “leftover” dinosaur either. Evolution may have coughed-up an extraordinary reptile or something else.

mokele_mbembe_by_sebastien_ecosse-d6jd89wThere may be something there. It reminds me of the hunt for Champ, the Lake Champlain creature. There is no smoke without fire, right? It’ll be interesting to see how these searches go. (Artwork right by Sebastien Ecosse.)

For now, I think the Mokele Mbembe is firmly hidden behind all the conditions that make it extremely hard to travel there – political and natural. I guess for now it’s going to remain a mythical beast until hopefully one day, someone will be able to get science the evidence it needs to prove the existence of this tantalizing creature.

What do you think about the Mokele Mbembe?

References

http://www.livescience.com/38871-mokele-mbembe.html

http://visitcryptoville.com/2015/01/23/champ-search-getting-closer-to-the-truth/

http://www.damninteresting.com/retired/the-tracks-of-the-mokl-mbmb/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mokele-mbembe

 

 

Strange Creature Spotted in Germany – Real or Hoax?

SpeckledBear02A strange creature has wandered into view and it sure looks unusual. Is it a monster or cryptid, or something Photoshopped by a hoaxer? The truth might be closer to home than you think. CrpyptoVille investigates!

When I first saw this photo I thought the back end looked like a baby elephant, and the front – who knows. I was sure it was another hoax perpetrated through the use of Photoshop. What I subsequently discovered astonished me and I wanted to share this story with other cryptozoology lovers. (Photos in this article courtesy of Alliance/DPA/Photoshot unless otherwise noted on the picture itself.)

SpeckledBear01Turns out this is a bear that is nearly hairless! Her name is Dolores and the poor thing lives in a zoo in Leipzig, Germany. More astonishing, all the female bears of this species (Spectacled Bears Tremarctos ornatus) in that zoo have lost their fur except for some tufts around their head and neck. Here’s a photo (left) of what they look like when they have their fur. Cute, right? Have another look at her claws though – they’re dangerous like any other species of bear.

What’s causing the loss of fur? Scientists are stumped. The good news is that the condition isn’t life threatening and they aren’t sick in any other way.

SpeckledBear04South American Roots

The bears originally came from South America, their natural home where they are the only bear known to live in that region. Ecuadorian custodians of these bears saw the same problem a decade ago and were at a loss to explain it.

Then they decided to change the diet they were feeding the animals. Spectacled bears normally eat fruits and bamboo and only a little meat but their custodians had added some fun treats to their diet, human food and sugary drinks like Coke. When they removed the human food from the bears’ diet, their fur grew back completely within four months.

SpeckledBear03Is this what is happening in Germany? Right now, no one is saying for sure. But the German scientists are definitely trying to solve this problem and hopefully they will soon.

Fun Facts

These bears are quite interesting. Here are some fun facts:

  • Last known short-faced bear in existence.
  • Related to the now extinct Florida spectacled bear and Giant Short-faced bears of the Pleistocene eras.
  • The spectacled patterns around their eyes are unique to each individual bear, kind of like a zebra’s stripes.
  • Males can weigh 220-440 lbs. (100-200 kg) and females, 77-181 lbs. (35-82 kg).
  • Shoulder height is 24-30 inches (60-90 cm)
  • They live in the Andes mountains in the countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia (in the western region), and Argentina (in the northwest region).

You  never know what you’re going to see in the animal kingdom, do you? I’m not that familiar with bears to have looked at that photo and said, oh, that’s a hairless bear. Maybe a hunter would be able to, but for most of us city and suburb dwellers, it’s a bit harder.

As always this gets me wondering what’s happening in the cryptid world from time to time. Do they suffer these same problems and anomalies that the rest of the animal world suffers? I have to think they do and we should probably keep that in mind when we’re seeing things we just cannot explain.

We live in a fascinating world, don’t we?

Were you fooled by the photos or did you know what it was just by looking at it?

References

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1225042/Germanys-bald-bears-Fur-disease-afflicts-Dolores-baffles-vets.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/12/091208-bald-bear-picture.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectacled_bear

 

 

Pondering UFOs

UFOTakeOFfCryptoVille muses over the findings of recent UFO TV programs and reports from around the internet. Alien activity seems to be getting bolder and kind of obnoxious. What is happening in our world, and is there anything we can do to protect ourselves?

In the past month I’ve been reading about alien and UFO reports that I find disturbing. My unease was further fueled by some very interesting programs on the Science Channel in the last couple weeks or so.

I should probably tell you that of all the UFO sightings reported around the world, I think that about 90% of them are the result of Earth science that in some cases we don’t understand yet, but in other cases we definitely do (e.g., ball lighting, increased electromagnetic activity around fault lines, earthquakes, and volcanoes).

I give about 8% of the sightings to technology undergoing tests either by the US military or other militaries around the world. We can’t tell what they’re up to, yet they are clearly making advances as we find out every decade or so. And of all the people involved with “UFO sightings,” the military will be the last to tell us anything.

UFOSciChanLogoSo that leaves 2% of sightings that, in my opinion, don’t have a good explanation and that may in fact point to extraterrestrial activity on and around our planet. And they are the ones that disturb me.

