Is It Legal to Shoot Bigfoot?

iStock
iStock

As long as there have been legends of mysterious ape men roaming the woods, there have been people determined to find them. Traps, cable TV shows, and continent-wide organizations exist for the sole purpose of locating Bigfoot. But for all the time and energy spent tracking the elusive creature, the proper protocol on what to do on the off-chance it’s found remains unclear. Should Bigfoot hunters play dead? Lure it to civilization with beef jerky? Shoot it between the eyes and deliver it to their local taxidermist?

Before setting off on your next Bigfoot hunt, you might want to check with your state’s wildlife department. It’s true that Sasquatch is legendary, but the cryptid still receives hypothetical legal protection in some parts of the country.

The first place to outlaw Bigfoot slaughter explicitly was Skamania County, Washington. In 1969, two years after the release of the controversial Patterson-Gimlin film, the county found itself caught in the heat of peak Bigfoot fever. Believers flooded the Pacific Northwest with plans to track down the stealthy beast—and, as the Board of County Commissioners soon noticed, many visitors brought dangerous hunting weapons with them. Not only did this pose a risk to potential Bigfoots, but it also threatened the residents living in these supposed Sasquatch hotspots. More concerned with the safety of the latter than the former, the commissioners passed an official ordinance [PDF] stating that slaying Bigfoot was a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Still from the Patterson–Gimlin film. Image source: AHMED YOUSRY/YouTube.

By 1984 the Bigfoot craze had settled down and legislators recategorized the intentional murder of Bigfoot as a gross misdemeanor punishable by one year in prison and/or a $1000 fine. The same amendment also named Bigfoot an endangered species in Skamania County and declared all land within their borders to be a “Sasquatch Refuge.”

Not all places hold such a humanitarian attitude toward the mythical monster. In Texas, for example, it is perfectly legal to hunt and kill Bigfoot. At least that’s according to L. David Sinclair, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's chief of staff, who responded to an email about the legalities of Bigfoot hunting in 2012. He wrote:

“If the Commission does not specifically list an indigenous, non-game species, then the species is considered non-protected non-game wildlife [...] A non-protected non-game animal may be hunted on private property with landowner consent by any means, at any time.”

Because Bigfoot isn’t recognized as an official species by the state of Texas, hunting one is technically allowed (with the proper license and permissions, of course). California takes the opposite approach when dealing with cryptids: The state keeps a record of non-game mammals in the California Code of Regulations. If any animal is missing from that list, as is the case with Bigfoot, that means it can’t be hunted legally.

Oregon follows a similar policy to California’s in that any animal not classified under Oregon wildlife laws is considered “prohibited.” Like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has a long history of alleged Sasquatch encounters. “[We] receive periodic reports of Bigfoot sightings,” Michelle Dennehy, wildlife communications coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, tells mental_floss. Instead of going after Bigfoot with a gun, Dennehy suggests a legal (and tongue-in-cheek) alternative for trackers planning their next expedition.

When it comes to capturing Bigfoot, a super-sized live trap is the way to go. According to Dennehy, “The cage trap should be large enough to allow Bigfoot to have sufficient space to turn, stand, and lay naturally and of sufficient strength to prevent escape.” An extra-large cage from Havahart, the brand she recommends, is only big enough to contain a bobcat, so Bigfoot hunters will likely need to have a trap custom-made. Because Bigfoot falls under “prohibited” status, transporting, selling, or exchanging the animal is against the law in Oregon. The best course of action for any Bigfoot hunters who find success on their mission would be to call the wildlife department and allow state officials to handle it from there.

There’s one more major factor that makes killing Bigfoot a bad idea no matter where in the country you find yourself: If the hirsute victim is deemed to be more human than ape, the crime could count as manslaughter. Skamania County, Washington addressed this possibility in their Bigfoot ordinance of 1984, saying: “Should the Skamania County Coroner determine any victim/creature to have been humanoid, the Prosecuting Attorney shall pursue the case under existing laws pertaining to homicide.” And if the target turns out to be just a person in a Bigfoot costume (which, let’s face it, is more likely than the alternative) the consequences wouldn’t be any less severe. Just something to keep in mind if you had your heart set on collecting a Sasquatch trophy.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Why Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

If Jesus wasn't born on December 25, does this rule still apply?
If Jesus wasn't born on December 25, does this rule still apply?
Jon Tyson, Unsplash

Each December, Christians throw a collective birthday bash to celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’s arrival on Earth. But without a birth certificate—or any other official record of his actual birthdate—in existence, December 25 seems like an arbitrary day for all our Christmas traditions. So how did early observers choose it?

