The Jackalope: Mythical Icon of the West

61-seated-wild-jackalope-48085-c-pcThe Jackalope has long been a part of American folklore. Depicted as a large jack rabbit with the horns of an antelope or deer, the mythical hybrid animal is a solid icon of popular culture in the west.

The origins of the American jackalope are shrouded in the past. Some of the first stories of the animal may have come from the exaggerated campfire tales of lumberjacks in the early 1900s. These rugged men spent much time in the forest and the telling of tall tales became their entertainment. Outrageous stories of rare animals and strange things that lived in the wild were standard fare at lumberjack camps.

One popular origin story for the American jackalope says the creature was the brainchild of a Wyoming hunter named Douglas Herrick. An article published in the New York Times claims that Herrick got the idea when he saw the carcass of a jackrabbit next to a set of deer antlers. Using taxidermy skills learned from a mail order course, Herrick and his brother put a set of antlers on a jackrabbit head, mounted it for display, and the jackalope was born.
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Herrick sold his first mounted jackalope to a gentleman named Roy Ball who put it on display in the LaBonte Hotel in Douglas, WY. It drew a lot of attention and an entire legend began to unfold around the Jackalope. Herrick’s mounted jackalope remained on display at the LaBonte Hotel until it was stolen in 1977.

Herrick may have actually gotten his idea for a jackalope from lumberjack tales, or, he may have seen depictions of so called ‘horned hares’ in early animal encyclopedias.
In the 18th century, many ‘Bestiaries,” (fanciful animal encyclopedias) contained depictions of various horned hares. They were in fact listed in so many “scientific” texts of the time that they were given their own, formal Latin name—Lepus cornutus translated as “horned hare.”
The animals were purported to exist in many parts of Europe, especially Germany, but were supposedly very rare. It’s possible that the tales of these European beasts were simply transposed to American soil by Europeans.

As with many tales, there may be a grain of truth to the early stories of rabbits with horns. Around the same period that Herrick created his jackalope display, a Canadian writer and naturalist named Ernest Thompson Seton was publishing a series of books titled “Lives of Game Animals.” Included in volume four of Seton’s work was a hand drawn plate showing sketches of rabbits with horn like growths on their heads and faces. It turns out; there actually had been sightings of animals with this bizarre condition.
The odd condition was documented by biologist Richard E. Shope. Shope discovered that a virus could cause the growth of hard tumors on the heads of infected rabbits. The virus, now called the “Shope papilloma virus,” could create the appearance of horns on rabbits. On rare occasions, people still spot animals infected with this condition.
Horned hare pic, Joris Hoefnagel, 1580
Humorous and outlandish qualities have been attributed to the jackalope over the years.
Although rare, groups of jackalopes are occasionally seen. Such a gathering is called a “flaggerdoot.” More often than not, it’s solitary jackalopes that are spotted. Full moons are considered the best time to catch a glimpse of the animals as they like to sit in the moonlight and sing in a human voice. Jackalopes can in fact, mimic any human voice that they hear as well as the sounds of other animals. This makes the notoriously difficult to catch. When pursued, they will throw their ‘human’ voices and emit misleading cries such as “Over there!” or, “He’s this way!”
Over the years, cowboys discovered that the best way to catch a jackalope was to use a bottle of whiskey as bait. It seems the animals can’t resist the potent beverage.
Today, jackalope items can be seen in gift shops all over the west. From postcards, to t-shirts and statues, to mounted jackalope heads.
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The creature is celebrated in Wyoming, especially in Douglas, the proclaimed “Home of the Jackalope” where the annual “Jackalope Days” are held each June.

Zoologist Karl Shuker did an excellent piece on European horned hares on his ShukerNature blog, linked below.

Horned hares, mythical jackalopes and the tall tales of early America have given the west its crazy icon, and let’s face it; it’s a lot more believable than a giant rabbit delivering chicken eggs on Easter!

Karl Shuker on Horned Hares:

http://karlshuker.blogspot.com/2013/09/horned-hares-potted-or-should-that-be.html

Douglas, WY Jackalope Days:

http://www.cityofdouglas.org/index.aspx?NID=156

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4 Corners Beyond the Edge

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Be sure to tune into this week’s Beyond the Edge with hosts Lon Strickler, Eric Altman and Sean Forker as they welcome Crypto Four Corners founder JC Johnson and Native elder Chief Leonard Dan.
This is sure to be a great round table as they guys discuss current and historical investigations in the four corners region.

Listen live and join in the chat on Sunday night, April 20th.

http://www.beyondtheedgeradio.com/

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Sharks On Twitter

shark16n-1-webScientists have tagged a massive great white shark off the Western coast of Australia. The female shark was estimated to be at least sixteen feet long and weigh a staggering 1.6 tons.

