There are plenty of creatures lurking out there in the world’s darkest, quietest corners which have managed to evade general human notice thus far. It’s arrogant to believe we’ve seen everything - in the first few years of the 21st Century scientists have already discovered a number of new species of flora and fauna, including skeletons of the tiny hobbit-esque Flores Man, so who could be sure that scientific proof of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot or Chupacabras won't be turned up next?
Cryptozoologists are the ones out there actively searching for these ‘could-be’ creatures, which they refer to as cryptids (meaning mystery animals) rather than monsters. Cryptids fall into two main categories, creatures which are generally believed to be extinct but which cyrptozoologists believe may not be (dinosaurs hiding out deep under the surface of remote lakes, or lochs for example) and creatures which cryptozoologists believe exist but where there is no scientific evidence to prove it (as in strange big cat/ wolf hybrids living on the moors.).
The main problem with this ‘science’ is that not all cryptozoologists believe in the same crypids causing a lot of internet bickering and infighting. Prospective cryptozoologists should first address their own beliefs and theories and decide which cryptids they feel are most worth the hunt, there are plenty of forums where this is regularly being discussed which will help form opinions.
One of history’s most famous cryptozoologists and a prolific writer on the subject, Bernard Heuvelmans, believes cryptozoology should be undertaken with the same stringent and empirical scientific standards and reasoning as other sciences, but with an interdisciplinary understanding of the biological and zoological sciences and an open mind. He also advises cryptid hunters to pay attention to local stories, urban legends and folk lore, the bare bones of which are often founded on historic facts (stories of sea monsters are now thought to describe encounters with giant squids.). His thoughts are that civilisations developing in different areas wouldn’t all imagine the same kinds of mythical creatures so there must be some truth to legends like Big Foot who pops up in stories on every continent.
By employing accurate and scientifically respected collecting and reporting methods you have a far better chance of being taken seriously. One way to help you develop these skill is to join a naturalist group like a birdwatching or other amateur biology organisation where you can pick up useful detection and reporting tips. This will also give you the chance to develop your basic ‘hunting’ skills, learning to remain still and hidden for long periods of time and how to track and spot animals. For this you will probably need some basic equipment, binoculars, a camera, a pen and paper, some kind of spotters guide, a detailed map and wet weather and other outdoor gear.
Cryptozoology as a science is lent weight and credibility by qualified zoologists, biologists and other scientists who believe in the possibility of discovering various cryptids and back up their theories with their credentials and formally conducted ‘hunts’. This faith is nowhere near baseless, several creatures at one stage believed to be legendary or extinct were turned up and recognised by the scientific community in the 20th Century. The most famous are the Giant Panda, Megamouth Shark and the Coelacanth.
Once they have decided what they’re looking for the budding cryptozoologist can choose to go it alone or to join a group. Again the internet is the best place to look for like minded groups in your area, like minded being the key words here: with so much division in the cryptid world you need to join a team with a leader you have faith in or else a group open to new ideas. The advantages of joining a group are mainly that you can share the expense of any tracking equipment (infra red sensors, night vision binoculars, motion detectors and timed camera recording equipment are just some of the possibilities) and that you will have people to go on expeditions with.
So you have your faith, you’ve done your research and learnt your tracking skills and you believe your quarry is out there somewhere, what next? Leading cryptozoologists again recommend organisation. Split the area you’re searching into vectors and go over each with a fine tooth comb looking for any possible evidence as well as sightings. Move slowing and methodically using the collection and recording techniques you have decided on until you find the proof you’re looking for (this section could take some time.).
Once you have made your discovery of impeachable evidence proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that your quarry exists your main problem will be getting everyone else to believe you. Hunters of the most popular cryptids like Champ, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster seem to cop the most flak. Searching for a creature which has managed to evade decades worth of similar searching (and sonar testing etc) is your best chance of being disappointed and made fun of. People will hit you with the gene pool argument of: it’s not just one creature which would need to survive here but a whole breeding population of which no skeletal evidence has ever been found…ever…etc. The pay off is that if you were to find proof of one of these celebrity A-list cyptids you would be very very very famous and possibly wealthy with it. If you weigh it up and the risk of spending your life alone in a van watching over a still lake waiting for something to happen sounds too high you can hunt something smaller, there must be hundreds of undiscovered beetles out there, some of which probably have exciting horns or markings and fit the classification of ‘mystery animal’.
The best advice for beginners is to remain patient and remember that no one believed in platypuses, giant squids or Komodo Dragons to begin with either.
Related categories: Monster Hunting
Experts in Monster Hunting: Brian Gaugler