The Shows

The programs I’ve been watching include (but aren’t limited to) NASA’s Unexplained Files, Close Encounters, and Uncovering Aliens. I like the first two shows because they do try to find other explanations (earthly and scientific) to explain various sightings, but if there’s no other explanation, then we’re left to draw our own conclusions.

Uncovering Aliens is interesting because it’s kind of like Finding Bigfoot – the saving grace is that they have a skeptic on the team as well as a journalist. So while two of the members seem to believe everything is aliens, the other two members balance them out. In the process they highlight some interesting cases that I don’t think I would have heard about otherwise.

UFOreptoid2Disturbing Accounts

Reptoid Creatures

The first account I’d like to share with you comes from a Monsters & Mysteries in America episode (Season 3 Episode 1 Tennessee Wildman and Subterranean Reptoid) on Destination America channel.

In that account a woman was walking her dog somewhere around Los Angeles, CA when she heard a strange noise near a sewer grate. She got closer to see what it could be when she saw the red eyes and monstrous form of a humanoid reptile. It was aggressive and caused her to run into a nearby car, which I guess was fortunately unlocked.  She called her boyfriend on her cell phone and he started running to help her. Before he arrived the reptoid and others like it got closer to the car and she was terrified they were going to nab her. Soon after her boyfriend came racing down the street brandishing a golf club and the reptoids quickly retreated back into the sewer grating. He followed them and made threatening gestures and they retreated further into the sewers.

Badly shaken, but alright, the pair returned to their apartment wondering what the heck they had just seen.

UFOreptoid1In the interviews with both these people, they were firm in their recollections, they were clear, unwavering and adamant that they experienced things the way they described. I watched their body language and neither of them seemed to be lying. In fact, their body language supported their words. The boyfriend still looked frightened when he described what he saw and what happened.

At this point I have no good reason or data to doubt them.

Which leaves us with this cold realization. What the heck were those things? Some have speculated they’re not aliens at all but that they come from “inner Earth.”

UFOPertweeSiluriansThat reminds me of a very old Dr Who story when Jon Pertwee was the doctor. I believe he called them Silurians, but they were another race of creatures that had evolved on Earth and went dormant, giving the apes time to evolve into humanity as we know it. A very fanciful story and I have to wonder if that plays into the explanation of what these other creatures are. How many other people have seen that Dr Who episode (photo right) which is now filed away in their subconscious mind?

UFOdemonsStill, I believe the two witnesses when they say they saw reptilian humanoids. So what are they? I also wonder if they aren’t some form of demons. I cannot get over the fact that people in South America refer to alien creatures as demons – that’s the translation. Given the grotesque appearance of many of these things, that explanation would fit, in my opinion.

Family Abduction

The next tale that caught my attention comes from a family that was abducted in the 60s, I believe, in the Midwest somewhere. A mother and her two young sons and the grandmother were abducted. I saw this March 4 in the evening on Science Channel, but I cannot find which show it was on.

Anyway, all four of them told the same story and were traumatized by the event. The one boy saw what he described as a praying mantis type of creature that looked like it walked on all fours but could stand up on the hind legs.

UFOMUFONLogoFor me, it all comes down to how they tell the story and the main son who was reporting the event looked very credible. He even went so far as to get MUFON to come in and gather what evidence they could, given that the event occurred years before. I should note, the abductions continued throughout the lives of the boys.

The thing that impressed me was how the family’s reports were consistent with each other’s reports. The boys, now grown men, were desperate to get some validation as to what was happening to them over the years.

The thing that sickens me about these accounts is that nobody seems able to fight back, refuse the examination, or scare the aliens away. I wonder if they had a gun and shot it, would that make the alien’s flee?

If abductions are real, they are terribly, horribly wrong and we need to find a way to stop them. This is one of the main reasons why I don’t trust these aliens at all. If they want to befriend us, fine, but this behavior is not friendly, it is not acceptable, and it needs to be stopped.

UFOLakeMichiganArtistConceptWhat’s Happening in Lake Michigan?

Several shows recently highlighted UFO sightings on and around Lake Michigan. The Uncovering Aliens crew felt Lake Michigan was a hotspot because of all the sightings being reported there. In addition to sightings in the sky, many people are seeing these craft dive down into the lake itself, leaving people to wonder if they have an alien base located in the depths of this Great Lake. (Artist’s rendering of UFOs over Lake Michigan above right.)

I mentioned to my personal Facebook friends that I was thinking a lot about UFOs lately and asked them if they’d ever seen anything strange. One had dear “Church-going” friends, as she described them, who saw strange craft over “the lake” near their home in Lincoln Park, Michigan about 30 years ago. Lincoln Park is very near Lake Ontario, and not that far from Lake Michigan.

UFOEvilAlienAnother friend said she and her family saw strange lights moving very fast and erratically near their home in northern Illinois. Northern Illinois is right on Lake Michigan.

What makes this so strange to me is that in my post on Facebook, I never mentioned a lake at all, much less a Great Lake, or Lake Michigan.

