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(Image: Sy Bean / Seattle Refined)

Refined Investigates: The Search for Bigfoot

I started working in television about ten years ago, and have always taken my job very seriously. I’ve covered hurricanes, blizzards, a building explosion, countless court cases and almost every other type of news story you can imagine.

So if you told me three years ago I would be assigned to do a story about Bigfoot, I would have laughed in your face.

But the great thing about transferring from news work to Seattle Refined, is we get to cover almost anything - as long as it’s interesting! And boy, is Sasquatch interested. In a story that's taken me almost two months to research, write, shoot, edit and put together - here's my in-depth look into the legend of the Sasquatch, and the dedicated researchers in our state who looks for them.

According to local legends, Sasquatch have walked the forests of the Pacific Northwest for centuries. People claim to see these mysterious creatures regularly, and some even actively seek to find Bigfoot.

One of them is Steve Wilkins. He is a Bigfoot researcher and co-founder of The Washington Sasquatch Research Team (WASRT). It’s a small but dedicated group of individuals who comb the forest near Mt. Rainier in search of Sasquatch.

“We live in Washington - Bigfoot mecca - so a lot of people believe in Bigfoot here," said Wilkins. "Or are at least, open-minded about it.”

Wilkins says “squatching” is a fun outdoor hobby, with really no downside. They haul camera and audio gear deep into the woods, camp, BBQ and hope to catch a glimpse of one the PNW’s most reclusive residents. And they’ve had some success...including a very close encounter in 2009.

Wilkins and his buddy were camping near Greenwater, WA and were just a few hundred feet away from one another when happened.

“He [friend Steve} sees this Bigfoot on the other side of the road,” Wilkins recounts. "And by the time he got the camera to his was gone.” Later Steve told Wilkins he saw the creature walking away from him, and towards Wilkins himself.

“I started walking out into the woods to try to get this thing on video," he said. "I stayed real quiet and I heard something walking toward me in the distance I radioed to Steve and said 'I hear it!'"

And, then it was gone. Wilkins says that’s par for the course but, he won’t give up.

“You know, one of the running jokes in the Bigfoot community is, if you for sure don’t want to see Bigfoot, go out and look for ‘em," Wilkins laughs. "The people who see them, are the ones who aren’t looking.”

Skamania County, located in southeastern Washington, has been a hotbed of Bigfoot activity for decades, with sightings along the Columbia River near Beacon Rock, Mt. Saint Helens and the surrounding Gifford Pinchot National Forest. And, in the late 1960s, local lawmakers decided to take action.

An ordinance was passed in 1969, making it a felony in Skamania County to hunt Bigfoot.

"At the time Skamania County had the biggest number of Bigfoot sightings in Washington," said Skamania County Prosecutor Adam Kick. "Commissioners were concerned the Gifford National Forest would be inundated with hunters, and someone might get hurt. So they passed the ordinance making the County of Skamania a Bigfoot refuge."

The county’s Bigfoot Protection Ordinance originally passed on April 1, 1969.

Now, some may say passing a Bigfoot kill-ban on April Fool's Day diminishes the ordinance’s credibility. But county officials at the time insisted this law was no joke.

And that ordinance? It's on the books, though it was amended in 1984 to change killing a Sasquatch from a felony to a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

“Personally, I’m a Bigfoot Skeptic,” said Kick. But, when I asked him what exactly would happen if someone actually managed to kill a Sasquatch within his jurisdiction...

“That would open an interesting can of worms," he admitted. "And I’d hope people respect the ordinance and hunt Bigfoot with a camera rather than a gun.”

Bigfoot Researchers I spoke with don’t necessarily agree on the all the specifics of how Sasquatch move, eat, breed and live, but what they do share is an unshakable sense of determination to find their truth and share it with the world.

As part of this assignment, I’ve heard stories from several people who claim to have seen Bigfoot. And while I can’t say that I personally believe in Bigfoot - I definitely believe that they believe.

Want to hear about their Sasquatch encounters? Watch the story above!