Great whites are impressive animals, considered highly intelligent with a curious nature and highly developed senses. They can reach up to twenty feet in length and over two tons in weight. Great whites can swim at speeds up to fifteen miles an hour and despite their size, can leap completely out of the water in pursuit of prey. These huge sharks have three hundred teeth arranged in seven rows. They have been known to attack humans and have killed a number of divers and swimmers off the Australian coast in the last several years.

Australia has received a lot of flack recently due to a culling program designed to keep swimmers and surfers safe from shark attacks. Critics point out that many shark species are at risk and, while the great white is not officially endangered, it is considered ‘vulnerable.’ Wildlife supports believe that alternatives to killing the sharks are needed to protect the species. Biologists have devised a tracking plan using acoustic tags surgically inserted into the sharks. The tags allow scientists to track the movements of sharks and should last for at least ten years per tag.

The great white, nicknamed “Joan” was tagged in King George Sound. Once the shark was hooked, fisheries staff had to attach ropes around it and roll it upside down. Rolling it over caused the shark to slip into a state of “tonic immobility,” similar to being asleep. Keeping the shark in the water, a small incision was made in its stomach and the tag was inserted.

Mark Kleeman, project head for the Shark Monitoring Network stated that tagging a great white of such size is unprecedented. He told the Newcastle Herald:

“This is very exciting and potentially a world first. Lots of juveniles get tagged, but to have a fully mature female and get 10 years data out of it is a big thing for us. We are excited by the potential of what this shark can give us.”

The tags are linked to a satellite network that includes over 320 seabed monitors to help record the movements of the sharks. Kleeman said that the program greatly improves the safety of Australian beaches and provides extensive data to scientists studying shark behavior.

“Over time we will be able to build the data and then we can see if there are any patterns forming, which is great for understanding more about them.”

This innovative program is another step to learning more about the mysteries of the ocean and the creatures that live there.

In a clever use of modern technology, the shark tagging program computers are now linked to a computer feed that sends out alerts via twitter. The tweet notifies people of the size, breed and approximate location of over 300 individual sharks now tagged by the program.

https://twitter.com/SLSWA

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RIP Peter Matthiessen

25matthiessen-articleLargeSad to report that American writer, researcher and activist Peter Matthiessen passed away April 5, 2014. After being diagnosed with leukemia over a year ago, Matthiessen died of the disease in New York at the age of 86.

Matthiessen’s life story reads like an adventure novel and his travels spanned the globe including Asia, South America, Africa, Europe and Australia. A highly educated man, he served time as a journalist, explorer, novelist, professional fisherman and even a spy. In 1953, he co-founded The Paris Review, a well known literary magazine. Years later, in a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Matthiessen admitted that he “…invented The Paris Review as a cover” for his CIA operations. He worked for ‘the company’ for two years before moving on to other ventures.
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After the passing of his first wife in 1927, Matthiessen spent time in Nepal trekking into the Himalayas. Also during the 70s, he experimented with LSD, practiced Zen meditation and later, became a Buddhist priest. He believed that his Buddhist path was a natural progression that evolved from his experimentation with hallucinogens.

Matthiessen was a three time National Book Award winner and a prominent environmental activist with a focus on the effects that humans have on the animal world.

764165He also had a long standing interest in reports of Sasquatch type creatures from around the globe. In his 1978 bestseller “The Snow Leopard” he spoke about his search for the Yeti, a creature he would write about again in his 1995 book, “East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of the Mustang.”

Matthiessen was in attendance at one of the first gatherings of those interested in the study of the Sasquatch, a conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in May, 1978. The list of attendees reads like a who’s who of Sasquatch studies and included John Green, Rene Dahinden, Bob Gimlin and Grover Krantz.

In later years, Matthiessen gave talks on the topic including a lecture hosted in Idaho by Sasquatch authority Dr. Jeff Meldrum. The presentation, “A Naturalist’s Impressions of the Wildman” featured Matthiessen’s knowledge of the elusive creatures and he discussed legends of Wildmen ranging from the Pacific Northwest to the high Himalayas.
Even his massive bestseller, “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” mentioned the Sasquatch, specifically, Lakota legends of the “Big Men,” the regional, native term for the mysterious, furry beings.

Scientist and writer, Stephen Jay Gould dubbed Matthiessen “Our greatest, modern nature writer in the lyrical tradition.”

Peter Matthiessen’s final book, a novel titled “In Paradise” is scheduled for release this week. He will be deeply missed.

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River Monsters Season 6

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Jeremy Wade returns with River Monsters season six on Animal Planet. The season premiere on April 6th is “Amazon Apocalypse.”