What the heck is happening up there?

Current UFO Sightings

Go on any UFO tracking website, such as MUFON’s site, and you’ll see there are plenty of sightings being reported around the world. Most of them are painful to watch because they are such junk, in my opinion, but not all of them.

What disturbs me most is how they are exerting their domination over us, particularly through these abductions, but even in the sense they get too close and seem to be watching or monitoring people, our aircraft, and other situations.

UFOalien-through-the-windowWho Can Protect Us?

How aware of all this is our military? I know ever since Roswell they have been vilified for keeping secrets from the rest of the population but let’s not forget – they’re busy developing the next generation of fighting machines and need to keep that secret from our enemies.

Still, are they aware of these abductions? Do they have any way of combating these creatures? Are we (humanity) at the mercy of these horrible creatures?

It makes me uneasy.  I don’t trust these creatures if they do in fact exist. And I really hope our military doesn’t trust them either. What can we do to protect ourselves?

Have you got any thoughts about this?

References

http://maureenelsberry.com/

http://www.sciencechannel.com/

http://www.openminds.tv/alien-themed-alone-week-returns-science-channel/26194

http://visitcryptoville.com/2014/09/08/proof-that-ghost-lights-exist/

http://visitcryptoville.com/2012/11/17/alien-intelligence-what-can-we-know/

Amur Leopard Populations Growing – Implications for Bigfoot Hunting

AmurLeopardResurge01CryptoVille shares a recent report by the WWF that shows the critically endangered Amur leopard is repopulating areas of Russia and China thanks to conservation efforts. These beautiful and resilient animals still have a long way to go, but their resiliency is impressive. What could that mean for any big cats living in the Alaskan wilds?

In an article on LiveScience.com, Elizabeth Palermo shares some good news with the world about the critically endangered Amur leopard population. It seems that since 2007 the leopards have doubled their population in Russia and parts of China.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) gathered data primarily from the Leopard National Park in Russia which accounts for 60% of this animal’s natural habitat. They counted 57 individual leopards which is up from 30 in 2007.  Clearly the leopards still have a long way to go to kick the endangered label, but this is a good start.

In addition, scientists spotted about a dozen more of these leopards in the wilds of northeastern China, another part of their natural habitat.

AmurEyesAccording to Barney Long, who is the director of species protection and Asian species conservation for the WWF, “Such a strong rebound in Amur leopard numbers is further proof that even the most critically endangered big cats can recover if we protect their habitat and work together on conservation efforts. There’s still a lot of work to be done in order to secure a safe future for the Amur leopard, but these numbers demonstrate that things are moving in the right direction.”

Gathering Data

So how did they get an actual count of the leopards in these areas? Through camera traps that were placed by experts from the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. They placed the traps throughout a 1,400 square mile area and collected approximately 10,000 photos. They could tell individual leopards from other ones thanks to the fact each leopard has its own unique arrangement of spots.

Siberian/Amur Tigers Benefit

Due to the same conservation efforts that are helping the leopards, Siberian tigers are beginning to thrive in these same natural habitats. In 2009 scientists only counted 56 tigers in that area of Russia, but now they figure the number may be more around 350 individual tigers and their habitat is spreading into northeastern China.

SiberianTigerDivision head of the Wangqing Nature Reserve, Wang Fuyou, said, “These images show that Wangqing Nature Reserve has now become a breeding site for Amur tigers. Seeing these positive outcomes from our efforts greatly strengthens our confidence that wild Amur tiger populations can be restored.”

Russian and Chinese scientists are working together to monitor populations of both Amur leopard and tiger in their respective areas. It’s a bit of good news in a world that is losing so many animals every year to extinction.

Finding Bigfoot and Other Cryptids

I think the most important point to take away from this piece, apart from our happiness for the leopards and tigers, is that the scientists mounted a full campaign to gather evidence of these creatures. They took over 10,000 trail camera photos spanning 1,400 square miles!!

When people hunt for Bigfoot and other cryptids, they seem to keep the cameras up for a few days, maybe a week. I have never heard of them getting more than a few dozen photos from each camera.

BigfootbabyThat puts us at a statistical disadvantage. The more cameras employed, the longer they’re in the wild, the more photos we let them take, then the greater chance we’ll have of getting good shots of Bigfoot and other cryptids.

I realize that’s a huge undertaking for one person, or even a small group of hunters. That’s why I’ve said before I think the Bigfoot hunting community at large needs to work together more and cooperate in these data finding experiments.

Alaskan Beasts

In addition, I believe (and strongly urge) scientists to get more involved in searching for the animals that live in the remote Alaskan wildernesses. Who knows what they would find? There may be Siberian/Amur tigers and leopards living there. Some natives believe there are big cats in the back country, but how will we ever know?

Alaska-Monsters-BannerI know those areas are very hard to reach and extremely hazardous, but I’m sure we could do it if a couple universities threw their support behind it and got the funding needed to complete this research.

Will we ever see that day? We can only hope.

But don’t be sad, this report has shared some very good and exciting news with us – given half a chance, these very resilient big cats can and do make a resurgence in their natural environments and our world is all the more richer and more wonderful because of it!

