Scientists discount the existence of Bigfoot and consider it to be a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal. They note the lack of physical evidence after centuries of investigation, despite the fact that numerous creatures would have to exist in order to maintain a breeding population. A small group of investigators are sustained in their interest by occasional new reports of sightings. Such reports are attributed to persons seeing various animals, particularly black bears.
Individuals claiming to have seen Bigfoot describe it as a large, hairy, muscular, bipedal ape-like creature, roughly 2–3 metres (6 ft 7 in–9 ft 10 in), covered in hair described as black, dark brown, or dark reddish. Some descriptions include details such as large eyes, a pronounced brow ridge, and a large, low-set forehead. The top of the head has been described as rounded and crested, similar to the sagittal crest of the male gorilla. The creature has been reported as having a strong, unpleasant smell.
The enormous footprints for which the creature is named are claimed to be as large as 24 inches (60 cm) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide. Some footprint casts have also contained claw marks, making it likely that they came from known animals, such as bears, which have five toes and claws.
Proponents of Bigfoot's existence claim that the creature is omnivorous and mainly nocturnal.
Wild men stories are found among the indigenous peoples of the
Ecologist Robert Pyle argues that most cultures have accounts of human-like giants in their folk history, expressing a need for "some larger-than-life creature." Each language had its own name for the creature featured in the local version of such legends. Many names meant something along the lines of "wild man" or "hairy man", although other names described common actions it was said to perform, such as eating clams or shaking trees. Chief Mischelle of the Nlaka'pamux at
Members of the Lummi tell tales about Ts'emekwes, the local version of Bigfoot. The stories are similar to each other in the general descriptions of Ts'emekwes, but details about the creature's diet and activities differed among various family accounts.
Some regional versions tell of more threatening creatures. The stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai were a nocturnal race. Children were warned against saying the names, lest the monsters hear and come to carry off a person—sometimes to be killed. In 1847, Paul Kane reported stories by the native people about skoocooms: a race of cannibalistic wildmen living on the
Less-menacing versions have also been recorded, such as one by Reverend Elkanah Walker. In 1840, Walker, a Protestant missionary, recorded stories of giants among the Native Americans living near present-day
In the 1920s Indian Agent J. W. Burns compiled local stories and published them in a series of Canadian newspaper articles: they were accounts told to him by the Sts'Ailes people of Chehalis, and others. The Sts'Ailes maintained, as did other indigenous peoples of the region, that the Sasquatch were real. They were offended by whites telling them that the figures were legendary. According to Sts'Ailes eyewitness accounts, the Sasquatch preferred to avoid white men, and spoke the Lillooet language of the people at Port Dougla,
Burns borrowed the term Sasquatch from the Halkomelem sásq'ets and used it in his articles to describe a hypothetical single type of creature portrayed in the local stories.
The evidence that does exist supporting the survival of such a large, prehistoric ape-like creature has been attributed to hoaxes or delusion rather than to sightings of a genuine creature. In a 1996 USA Today article,
Mainstream scientists do not consider the subject of Bigfoot an area of credible science and there have been a limited number of formal scientific studies of Bigfoot.
Evidence such as the 1967 Patterson–Gimlin film has provided "no supportive data of any scientific value".
As with other similar beings, climate and food supply issues would make such a creature's survival in reported habitats unlikely. Great apes have not been found in the fossil record in the
In the 1970s, when Bigfoot experts were frequently given high-profile media coverage, Mcleod writes that the scientific community generally avoided lending credence to the theories by debating them.