Check out the sneak peak on Animal Planet’s website:

http://m.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/river-monsters/videos/get-a-sneak-peek-amazon-apocalypse-season-6-premiere?page=0

 

 

 

 

 

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Tagging the Coelacanth

Scientists have reported success with a coelacanth tagging program launched in 2013 off the coast of South Africa, and they have retrieved a satellite tag holding nine months worth of data about the rare fish.
coelacanthBecause of the creature’s endangered status, only one coelacanth was tagged under the project in May, 2013. The tag was programmed to release and float to the surface after nine months. Since coelacanths spend much of their time in caves on the floor of the sea, scientists were not sure the tag would ever make it to the surface. In February of 2014, the tag’s location information was transmitted to project members and a search party found the small egg sized device the following day.

The coelacanth has been called a ‘dinosaur fish,’ a ‘living fossil’ and a ‘Lazarus fish.’ It was thought to have gone extinct in the Late Cretaceous period about 65 million years ago.
In 1938, a coelacanth was discovered among a catch of fish off the coast of South Africa. Brought in by the fishing ship, Nerine, the bright blue fish was taken to a museum by curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. Debate over the authenticity of the specimen raged until another was caught near Madagascar fourteen years later. Following the discovery and verification of the coelacanth’s existence, countless specimens were caught, so many in fact, that it led to their endangerment.V4-2Coelacanth_750

The fish is not considered a food source since its oils give the flesh a foul taste. It is however, the frequent victim of commercial fishermen using deep sea trawling methods. So far, none have survived long in captivity making it a difficult animal to study closely.
The name ‘coelacanth’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘hollow spine,’ a nod to the hollow spine fins that the fish bears. The fish can grow to between five and six feet in length and weigh over a hundred pounds. The coelacanth has eight fins and is covered in armor like scales. Each of the fish bears its own, unique color markings and their colors vary from bright blue and white to brown. Scientists believe that the fish are able to recognize each other through electric communication.
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In 1997, a second population of coelacanths was discovered off the coast of Indonesia. Marine biologist Mark Erdmann spotted the fish at a local market and snapped a picture. At the time, Erdmann didn’t realize the fish had not been documented in the region. Indonesian fishermen were well familiar with the animal however. They referred to it as the “Rajalut” or “King of the Sea.”

For many years there have been rumors of a population of coelacanths in the Western Hemisphere. Various bits of evidence have been presented including coelacanth like scales. Some areas even have local legends about the fish, but no solid evidence has been proven.

The current populations of coelacanths are being closely studied. Both known species of coelacanth are considered endangered and scientists are taking precautions to help save the fish.

The coelacanth is often cited by cryptozoologists as an example of supposedly extinct species that have still survived in remote pockets. The approach in dealing with these rare fish should be watched closely as a learning model for future cryptozoological discoveries.

More about the Coelacanth tagging project can be found here:

http://www.sanbi.org/news/coelacanth-tagging-study-success

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Patterson-Gimlin Filmsite

Daniel Perez, editor of the Bigfoot Times newsletter, has produced a cool, fold-out postcard of the Patterson-Gimlin filmsite. The card features five different images of the famous location, showing how it has changed over the years. Beginning in 1968 and ending in 2012.

The limited edition foldout is only $5.50 postpaid. These won’t last so snag a copy while you can. Contact Daniel at: perez952@sbcglobal.net

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Florida’s Invasive Snakes

Florida Fish and Wildlife officials report that engineers working in the Everglades this month discovered a Burmese python measuring 18 feet, 2 inches. It’s almost a state record but that was set last year when a python measuring 18 feet, 8 inches was discovered.
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The almost 19 foot record holder was spotted crossing a highway by Florida resident Jason Leon. Leon leapt out of his vehicle, grabbed the snake, and dragged it into the middle of the road. The python attempted to wrap around the man’s legs at which point Leon pulled out a knife and killed the monstrous 128 pound snake.

The Burmese python is one of the largest constrictors in the world and is one of the most troubling invasive species roaming southern Florida. In their native habitat of Southeast Asia, the snakes can reach lengths of over 20 feet.

Wildlife officers blame the invasion on exotic pet owners who dump snakes in the glades when the animals become too big to manage. The environment in southern Florida is suitable for the constrictors and the population has thrived. Officials now believe that the python population has grown to as many as 150,000 snakes in the Everglades.

In 2013, the state launched a “Python Challenge” which encouraged registered participants to capture as many pythons as they could. The challenge began on January 12th and ended February 10th. Participants were allowed to operate in ten state wildlife management areas in the Everglades. Cash prizes were awarded to those who captured the largest number of snakes and those who captured the longest constrictors. In total, 68 pythons were captured during the challenge.

Pythons aren’t the only invasive snake in the Everglades. In fact, the world’s largest snake has also made its way to Florida and it may be an even bigger problem than the invading pythons.
The biggest, heaviest snake in the world, the Anaconda, has also been discovered in the sunshine state. The anaconda is a native of South America and, like the python, is a non-venomous constrictor.