What do you think?

References

http://www.livescience.com/49905-amur-leopard-population-doubled.html

 

Vile Vortices Part 2 – Hamakulia

HawaiiMap02CryptoVille continues our investigation into the Vile Vortices proposed by the legendary Ivan Sanderson. Today we visit Hamakulia in the Hawaiian Islands. There is little evidence the place is overrun with monsters and bad spirits, yet it is considered a paranormal hotspot. Let’s see what we can make of all this.

According to believers, the bad mojo associated with this area of the world centers around the volcano named Hamakulia on the southeast side of the island. According to scientists, the trouble spot is actually in the ocean itself northeast of Hawaii halfway between the Murau Fracture Zone and the Molokai Fracture Zone.

Local legends tell of the strange disappearance of ships and planes seemingly centered around that area.  Back in the day, Sanderson chose to add it to his roster of mysterious places that he called vile vortices.

According to Rick J in an article on Chess.com, “Vile Vortices are areas on the earth’s surface which have naturally occurring anomalies due to the planet’s natural electromagnetic fields being stronger in these parts than anywhere else in the world.”

Hold that thought.

Hawaii-kilauea01Bigger Picture

So here we have the Hawaiian Islands (including Hamakulia) sitting in the Pacific ocean, right along the Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire name was coined because of the overabundance of volcanic and earthquake activity all along the edges of the Pacific ocean. It actually looks more like a horseshoe, but we take the point. There is a LOT of movement occurring underneath the Earth’s crust in that area. (Photo above left is Kilauea volcano erupting.)

Here are some Wiki fun facts we should all be aware of:

“In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. … About 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 81% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire.  … The Ring of Fire is a direct result of plate tectonics and the movement and collisions of lithospheric [of the crust and Earth’s upper mantle] plates.”

Does anyone else see the smoking gun?

Hawaii-Skylight-Kilauea-VolcanoWhat Volcanoes Do

We know they erupt with violence, often spewing gas, rocks, gravel, and pumice, then there is the lava that often flows from them, and lots of steam and smoke. That’s the laymen’s view. (Photo right of a “skylight” formed by Kilauea volcano.)

But what is really happening? I want to share this paragraph with you because it pretty much sums up the whole story of volcanism and electromagnetic activity associated therein. It’s a little dry, but hang in there – you’ll get the point.

According to scientists (3rd reference in my list below):

“ Volcano-electromagnetic effects – electromagnetic (EM) signals generated by volcanic activity – derive from a variety of physical processes. These include piezomagnetic effects, electrokinetic effects, fluid vaporization, thermal demagnetization/ remagnetization, resistivity changes, thermochemical effects, magnetohydrodynamic effects, and blast-excited traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs). Identification of different physical processes and their interdependence is often possible with multi-parameter monitoring, now common on volcanoes, since many of these processes occur with different timescales and some are simultaneously identified in other geophysical data (deformation, seismic, gas, ionospheric disturbances, etc.) EM monitoring plays an important part in understanding these processes.”

HawaiiLighting01Don’t let the big words confound you.

Piezomagnetic effects: Refers to the magnetization of rocks. Scientists are studying how and when rocks are magnetized and how the rocks react under a variety of circumstances. (Photo above left of lightning formed by eruption on Kilauea volcano.)

Electrokinetic effects: The flow of fluid through layered volcanic rocks generates the electrokinetic electric and magnetic fields found there. Science is further studying this property as it all fits into the bigger equation: how volcanoes work.

What excites me about these two types of effects is the fact they involve electricity – just what people are witnessing around these so called “paranormal” areas, like Hamakulia.

HawaiiStrangeLightsVolcanoStrange Lights

According to someone named Dotini/Steve on a physics forum thread, “…[in] a reasonably solid-looking piece of research into the recent lightning activity in an Icelandic volcano eruption: [ which] includes references to additional papers on the subject of volcanic lightning:

The authors seem to conclude that in this case, charge separation occurs in the plume and at the vent. They seem to think that [the] water content of the plume and local atmospheric conditions may affect the quantity of lightning strokes discharged in the plume.”

(Photo above right of “strange lights” formed by volcanic action.)

BOOM! You see what’s happening? Science is getting ever closer to knowing the full dynamics of a volcano, which goes hand in glove with earthquakes, and begins to shed light on a vastly misunderstood area – paranormal hotspots. We’re seeing more and more how these huge Earth processes form pent-up energy that is then released as electricity resulting in strange lights, charged air, and may very well cause havoc with ship’s and plane’s electronic systems.

HawaiiVolcanoInducedWaterSpoutNow please don’t get mad at me. I’m not saying there isn’t genuinely strange paranormal phenomenon around the planet. I know there is. In my opinion,  it’s just not associated with volcanoes and earthquakes. Science is coming ever closer to fully understanding these properties of Earth science. (Photo left shows waterspouts formed as a result of volcanic action.)

