(NEXSTAR) – Is South Dakota among those with the most “credible” bigfoot sightings in the nation?

Yes, we know how that sounds. But bear with us.

Bigfoot, the furry two-legged beast long purported to roam the woods of North America, is largely believed to be a mythological creature, with sightings widely attributed to confusion or outright hoaxes. Some have even argued most Bigfoot sightings in the U.S. and Canada “are probably black bears.”

But there’s a pretty big community of believers who claim they’ve seen one, or are otherwise convinced of its existence despite a lack of conclusive evidence.

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, founded by Matt Moneymaker in the mid-1990s, includes 500 people who review reported sasquatch sightings throughout North America. Moneymaker said the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) has received nearly 75,000 reports of bigfoot sightings over the years, but only considers between 5,000 and 6,000 of those to be “credible.”

“A lot is based on the strength of the actual sighting,” said Moneymaker, who also hosted “Finding Bigfoot” on Animal Planet. He explained that the BFRO’s investigators favor reports from adult eyewitnesses and even folks who were skeptical of sasquatches before their sighting — rather than, say, an amateur bigfoot hunter who goes out with the intention of spotting one.

The BFRO also doesn’t consider secondhand accounts (like those presented on podcasts) in their official count. BFRO investigators must speak with an eyewitness before they can determine whether a reported sighting makes the list.

That said, the BRFO has recorded almost 6,000 “credible” reports since the mid-90s, with sightings in every U.S. state aside from Hawaii.

In South Dakota alone, there have been 19 “credible” reports alone, with the most recent happening in Pennington County in June 2019. In that incident, a witness reported hearing a howl in some woods they had never heard before.

“The sound was somewhere between a howl and a scream and just echoed,” the report posted to BRFO’s site reads. “It went on for 3-5 minutes, and every creature stopped to listen.”

The most reports, a total of 5, have been filed in Corson County. That included reports of two Bigfoots sighted near Little Eagle in the late 1970s. Other counties with “credible” Bigfoot reports include Brown, Custer, Dewey, Gregory, Jackson, Lawrence, Meade, and Shannon.

North Dakota has had even fewer reports, totaling just six as of October 2023. Other South Dakota neighbors have reported much more. In both Iowa and Minnesota, there have been 77 reports filed. Nebraska has 15 “credible reports” while Wyoming has 28 and Montana 53.

Of those, some border South Dakota. That includes three reports in Iowa’s Woodbury County and one report in Nebraska’s Knox County.

There are some places that are more “squatchy” than others. These are the states with the most sightings since the BFRO’s inception, according to the organization:

  1. Washington: 713
  2. California: 461
  3. Florida: 339
  4. Ohio: 321
  5. Illinois: 303
  6. Oregon: 257
  7. Texas: 254
  8. Michigan: 225
  9. Missouri: 167
  10. Georgia: 140

Certain other states, meanwhile, have had drastically fewer sightings. The states with the least, according to the BFRO, include Hawaii (0), Connecticut (5), Delaware (5), and Nevada.

But with thousands of “credible” sightings across the U.S. alone, it would stand to reason that there should be more conclusive video evidence, or remains, or DNA, or even whole specimens. Especially considering that wildlife researchers are still discovering and classifying thousands of new, often rare species each year, as reported by The Smithsonian.

To that, Moneymaker and the BFRO counter that bigfoots, apparently being both nocturnal and intelligent, are difficult to photograph and very adept at “thwarting” attempts at capture. If one were to come face-to-face with a bigfoot, like Moneymaker alleges he once did, “all you’re going to be doing is s—-ing your pants,” he told Nexstar.

The BFRO also claims that no remains of the modern bigfoot have ever been catalogued because “they will be exceedingly rare, because these animals are rare to begin with, and only a tiny fraction of that population will die in locations and soils that will preserve bones somehow,” according to its website.

Scientists, however, offer another explanation: Bigfoot likely isn’t real.

Since the mid-1970s, prominent paleontologists and primatologists have repeatedly reached the conclusion that a creature which fits with witness descriptions of bigfoot does not exist. Darren Naish, a British paleontologist and self-described wannabe-Bigfoot-believer, had written in 2016 that modern evidence — which relies heavily on “innumerable witness accounts” and even fur samples (which have since been identified as being of deer origin by the FBI) — are not enough to support its existence.

Instead, Naish feels the notion of sasquatches roaming the woods of North America can be attributed to people “seeing all manner of different things, combining it with ideas, memes and preconceptions they hold in their minds, and interpreting them as encounters with a monstrous, human-like biped,” he wrote in an article published with Scientific American.

Some people have even admitted to fabricating bigfoot evidence — like John Crane, a zoologist in Washington who told USA Today in 1996 that he managed to convince people of bigfoot’s existence when he was in college, by creating fake footprints for “fun.”

“No data other than material that’s clearly been fabricated has ever been presented,” Crane stated in 1996. (it’s worth noting that Crane’s colleague, an anthropologist at Washington State University, was “absolutely convinced” of bigfoot’s existence at the time.)

Moneymaker, on the other hand, feels witness testimony provides more than enough proof for him and the multitudes of alleged eyewitnesses he’s interviewed.

“If [skeptics] ignorantly say they don’t believe in bigfoots, what they’re really saying is that every credible witness, thousands of them, are all lying,” he said.