Unlike pythons however, anacondas are found in the water as much as on land making them even harder to locate.
Reports have begun to surface of massive anacondas being spotted by people fishing in the Everglades. If the stories are even halfway accurate, there may well be a breeding population of invasive anacondas prowling the waters of the glades. The Everglades is expansive and covers an area of 734 square miles. Few people venture deep into the glades, so it would certainly be possible for such a large species of snake to thrive there without attracting much attention. But could they be as massive as some witness claim or is it all a fisherman’s tale? Giant snake legends can be found in many parts of the world and Florida’s Everglades is certainly a prime spot for one to exist.
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In the meantime, Florida Fish and Wildlife has been concerned enough about the anaconda to include descriptions of it in the study guide given out during the 2013 python challenge.
Invasive snakes are having a devastating effect on native wildlife in the region. While the 2013 Python Challenge helped, it has not eliminated the problem of the growing population of constrictors.

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Lizard Man Reviewed

A lot of cryptozoology books have come out in the past couple of years but I’m always pleased to have my hands on a new book by author and cryptozoologist Lyle Blackburn.

Blackburn is the author of the wildly successful book, “The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster.” In this, his second outing, he offers us a peek into the true story of another legendary monster; The Lizard Man.
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Reports of the Lizard Man began to surface in the late 1980s in the small town of Bishopville, South Carolina. Residents believed that the bipedal, lizard like creature was dwelling in nearby Scape Ore Swamp. Over several years there were numerous sightings of the creature. Some of the reports were quite bizarre and included the mauling of a Ford LTD and an assault on a teenager who was in Scape Ore swamp.

The reports were so compelling that local sheriff Liston Truesdale, launched an official investigation.

The atmosphere in Bishopville became carnival like. Radio station WCOS-FM offered a million dollar prize for anyone who could bring the creature in. The CBS evening news interviewed Truesdale about the incidents and those who had reported seeing the Lizard Man became virtual celebrities signing autographs and posing for pictures.

In the midst of the media blitz and monster hunting, the Lizard Man became almost a joke, a kitchy character useful for selling t-shirts and buttons and garnering attention for the small town of Bishopville. After so many years, we were left to wonder, what really happened in Bishopville?

Thankfully, Lyle Blackburn turned his attention to the legend of the monster of Scape Ore swamp and dug into the real story. Just as he did with the Legend of Boggy Creek, Blackburn gets to the roots of the Lizard Man reports, interviewing witnesses, going to the locations and generally leaving no stone unturned. It is in fact, Lyle’s trekking through the Lizard Man’s territory that gives the book its driving energy creating a page turner that any mystery novelist would be jealous of. Reading Blackburn’s book, it’s easy to imagine yourself in the swampy south, wondering what mysteries lurk in the muck.
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While the Lizard Man was obviously never captured, Blackburn gives us a clear picture from which we can perhaps draw our own conclusions to some degree. Blackburn cuts through much of the nonsense spread over the years regarding the Lizard Man sightings to clarify for us exactly what the witnesses reported about their encounters. Were these people really reporting a bipedal lizard or was something else going on? Additionally, he provides a section that explores some of the possible explanations to explain the Lizard Man sightings. Is there really a bipedal reptile roaming the South Carolina swamp? Was it a mutated, Bigfoot like creature? Or, was the whole thing a grand hoax? Fortunately, through his excellent writing, Lyle takes us all along on his journey to find answers to the mystery of South Carolina’s most notable cryptid.
I highly recommend you check out Lyle’s book for an entertaining journey to discover the story behind the Bishopville Monster.

Lizard Man the True Story of the Bishopville Monster is available from Amazon and the author’s website:

http://www.lyleblackburn.com/

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Bigfoot Bounty

With the success of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot,” the hunt for Sasquatch has firmly planted itself into pop culture. It was inevitable that more Bigfoot themed shows would come along. Frankly, it’s surprising that it took so long, but here comes the latest take on the search for the big hairy guy: Spike TV’s “10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty.”

The name may be cumbersome but it tells us a lot about Spike TV’s offering. Billed as a ‘reality competition series,’ the show will pit nine teams against each other in the race to find ‘definitive visual and DNA proof’ that Bigfoot exists.
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The advertised ten million dollar cash prize is underwritten by Lloyd’s of London and is being billed as the largest cash prize in TV history.

Actor Dean Cain will be on hand to host the show and act as expedition leader guiding the various teams to ‘hotzones’ of bigfoot activity around the US. Cain will be joined on the show by Anthropologist Natalia Reagan and Todd Disotell who many will remember for his skeptical commentary on shows such as MonsterQuest.

The network has ordered eight one hour episodes of the series, enough to see how viewers will respond before ordering more. The 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty premiers January 10th on Spike TV.

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