Missing Ships and Planes

While science is quickly learning about a myriad of wonderful things, they don’t quite know everything yet. Are strange things happening in the skies or under the waters in the Pacific that snatch ships and planes into oblivion? I think we’d have to have the best physicists weigh in on that, but I think it’s unlikely. Why?

Because we have to consider that the Pacific ocean (since we’re talking about Hamakulia here), is a very dangerous place. From rogue waves, to gas eruptions, to strange winds – who knows what can happen. Then factor in human error, mechanical error – who can say for sure? There is a lot of potential for bad things to happen within the normal realm of our world, without adding an additional paranormal layer.

Hawaii-VolcanoIntoOceanWhat I’ve read about Hamakulia doesn’t make me believe there is anything particularly strange occurring there. In fact on one travel site I read, a resident said he never heard of any vortex in the area, all he knows is that it’s paradise and he pointed out all the benefits and joys of living there. (Photo right, lava meets the ocean.)

Let’s not forget Ivan Sanderson, though a good scientist, died 42 years ago! Science has come a LONG way since then and knowing the caliber of scientist that Sanderson was, I am sure he would embrace and applaud the achievements of science over the last 40 or so years.

HawaiiRainbowBeachBottom Line

For all these reasons, I don’t believe Hamakulia is a paranormal hotspot or a place where terrible things happen. It’s just a volcano in an extremely active seismic environment. It’s just another part of our wonderful world. Ships and planes may go missing around there from time to time, but they do everywhere else around the world, especially in remote areas like Alaska, and over huge bodies of water like the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. (Photo left of Rainbow Beach, HI.)

If you’d like to see lightning activity during an earthquake, check out this video of Sakurajima volcano erupting January 24 of this year. Watch carefully and you’ll see the blobs of light form and disappear throughout the four or so minutes.

 

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamakua

http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/hawaii-volcanoes

https://profile.usgs.gov/myscience/upload_folder/ci2010Nov2221320042871158.pdf

https://profile.usgs.gov/myscience/upload_folder/ci2010Nov231351564287193.pdf

https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/volcanos-and-magnetic-field.290372/

http://www.chess.com/blog/Rickj/volcanoesearthquakesmagnetic-fields-and-climatric-impacts

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Fire

Yuki-onna, the Japanese Snow Woman

yuki_onna_by_raulovskyAnother frozen mistress of the North, this time the Japanese spectre called Yuki-onna, embodies the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Winter season! With dual temperaments and disturbing habits, she terrorizes Japan’s frozen regions. Move over Yeti, the Snow Woman is on the hunt! 

I think it’s appropriate to ponder the legend of Japan’s Yuki-onna, or Snow Woman, on a snowy February evening when the snow is once again inundating parts of the country. (Artwork right by Raulovsky.) While we sit in our warm and cozy homes, our minds can wander into the storm and ponder whether there is any truth to this legend, or not.

Yuki-onna’s story is an ancient one. Her name means Snow Woman but she is considered a spirit or as we might call her, a ghost. Accounts describe her as tall and beautiful with nearly transparent skin that seems to recede into the snow itself. Her most definite features are her long black hair and her beautiful face with its legendary blue lips.

Many tales describe her as clothed in a flowing white kimono, while just as many others describe her as being nude. As is the case with most Japanese ghosts, she is said to have no feet, gliding along the snow and ice like the spectre she is.

Her dual temperament is very characteristic of the season she represents. First is her soft side which is much like the beautiful, quiet snowfall we see from our windows. We enjoy its beauty as it shimmers and glistens in the fading light. She is a creature of  benevolence and consideration in this persona.

Yuki_Onna_by_JR_McGeeThen we have the frightening, vengeful side which reflects those times when snow and ice threaten our lives and well-being causing accidents, pipes to burst, terrible falls, and things of that nature. (Artwork left by JR McGee.)

Through the 18th Century Yuki-onna was considered evil, but since then her softer side has prevailed at times. Today she is seen as the ghost of a beautiful woman doomed to forever walk the snowy depths of Japan.

Variations

When She Appears

Though mostly known throughout Northern Japan, one source states that almost every prefecture  (a jurisdiction within the country) in Japan has a story about a Yoki-onna except Okinawa and Hokkaido.

In some traditions she appears towards the end of the New Year’s celebration, while in others she arrives on New Year’s Day and leaves a month later.

Other traditions say she arrives only during full moons when there is “new-fallen snow.”  Yet other traditions say she comes and goes with the blizzards. Rounding out this mix, one tradition states that she appears on the cusp of Spring to mark the end of winter until the next year.

How She Appears

According to Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, a monk named Sogi wrote about the Yuki-onna sometime during the Muromachi period (1333 – 1573). He had traveled to Echigo province (now called Nigata prefecture) and there met a Yuki-onna.

yuki_onna_by_yoshiyukikatanaHyakumonogatari Kaidankai wrote, “Sogi writes that he went out of his house one snowy morning and saw a beautiful and unusual woman standing in his frozen garden. She was huge; almost 10 feet tall, with skin whiter than any human being. Although her face was young and beautiful, her hair was stark white and hung loosely about her shoulders. Her kimono was white to the point of being translucent, and was made of some magical gossamer fabric that clung to the woman’s body. (Artwork right by Yoshiyukikatana.)

