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Keywords:

  • Bigfoot;
  • biodiversity informatics;
  • climate change;
  • ecological niche models;
  • North America;
  • Sasquatch;
  • species distributions;
  • Ursus americanus

Abstract

The availability of user-friendly software and publicly available biodiversity databases has led to a rapid increase in the use of ecological niche modelling to predict species distributions. A potential source of error in publicly available data that may affect the accuracy of ecological niche models (ENMs), and one that is difficult to correct for, is incorrect (or incomplete) taxonomy. Here we remind researchers of the need for careful evaluation of database records prior to use in modelling, especially when the presence of cryptic species is suspected or many records are based on indirect evidence. To draw attention to this potential problem, we construct ENMs for the North American Sasquatch (i.e. Bigfoot). Specifically, we use a large database of georeferenced putative sightings and footprints for Sasquatch in western North America, demonstrating how convincing environmentally predicted distributions of a taxon’s potential range can be generated from questionable site-occurrence data. We compare the distribution of Bigfoot with an ENM for the black bear, Ursus americanus, and suggest that many sightings of this cryptozoid may be cases of mistaken identity.