Should killing Bigfoot be a crime?
Although it is in a couple of Washington counties, that's not the case in Texas, where an 8-foot shaggy beast was supposedly bagged in some San Antonio woods by Sasquatch hunter Rick Dyer.
"You don't need a hunting license to kill something that doesn't exist," said Mike Cox, a spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
San Antonio police declined to comment.
Dyer, though, has commented plenty, after a recent release of photos snared attention across the media. He said he nailed Walmart pork ribs to a tree to lure a couple of Sasquatch, one of which he shot and killed in September 2012. He promises that scientific proof, including DNA results and autopsy video, will finally be unveiled on Feb. 9, at a news conference with a Washington university.
Then the plan is to take the taxidermied body on a national tour.
Disbelief was one of the first reactions, since especially Dyer tried to foist off a phony Bigfoot in 2008. He later recanted, saying a joke got out of control.
But shock and horror were also common, as some saw the killing as cruel, or worse.
"If you did shoot this animal, then you are a complete moron and a disgrace to humankind," reads a post on Dyer's Facebook page. "It's only too bad that Bigfoot didn't shoot you!"
"What's wrong with using tranquilizer darts like they use for tagging grizzlies?" reads a comment on the KSAT-TV report that released some Dyer's photos. "... Would that require a positive IQ number?"
The Facebook page "STOP Shooting Bigfoot: March on Washington for Humane Legislation" updated a summary of its mission: "In the wake of Rick Dyer's killing of a male Sasquatch, we must all come together now to prevent further bloodshed. New laws must be passed, making it a capital offense to harm or capture members of this species--our zoological next of kin."
"Why didn't you try to capture him?" Dyer was asked on an Australian TV show.
"That's not possible," he said. "This thing can rip a deer in half with his hands."
The most serious charge – murder – was raised on Friday night's debut of Spike TV's $10 Million Bigfoot Bounty.
Contestant Justin Smeja repeated a story well-known in the Bigfoot community: "I shot and killed two of them." Happened in 2010 in Calfornia, near the Nevada border, according to reports.
The larger one ran off, presumably to die elsewhere. A juvenile, shot in the neck, dropped but didn't die right away. "I choked it to death," Smeja said.
Pan to the horrified looks of the other contestants.
"I would never contemplate doing what he did to a species that might be endangered," said fellow contestant Donny Adair, founder of the African American Hunting Association.
"Feral human" is what DNA testing mostly showed, Smeja said.
"If Justin killed a feral human, he actually killed a human, and he's committed murder," declared the show's DNA expert, NYU anthropology professor Todd Distotell.
(Not that Distotell is ready to admit Bigfoot really exists. He scoffed off what eight teams collected as "evidence" – from a clump of moss (not fur) to a messy cast of a footprint with possible toes to munched pinecones in a cave. A ninth team got sent home for coming up empty-handed.)
The idea that Bigfoot is at least partly human was backed last year by Texas DNA researcher Melba Ketchum. After analyzing more than 100 hair, blood, skin and other tissue samples, her Sasquatch Genome Project found that the mitochondrial DNA, inherited from mothers, was human, while the nuclear DNA, was showed genes from an unknown primate species.
Her hypothesis: "Sasquatch are human hybrids, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens."
Her conclusions, not surprisingly, are far from widely accepted.
Because Bigfoot could be a big brother, or colossal cousin, new laws are needed now, argues Christopher Noel, author of How Sasquatch Matters and creator of the STOP Shooting Bigfoot Facebook page.
"You simply need a unique protected status for this species," he said. "... I think they are our next of kin and that we have no right to dominate, harm, capture or kill them, just as they wouldn't want them harming, capturing or killing us."
"It won't be able to be associated with the Endangered Species Act, because we have no way of establishing how many of them there are, because they are that good at hiding."
"We want the next perpetrator to go to prison for life," he said.
No date has been set for any D.C. demonstration, which could take place in front of the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, Noel said.
There is precedent of legally safeguarding hypothetical creatures. In the 1980s, New York and Vermont passed resolutions protecting Champ, the Lake Champlain monster. Arkansas legally protected "Whitey," its mythical White River monster.
In Washington's Skamania County, a person could get five years in jail for "the wilful and wanton slaying" of "nocturnal primate mammal variously described as an ape-like creature or a sub-species of Homo Sapiens ... commonly known as a Sasquatch, Yeti, Bigfoot or Giant Harry ape." The state's Whatcom County declared itself "a Sasquatch protection and refuge area."
Unsuccessful attempts have reportedly been made to protect the Swamp Ape, or Skunk Ape, Florida's version of Bigfoot.
Hunting animals is "cruel and unnecessary" and "breeds insensitivity," so it's sad how some people see a rare or exotic animal and hunting and have "a gut reaction to shoot and kill that animal," said PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt.
"We would suggest that people like this gentlemen [Dyer] do their shooting with a lens instead of a rifle," she said.
Others wouldn't shed a tear.
A prophetic comment about Bigfoot was posted by madmonkphotog at hotair.com in January 2012: "If he comes to Texas, not only will we shoot him, we'll stuff him and put him on display. That's how we roll."
"At the end of the day, I shot it because it was a monster," said Smeja on the Bigfoot Bounty show. "I don't want to research Bigfoot for twenty years. I want to bring proof to the table and walk away. I want to kill one and be done."
Finally, another idea is to protect human beings -- from Sasquatch hoaxes. That comes via Matt Moneymaker, whose Finding Bigfoot appears on Animal Planet.
Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.