Sogi attempted to speak to her, but she vanished into the snow. Discussing the vision later with a friend native to the region, Sogi was told that she was the Spirit of Snow who normally appeared during heavy snowfall. It was rare for her to appear at the cusp of Spring.”

Other Variations

According to this account there are thousands of variations on the Yuki-onna story, but here’s a rundown of the more popular ones.

  • Yuki Nyobo: The Snow Wife
  • Yuki Onba and her Child the Yukinko
  • The Moon Princess
  • The Snow Vampire
  • The Talking Snow Woman

See the article mentioned above in the References section at the end of this article if you’d like to read more about these other manifestations of the Yuki-onna.

Original Story

Lafcadio Hearn is credited in multiple documents as having covered this tale, I guess for the first time in the Western world. This is the story he tells:

A long time ago, there lived two woodcutters, Minokichi and Mosaku. Minokichi was young and Mosaku was very old.

One winter day, they could not come back home because of a snowstorm. They found a hut in the mountain and decided to sleep there. On this particular evening, Mosaku woke up and found a beautiful lady with white clothes. She breathed on old Mosaku and he was frozen to death.

Yuki_Onna_by_yazukiwolfShe then approached Minokichi to breathe on him, but stared at him for a while, and said, “I thought I was going to kill you, the same as that old man, but I will not, because you are young and beautiful. You must not tell anyone about this incident. If you tell anyone about me, I will kill you.” (Artwork right by Yasukiwolf.)

Several years later, Minokichi met a beautiful young lady, named Oyuki (yuki = “snow”) and married her. She was a good wife. Minokichi and Oyuki had several children and lived happily for many years. Mysteriously, she did not age.

One night, after the children were asleep, Minokichi said to Oyuki: “Whenever I see you, I am reminded of a mysterious incident that happened to me. When I was young, I met a beautiful young lady like you. I do not know if it was a dream or if she was Yuki-onna.”

After finishing his story, Oyuki suddenly stood up, and said, “That woman you met was me! I told you that I would kill you if you ever told anyone about that incident. However, I can’t kill you because of our children. Take care of our children. Then she melted and disappeared. No one saw her again.”

Real or Imagined?

So ends another tale about a complex entity that spans the imaginations of many living throughout Japan. It seems certain that the actual Yuki-onna is a myth and more of a cautionary tale than anything.

Is it possible that once in the distant past there was a young woman who died in the snow and gave birth to this legend? Possible, sure, but we’ll never know for certain.

Over time the legend has taken on a life of its own until now it seems like a good ghost story to tell while sitting around the fire, especially when it’s snowing outside.

What do you think? Have you ever seen a Yuki-onna?

References

http://hyakumonogatari.com/2013/12/18/yuki-onna-the-snow-woman/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuki-onna

http://www.sarudama.com/japanese_folklore/yuki_onna.shtml

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0703.html#yuki

Another Romanian Mystery – Growing Stones

GrowingStonesAs if Vampires and tales of Dracula weren’t enough, Romania gives us yet another mysterious cryptid, but this time of the geological variety. Cryptozoology lovers may be interested to learn that in Romania, the stones grow. CryptoVille digs into this monster of a tale!

Romania’s mysterious growing stones were named Trovants back in 1905 in a scholarly paper written by naturalist Dr. G.M. Murgoci, formerly of the University of Bucharest. The stones are very oddly shaped and seem to be growing as the years progress. In some cases, they move, apparently on their own.

Trovants02Over the years science has cracked the code of how these rocks grow and why. It starts with the geological story of concretion and if you want all the details of that, see the Wiki link in my references section below.

For the sake of this article, we’ll describe it this way: Trovants all have a hard stone core which, over the years, picks up sand forming a sort of shell over the hard core. The key to all this is the formula in the stones and the surrounding sand and sandstone.

The sand and surrounding sandstone must be highly porous so that it can absorb the minerals in the rainwater. This water must then contain high levels of calcium carbonate which, as it dries, “cements” the sand together over the preceding layers of sand, under which is the hard core of stone.

Trovants03Scientists figure the stones grow about 1 cm (1/3 of an inch) every 100 years. Granted, it’s a slow process, but it sure makes for some funny looking stones!

They Move!

As if growing on their own isn’t unique enough, these stones also have a reputation for moving. It seems the same sand that can become cemented onto the stones’ surfaces also can become somewhat unstable during rainstorms, causing the stones to “float” over the surface into other positions. We’ve seen something similar happen over in the Death Valley region of the Mohave Desert in the US. You can see that article here:

http://visitcryptoville.com/2012/07/19/mystery-of-the-sailing-stones/

Other Peculiarities

Scientists have noticed these stones sometimes have extensions on them that look like roots, and when they cut into the stones they see what looks like age rings (similar to tree rings).  They’re still researching these phenomena.

Trovants04Trovants are almost always rounded in shape, forming spheres, nodules, and cylinders. They may not be asymmetrical, but they are interesting.

I was surprised to find that growing stones have been found in other places like Russia, Kazakhstan, and the Czech Republic.

