LAPORTE -- A small team armed with night-vision binoculars, a thermal-imaging device, motion-sensitive cameras and tactical vests invaded the Paul Bunyan State Forest this week. The small group weren't special forces -- they were Bigfoot researchers.
Members of the Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team (MNBRT) camped at Gulch Campground in Paul Bunyan State Forest in the hopes of obtaining evidence of the legendary 7-foot-tall bipedal ape-like animal also known as Sasquatch.
Abe Del Rio, the founder of MNBRT who is originally from St. Paul, said the excursion targeted an area where campers claimed to have been chased by a Bigfoot in 2009. That same year, Del Rio said, the MNBRT team set up motion-sensitive cameras in the area which captured a "blobsquatch," an unclear image of an object hidden in bushes that may or may not have been a Bigfoot. Since then, the team has searched the area over the years for more definitive proof.
While he has never seen a Bigfoot in person, Del Rio said one chased him and his friend one night while on a Bigfoot expedition in Ohio.
"I have yet to see one, but I've seen plenty of evidence to make me believe they are real -- I know they are real," Del Rio said.
Dan McLaughlin, another MNBRT researcher from Scandia, Minn., said his first experience with the animal came at a young age on a camping trip.
"Something in the woods made a growling sound and took a tree about 8 inches around and slapped it back and forth and the top of the tree hit the ground," McLaughlin said.
Evidence that proves the existence of the creature, according to Del Rio, are formations of branches found across the United States that Bigfoot enthusiasts have dubbed "teepee formations." Researchers, including Del Rio, theorize the formations might be a way for the creatures to mark their territory.
Del Rio admits the formations "can definitely be done by humans if they have the time or patience," but believes it unlikely due to the multiple locations they have been found in and the effort it would take to build them.
DNA evidence of Bigfoot has been taken before by other researchers, Del Rio said, but the results always come back as "unknown ape."
According to McLaughlin, one of the reasons evidence of the creatures may be hard to find is due to cover-ups of sightings by the United States government.
"I personally believe they tag them and track them," he said.
The team hopes to prove to skeptics the existence of Bigfoot by using a wide range of surveillance gear including trail cameras like the one that caught the "blobsquatch" image in 2009.
"We're hoping to do that through high definition 1080p video documentation if and when the time and place presents itself," Del Rio said.
One of the newest members of the team, Dylan Severance of Cottage Grove, said he firmly believes in the creature even though he has never had a personal encounter with a Bigfoot.
"I think he's out there and I want to be a part of proving it to people."
To learn more about the Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Minnesota-Bigfoot-Research-Team/199324126...