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South Talladega County Report

The RFP Research Project
Field Investigation Report
South Talladega County, Alabama
by
MG and KT
Site: The area in which the research was conducted is located in the southern part of Talladega County near the City of Sylacauga in Alabama.

 

 

Introduction (By Tal H. Branco.): The two men conducting these investigations are both talented woodsmen who have lived in the area since birth. MG visually encountered a large hirsute bipedal primate while deer hunting in Lowndes County, Alabama in January of 2007. While KT has not seen one of the animals, some of his family members have, and he and other family members have had numerous experiences with the creatures on their rural farm not far from where these investigations were conducted. Both have filed reports of their previous experiences, and those reports can be seen
I had the pleasure of meeting and conducting preliminary field work with both men in Lowndes and Talladega Counties in June of 2007. During night surveillance operations in the South Talladega research area with KT and SB (a researcher from the Huntsville area) on June 16, 2007, we heard one or more of the subject animals closely approach our location. One of the animals produced a long, low, non-menacing growl within a few yards of us.
Both men are now very actively involved in learning more about these reclusive primates. The findings from their investigations clearly show their talents and expertise. The report also contains what appears to be heretofore unpublished information concerning foraging and interaction habits of these particular animals. (There is no question there is a group of the animals in the area. The muddy tracks of a small animal was seen in June of 2007. Details in this report verify there were more than one adult in the group.)
The following is a report of the investigations done by these two men. At times other members of their families accompanied them during their investigations, including their wives (who assisted in the formulation of the reports) and one of the men’s daughter who bravely witnessed some of the audible events. The report is, except for the correction of typos and some clarification,  in their own words. (Tal.)
Environmental Profile of the Area: The general area is within the foothills marking the southwest termination of the Appalachian Mountains. The specific area consists of about 12,000 acres of timberlands owned by timber companies which has been divided into five different hunting leases. The researchers have obtained permission to access all of this property except that relatively small portion which has been sold to private individuals during the past few years. The researchers have focused their primary attention on about 6000 acres which their hunting club leases and on adjoining lands which they have permission to access. Most of the hardwood timber has been harvested except in the hollows and on the steeper slopes, and the harvested areas have been replanted in pines. Most of the timber harvesting operation ceased in 2003.

The area mainly consists of high, sometimes steep rolling hills and long, deep hollows. There are several small creeks, feeder branches and springs in the immediate area. There are several large creeks located within one mile of the primary research area, and the Coosa River is four miles to the west. There are three large man-made lakes located within 1/2 mile of the primary research area and one small man-made lake in the immediate area. Along the larger creeks and branches there are small rock bluffs and overhangs.

The area adjacent to the woodlands is primarily utilized as small family farms with some large row crop and cattle farms.

The general area has a sizeable population of typical wildlife including deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, quail, dove, coyote, songbirds and various other birds and smaller animals generally found in this part of Alabama.
Although most of the present timber in the area is pine, a more representative sample of the areas’ original diverse forests can be seen in the hollows and on the slopes. These unharvested areas contain various oaks, hickory, black and sweet gums, beech, poplar, cedar and maple. The area has many plants that produce edible fruits and berries such as persimmon, blackberry, dewberry, black cherry, elderberry, and huckleberry. Several small vines found in the area are utilized by deer and rabbits as winter browse, honey suckle being the best known.
Research Objectives, Tools and Techniques: The object of the research is to learn more about the habits and traits of the enigmatic and reclusive forest primates that have been seen and heard in this area for generations. The decision to begin seriously studying and attempting to interact with these animals was made on June 16, 2007 after a track was found in a area creek bed during the day and vocalizations were heard that night by KT, SB and THB.

The research tools are basic and limited. They presently consist of CDs and a portable CD player, a handmade “drum-bull” (a device capable of producing loud animal-like growls, grunts and roaring sounds), various animal calls, amplified hearing devices, a monocular night vision scope and hand-held lighting.

