Thursday, January 10, 2008

Culpeper County Research with Autumn

Sasquatch Watch of Virginia Field Billy Willard, Director (Dec 22, 2007)

On December 22, 2007 I took Autumn, my beagle dog in training, on her first research project. I decided to do this in an area the group has been researching for a few years now in Culpeper, VA. Autumn has been sniffing "possible" Sasquatch hair everyday since she was a few weeks old, so I decided to take her out and give her a trial run.

We arrived around 10:00 am. We entered the area by way of a service road that leads toward the Rappahannock River. Immediately upon entering the area, Autumn quickly identified some scat.

A few feet further, a game trail seemed to catch her attention. Her nose nevers leaves the ground, she was constantly sniffing the ground. She leads me up the game trail and we go into the woods about 100 feet. At this point, she stops suddenly, raises her head for the first time and the hair on her neck and tail bone stands straight up! She literally turns around and pulls me out of the trail and back to the gravel road. It was strange, I never heard or saw a thing, but she apparently sensed something.

We proceeded further down the access road. The next item to catch her attention was a freshly broken pine branch laying in the middle of the road. She examined the broken branch for at least an entire minute, afterwards, looking into the woods.

A few minutes later, her attention was drawn to another trail leading off into the woods. As she proceeded to pull me down the trail I put my camera in video mode and recorded some live footage for the readers to see. The following link will take you to that footage.
Later, as we headed up stream alongside the Rappahannock River, we had to cross a tributary to the river. I picked Autumn up to carry her across. After crossing, I put her down and she immediately became uneasy. As I tried to encourage her to continue, she simply dug her paws into the soil and would go no further. I found this rather odd as well. She began whining vigorously and pulled me back towards the tributary, so I picked her back up, crossed over and put her down on the other side. She immediately pulled me back out the way we came in.
Once out of the woods we were back on the access road. She proceeded into another area of the woods and located a rib bone from a deer. She picked it up in her mouth and wanted to carry it back out (typical of Beagles). However, to my astonishment, once getting out of the woods, she dug a hole beside the gravel road, placed the bone in it and covered it over with soil using her nose! I didn't expect that! I assumed she would want to take it with her and eat it like every other Beagle I've seen, but she didn't.

Other items she found were alot of rabbit droppings, another typical feature of Beagles. We then left the area.
What caused her to react the way she did? I'm not sure, but hopefully I can work this fear factor out of her.
One item of interest, about a month prior to this field outing my older son Frank had called me at work. A friend of his had lost their cat and he called me wondering if Autumn may be able to assist them in finding the cat. Obviously, I was unsure but figured "What the heck?" So I told him to try and locate something that the cat laid on or used. They couldn't find anything so he asked me "What about the litter box?" I told them to go ahead and give it a try. Autumn sniffed the litter box and they took her outside. I instructed my son to tell her "Go Get It!" She immediately pulled him down a sidewalk, found an area of interest within 50 feet of the house where the cat lived and walked around in a circle for about a full minute, constantly sniffing the ground. After a minute, Autumn seemed to pick up something and aggresively pulled him about 100 feet in the opposite direction towards the parking lot. Her attention was placed on a storm drain in the lot and she began scratching and whining. My son found a tool and opened the manhole above the storm drain and lo and behold, there was the cat down in the drain. The cat was fine and simply seemed to be hiding down in the drain. However, I was very impressed with the results. I will continue to work with Autumn and hopefully in the near future she will find me something amazing! Until next time...keep on squatching!


Anonymous said...

I love the idea of using a beagle in your research. I'm going to throw this out there and maybe someone who is more "Squatch" Savvy can comment. When I have looked at a map displaying the geographical distribution of the sightings reported in Virginia (the one available at, it seems as though there is a noted lack of activity in the south central and south eastern sections of the states (really pronounced if one did not include those that seem to follow the James River) relative to the western and northern areas of the state. Now, being from a county located in that "quiet" area, I know that the hunt clubs there are fantastically active AND that they almost invariably keep a huge stable of hounds at their disposal. Could it be that there is a lack of sightings there due to the dogs seasonally purging the woods of these creatures year in and year out? Not sure if that makes sense or not, but it was something that came to mind. Shy and retiring, etc., as they seem to be, they can hide pretty well from the eyes and ears of man, but I daresay the 'skunk ape' would have a time fooling the noses of multiplied thousands of beagles combing the woods for 12 hours a day during hunting season. Thoughts?

Billy Willard said...

Anonymous, thanks for leaving your comment. That is a good observation you made there. You could be on to something, anything is possible. Certainly wouldn't rule it out.