Sometimes we’re so focused on the animal world that we don’t realize nature is full of surprises in so many other ways. Now we can add Trovants to our roster of Amazing Things in our fascinating world!

Til the next time!

References

http://whenonearth.net/trovants-growing-stones-romania/

http://bestofromania.eu/trovanti-museum-natural-reserve/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concretion

Dead Man’s Fingers

DeadMansFingersLeave it to the wilds of Southeast Asia to bring us this cryptozoology tale. How would you like to stroll in your garden only to be besieged by dead man’s fingers “growing” out of the soil? Is it a paranormal legend or just a monster tale from Mother Nature?

Let me introduce you to Dead Man’s Fingers, known by science as Decaisnea (photo right). It comes in two varieties, Decaisnea fargesii and Decaisnea insignis. Yes, it’s an actual plant.  (Photo right.)

This cryptid plant grows in the Far East, spanning China over to Nepal, then downwards towards Myanmar. The “fingers” are actually fruit that is highly prized by the Lepcha people who live in Sikkim (an Indian state on the border with Nepal).

DeadMansFingers02The fruit, the actual “dead man’s fingers,”  grows about 4 inches long (10 cm) and is a little over an inch (3 cm) in diameter. The gelatinous pulp of both species is edible (photo left). The pulp from D. fargesii is similar to sweet watermelon while the pulp from D. insignis is bland. The color of the fruit ranges from a light lime color to a muted dark purple color.

The plant is described as forming deciduous shrubs but can grow into small trees topping 26 feet (8 m)  with a trunk nearly 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. There are cultivated versions of this plant for use in the home garden. They grow well in cool temperatures with fertile soil that is well drained. They tolerate temperatures as low as 5 degrees F (-15 C). In the US, it’s hardy in USDA zones 4-8.

DeadMansFingers03It’s too bad they don’t fruit in time for Halloween, isn’t it?  Would you like them in your garden?

(Photo right of D. insignis interior.)

Til the next time!

Amur Leopard – Living in Alaska?

Amur_Leopard_by_amrodelCould another mysterious beast be lurking in the far reaches of the Alaskan frontier? CryptoVille explores the mystery of the Amur Leopard and whether it may have transformed into a cryptozoological monster over the millennia.

Not much is really known about the ultra-elusive Amur Leopard (photo above right by A.M. Rodel) except for the fact that it’s highly endangered over in Russia and China. According to an article on amurleopard.com, scientists estimate there are only 30-40 living in the wild with another 150 or so living in captivity (zoos). Unfortunately I don’t know how old that information is as there is no date on the site’s web pages.

Conservationists are working feverishly to try and find out more about how these creatures live so that more meaningful conservation measures can be taken to protect them.

CryptoVille has covered the Amur, or Siberian, Tiger mystery and whether a population could be living in Alaska. (See the References section at the end of this article for a link to that article.) But could its Russian neighbor also have settled in the Great White North?

amur-leopard-in-snowAppearance

First we have to consider whether the Amur leopard could survive an Alaskan winter. It seems they survive harsh Siberian winters, so they should be able to handle Alaska. Their pale colored fur (light tan to a reddish brown, with white bellies) grows very long in preparation for winter – nearly 3 inches! Their spots are black.

They also have long legs that help them traverse the snow more capably. These beautiful animals measure from three to six feet long on their bodies plus an additional two to three feet in the tail.  Males weigh between 82 and 198 pounds while females weigh 62-132 pounds. At the shoulder they reach anywhere from 18-30 inches high.

Perhaps best of all, these animals have lovely light blue-green eyes.

Here’s a short video of Amur leopard cubs in China:

 

 

Required Terrain

When I think of a leopard, I imagine one sprawled on a tree limb overlooking a great African Savannah. But in fact, leopards are highly adaptable animals that can live in a wide range of environments, from the warm to the cold, from mountainous to deserts.

They can live without water for upwards of a week as long as they get moisture from their prey food. If they have some brush/grasses/plant matter to stalk through and some caves or rocky terrain to hide and hunt in, they’re good.

femalenarval15fmar28cam2a_365193So let’s see. Would there be enough cover in the state of Alaska to suit the leopard’s needs? Yes. There are plenty of places to hide and plenty of undergrowth to make stealthy stalking possible.  There are caves and plenty of rocky places for them to seek shelter, as well as lots of trees in most areas for them to climb. (Please note, the photos of these Amur leopards in this article had to have been taken in either Russia or China.)

Now let’s consider a comment in the Wiki article, “An individual’s territory is usually located in a river basin which generally extends to the natural topographical borders of the area.” Here are two maps of rivers in Alaska, one a general map and the other a close-up of the Copper River basin. I’d say there were plenty of areas to suit the tastes of an Amur leopard.

alaska-rivers-map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

copperRiverCountry

 

Feeding Practices

Leopards in general are quite athletic, too. They are strong swimmers and have been clocked running at 36 miles an hour (58 kilometers/hour).  They are said to be able to leap 20 feet (6 meters) at a time, and can jump 10 feet (3 meters) straight up into the air.

