The Alexandria Times-Tribune
Wednesday, August 17, 1977
Strange animal sightings not unusual here…
Last week an Elwood woman reported a “Bigfoot” sighting around the county landfill. A sign has appeared by St. Rd. 9 labeling one area as a “Bigfoot” crossing. While conservation officer Basil Retherford of Orestes is skeptical that this particular sighting was really a “Bigfoot,” he certainly didn’t scoff at the idea of an unusual animal on the loose in Indiana. In one of the wilder sections of the landfill area an old house has been torn down and the basement has remained intact for a number of years. He commented that it was possible that something could have lived in that shelter, being disturbed just now as landfill operators are beginning to trench in that area. Prior to last week’s report, the most recent “Bigfoot” sighting was five years ago around the railroad arch over Lilly Creek. This is another area of dense growth. But Madison County has had its share of strange animal reports, which are apparently based on fact, Retherford said.
In an area, best described as jungle, around the Madison and Henry county lines, there is apparently, some kind of an unusual animal living in the thick forest. There have been several reports of farm animals injured and maimed, he said. One horse on a farm near Cowan had flesh torn from its mane and breast and refused to come out of the barn for weeks after one such report. Around Hancock County a farmer heard a hair- raising scream and later found two feline cubs of some unknown cat species, which were eventually sent to Purdue University for study, although Retherford said he never did find out what kind of cat they were dealing with. In the Pendleton area, large tracks that might have been a leopard have been found, although the conservation officer was dubious in this case. People don’t realize that a coon dog, running through mud, can leave a track that rivals that of the biggest cat, he said. One of the more recent “Bigfoot” reports was in Tipton County, about two years ago, Retherford said, but eventually the sheriff’s department there found out that a practical joker with a set of big, plastic feet was having a good time at the expense of his neighbors.
Of Alexandria’s “Bigfoot,” one of the reasons the officer is skeptical is because a horse that lives in the area has been known to frequently take nighttime strolls along the same road and in the same area. Even something as familiar as a horse can take on some strange shapes when background by brush and at night or with a little bit of fog, Retherford said. That’s one of the things we try to teach in the hunting safety courses we conduct, that the eyes can be very much deceived when the background changes. Such courses as hunting and boating safety get high priority in the enforcement division of the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources. Retherford said he will be having another course starting Aug. 30 at the Knights of Pythias Lodge in Orestes. Successful completion of these courses is necessary for hunters to get licensed in many other states. He may conduct one at Mounds Mall in Anderson during the weekend of Sept. 24- 25 when special displays will be commemorating National Hunting & Fishing Day.
Protection of the environment and wildlife is on the increase with part of the fees paid by hunting and fishing licenses going to build habitats and refuges. Nearly a billion dollars is spent annually in wildlife conservation and habitat programs, he said. Deer, once scarce in this part of Indiana, has begun to replenish itself and a large herd now roams the White River .Valley, the officer said. Dangerous animals are few, with the only native poisonous snake being the small Massagna rattler, a type of Timber rattler, now found in Northern Indiana swamps. There are no copperheads and no moccasins in this area. A few copperheads can occasionally be found in the coal mining lands to south-west Indiana, but the last moccasin that was found in Indiana came in on a fruit boat from down south about 20 years ago and it was killed by dock workers, Retherford said. His job does not put him in danger with wildlife, Retherford said. The risks that he does have come from people. Being shot by a hunter or breaking up booze and pot parties in state parks. About six or seven years ago, conservation officers were given full police powers, including the power to make traffic arrests. The latter is one not ordinarily enforced unless something is creating a real danger to himself or others, Retherford said. We leave that to other enforcement agencies, he said. Poachers, drunken hunters and high teenagers give the conservation officers enough to handle.
The Alexandria Times-Tribune