When Was Jesus Really Born?

Since the Bible doesn’t name a month or even a season for Jesus’s birth, historians have relied on other context clues to estimate when it occurred. Shepherds tend sheep in the Nativity story, which people often cite as evidence that Jesus was more likely born during the spring. Others argue that Israel’s mild winter temperatures allow sheep to graze even in December. According to Slate, it’s also possible that sheep set aside for religious sacrifices may have been given free rein, frigid night or not.

The Adoration of the Shepherds by Sebastiano Conca, 1720.J. Paul Getty Museum // Public Domain

One clue pointing specifically to December 25 comes from the story of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, who approached old age without having given birth to any children. One day, her husband, a priest named Zacharias, was burning incense in the temple when the angel Gabriel appeared to him with good news: Elizabeth would bear a son. Early Christians guessed that Zacharias was probably in the temple for Yom Kippur, which they believed always took place on September 24 (it actually shifts year to year based on the Jewish lunisolar calendar). Nine months after September 24 is June 24, so they chose that as the birthdate—and feast day—of Elizabeth and Zacharias’s son, John the Baptist. When Gabriel later visited Mary to let her know that she’d bear a son, too, he mentioned that Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy. That means Jesus would’ve been conceived in late March, and born in late December—the night of December 24, to be exact, or the early hours of December 25.

Another theory suggests that Christians arrived at December 25 based on an ancient Jewish idea that prophets die on their birthday. During the 3rd century CE, theologists like Tertullian and Hippolytus dated Jesus’s crucifixion to March 25, since it happened around Passover. But to Sextus Julius Africanus, it was less about when Jesus was born and more about when he first came to Earth; in other words, he believed Jesus’s death and conception coincided on March 25, and thus his birth occurred on December 25 [PDF].

The Early History of Christmas

Even if Zacharias was in the temple on September 24, Gabriel did visit Mary exactly six months later, and Jesus was born right on his due date, it’s still possible that we celebrate Christmas on December 25 for a different reason altogether.

While 3rd-century Christians were busy worshiping the Son of God, some of their pagan counterparts were busy worshiping the Sun God. In the 270s, Roman emperor Aurelian popularized the cult of Sol Invictus, or “The Unconquered Sun,” whose feast day was celebrated on December 25. According to John Carroll University history professor Joseph F. Kelly, other Romans revered a Persian god, Mithra, whose feast day also may have fallen on December 25. There was also Saturnalia, an annual Roman festival that ran from December 17 to December 23. In short, many ancient Romans were well-accustomed to celebrating something in late December by the time Christianity entered the mainstream.

A painting of Saturnalia festivities by Antoine Callet, 1783.Themadchopper, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

That happened during Constantine’s rule over Rome in the early 4th century. In 313, Constantine and his fellow ruler Licinius issued the Edict of Milan, which basically legalized Christianity and condemned the ongoing persecution of anyone who practiced it. Constantine was a devout Christian himself, and he spent the rest of his reign spreading the religion throughout the empire. The first known record of December 25 as Jesus’s official birthday is from 336, the year before Constantine died. Because it’s mentioned in a volume containing other important religious dates, some have assumed that a celebration probably occurred on that day, and 336 is often cited as the first known “Christmas.”

Whether Christians celebrated Christmas on December 25 before 336 may forever be unknown, but we do know that the custom quickly caught on (spending the holiday watching A Christmas Story marathon wouldn't come until much later). By the end of the 4th century, Christian bishops were holding Christmas Mass all over Rome, and pagan festivals soon fell out of fashion. The fact that Christmas essentially replaced those earlier December traditions could be a coincidence, but some believe it was by design: Since Romans were already primed for parties on December 25, the Church could’ve been trying to co-opt a built-in subscriber base.

In summary, the origins of Christmas are just as subject to interpretation as Jesus’s actual birthdate—so feel free to play Christmas music whenever you want.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.