They need to be athletic in order to stalk their prey and obtain food. Their excellent vision, keen hearing, and whiskers aid them in the hunt; their sense of smell, not so much. It’s been said that in Africa, leopards sneak into villages and pick off any unsuspecting pets lying around, all without anyone hearing anything.

They’ve also been known to simply drop out of a tree onto their prey, as well as lay low at waterholes stalking some poor thirsty creature.

Because they’re so strong, they regularly haul their prey into the trees to keep other carnivores from eating it, and so they can return at their leisure to continue eating. According to the San Diego Zoo website, in Africa at least, leopards are known to eat: “monkeys, baboons, rodents, snakes, amphibians, large birds, fish, antelope, cheetah cubs, warthogs, and porcupines.”

Wild-Amur-leopard-feeding-on-preyThat begs the question, what is there for them to eat in Alaska, if they are in fact there. Well fish, certainly. If they eat antelope, they may be enticed to eat elk or caribou, not to mention moose or bear. Alaska has rodents too, and things like raccoons and porcupines. So they probably could manage and even thrive there.

In Russia and northern China, the Amur leopard hunts hares, roe and sika deer, badgers and raccoon dogs. There are hares in Alaska, and in lower sections of the state, Sitka black tailed deer (which are different from sika deer). From what I’ve read, leopards are opportunistic eaters, so I have to imagine that there is plenty of game in Alaska to which they could have adapted, especially over the course of thousands of years.

AmurEyesImportant to note: Leopards are threatened by tigers, so if there is an Alaskan tiger, you can bet an Alaskan leopard will avoid it. According to the San Diego Zoo website, “Leopards go to great lengths to avoid these predators, hunting at different times and often pursuing different prey than their competitors, and resting in trees to keep from being noticed.”

Fun Facts: Leopards can hear five times more sounds than humans can, including the ultrasonic squeaks of mice!

Did the Amur Leopard Migrate to Alaska?

From what we’ve covered so far, Alaska has much to offer these elusive creatures of the cat family. But did they make the trip across the land bridge known as Beringia thousands of years ago?

We have the same problem when speculating whether the Siberian tigers migrated to Alaska at the same time. The major problem there is that some scientists feel Beringia was more or less a barren plain and tigers and leopards need places to hide as they travel. At least one other scientist believes there is evidence to suggest that Beringia wasn’t that barren, that there were small wooded areas and grassland dotted across the land bridge.

LeopardInTreeIf that’s true, then it would be more feasible to suppose these animals ventured across into Alaska. But as it stands, we have no proof.

Fun Fact: What’s the difference between a leopard’s & a jaguar’s spots? The spots on a leopard are flower-shaped but have no central dot. The jaguar also has these “rosettes” as they’re called, but their spots always have a dot in the center.

Burden of Proof

When we consider the vast stretches of time involved in the formation of Beringia, how long it lasted, the aftermath when it disappeared again, in addition to the huge tracts of unexplored wilderness in not only Alaska but the Canadian Northwest, it seems like anything could be possible. Why wouldn’t the Amur leopard saunter across the land bridge and set up housekeeping in a brand new world?

Autumnal Denali Nt Park Scenery with mountain rangePossible yes, but if we really want an answer, it’s going to take a lot of effort. Someone is going to have to go searching for it. My recommendation is to consult with the Native Americans already living in the state. See what legends and tales they have that may describe just such an animal. (Photo of Denali State Park, right.)

Then plan your hunt from there.  I think we can all agree, given the scarcity of this animal, we don’t need anyone to kill one. But come armed with an excellent camera and video camera.

Filming a leopard, even one that may have evolved somewhat differently over the past 10,000 or so years, is still something we’re going to recognize. Science doesn’t recognize Bigfoot, and because of that (and all the freaking hoaxing going on!!), a photo or video isn’t going to be enough. It will probably take a body to convince the scientific community.

But we all know leopards exist, so even a “slightly modified” one would be recognizable.

alaska-67832_640Another equally important factor to consider, this person will have to be prepared to survive the harsh and extremely dangerous conditions of the Alaskan wilderness. That’s not something to be taken lightly.  Every year people and planes go missing without a trace. So this undertaking wouldn’t be for the faint-hearted.

I’d love to see a population of these beautiful animals discovered in the Great White North. Technically, I think they could be there. But how to prove it?

Til the next time!

References

http://visitcryptoville.com/2014/10/10/alaskan-tiger-another-great-beast-of-the-north/

http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/amur-leopard

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur_leopard

http://www.auduboninstitute.org/animals/asian-domain/amur-leopard-1951

http://www.denverzoo.org/downloads/dzoo_amur_leopard.pdf

http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/leopard

http://phys.org/news/2014-01-rare-amur-leopard-china.html

http://www.livescience.com/41542-rare-amur-leopard-cubs-spotted-video.html

http://www.wcsrussia.org/en-us/projects/fareasternleopardconservation.aspx

http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Artiodactyla/Cervidae/Capreolus/Capreolus-capreolus.html

 

Animals are always adapting in new and exciting ways!! ;)

Owliver

 

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