The techniques generally used to this point have been baiting and broadcasting using the various calls.
Findings and Observations: This information is shown below in chronological order.
June 18, 2007 – At about 7:30pm MG and KT arrived at the same spot on the “lease” that KT and THB had broadcast calls and received responses on June 16, 2007. We listened until dark. A short time later we heard several “wood-on-wood” knocking sounds coming from an area about 1/4 mile north of us. We broadcast sounds from the drum-bull but received no response. About 9:00pm we heard something walking toward us in the woods. The sounds stopped in thick vegetation about 35 feet from us. We could not determine for certain if the animal was walking on two or four feet. A few minutes later we smelled a strong odor similar to sewage. We stayed at the spot for over an hour after smelling the odor, but never heard or smelled anything else unusual.
June 25, 2007 – MG, KT & LD arrived at the research site at about 8:00pm. We called with the drum-bull and within a few minutes we heard a loud screaming sound similar to that of a woman screaming in pain or distress. We called about seven times and received a response each time. No more drum-bull calls were made, and nothing else was heard. We left the area around 10:30pm.
June 31, 2007 – MG, LP and JV arrived at the site at midnight. We again used the drum-bull to broadcast roaring, growling and grunting sounds. About 30 minutes later we heard a long screaming sound coming from an area about 1 mile to the west. About 10 minutes later we heard three series of “wood knocking” sounds coming from the same general area as the scream. About thirty minutes later JV stated he heard growling sounds coming from behind us. (MG and LP did not hear the growling sounds. But both have trouble hearing low tones.) We left the area about 2:30am.
July 7, 2007 – MG and KT arrived at the site at around 7:45pm. As soon as we stepped out of the vehicle we heard wood knocking sounds coming from three different directions. The knocking sounds continued for about 20 minutes. It sounded as if the sounds originated about 1/2 mile from us. It was interesting to note that the first knocking sound would consist of two sharp impacts, to be followed by three “knocks” from a separate location, and then a single knock could be heard from a different location. The number of knocks from each source appeared to be consistent and deliberate. A short time later we played a section of the Sierra Sounds CD. Immediately there was a response from an area which was directly opposite from the area in which the wood knocking sounds originated. We all agreed the response sounded very similar to some of the sounds on the CD. We stayed at the site until midnight. Before leaving we used string to hang several bananas, onions and squash about 7 feet off the ground in trees.  We also used string to hang bags of (popped) popcorn in trees in a nearby area. (When checking the fruit and vegetable bait later we found none of it had been removed. We did notice there had been a chunk of wood knocked out of one of the trees about 5 feet above the ground. The chunk was about 2 inches by 3 inches. The popcorn was not checked until August 8.)

 

July 22, 2007 – MG, KT, AT and LD arrived at the site at around 8:00pm. We knocked once and listened for 30 minutes. We got no response. We later played some of the sound recordings and got no response from them. We left at about 10:30pm.
August 5, 2007 -MG, KT and AT arrived at the site at around 8:00pm. We used an owl call to see if it would receive a response. Shortly after the owl call was made, a whistling sound was heard. We had with us a new amplified sound listening device. A few minutes later we could hear through the listening device the sound of something walking in a bi-pedal fashion toward us. The sounds came close to our location, then they turned and started toward a nearby hardwood bottom. A few minutes later the sounds abruptly ended. After listening for 10 or 15 minutes, we could hear the walking sounds begin again but the sounds were headed toward a road below us. Using the night vision scope AT said she could see something moving on the hillside below us but could not identify it. MG was still listening through the hearing device and heard footsteps crossing the gravel road below us. KT used a spotlight with a red lense (not a true IR lense) to illuminate the area below. By that time the creature had crossed the road and was in the adjoining cut-over. KT saw eye shine coming from the cut-over. He gave the night vison scope to MG and AT and both saw the eyes shining but could not identify the animal. All agreed the light reflected from the eyes was of a yellowish color. From our vantage point it appeared the eyes were four or five feet above the ground. A few minutes later the animal turned and walked out of sight.
Shortly after the animal apparently left the area, AT was using the listening device and heard two distant howling sounds. She gave the device to her father (KT) and he heard a group of coyotes that were barking and yipping noisily. He told AT that she had heard coyotes. She began listening through the device and heard one of the coyotes suddenly yelp loudly and then began whining loudly as if in pain. It is not known if the sounds were in any way related to the animal that had left the area a few minutes earlier, although encounters between coyotes and the subject animals have been frequently reported.
Before we left the area we hung a zip-lock bag containing a peanut butter sandwich and some cheese crackers in a small pine tree about 100 yards off the road. We left at 11:30pm.
August 8, 2007 – During the day KT and MG went to the site to check on the bait that had been left three days earlier. We found the zip lock bag on the ground and the sandwich was missing. The cheese crackers were on the ground. The surprising finding was that the zip-lock bag had been resealed after the sandwich had been removed. We noticed tracks in the leaves where something had walked to the bait area from the cut-over and left walking toward the hardwood bottoms. We lost the tracks in the hardwood bottoms.
While at the lease, we went to check on the bags of popcorn we had hung in trees with string on July 7. We found that the bags of popcorn and the strings they had been used to suspend them were all missing.

August 11, 2007 – KT and his wife drove to the lease looking for elderberries to use to make jelly. Inside the lease KT wife saw a reddish-brown colored animal cross the road way opening by jumping from a tree on one side to a tree on the other side.

KT called MG and advised him of what his wife had seen. Because of MG’s work schedule, they agreed to meet at the lease early the next morning to look for sign of the animal that KT’s wife had seen.

August 12, 2007 – KT arrived at the location of his wife’s sighting shortly before 5:00am. When MG arrived about 6:15am, KT was standing beside his own truck and motioning for MG to hurriedly get out of his truck. When he did so, KT told him to listen. MG could then hear wood knocking sounds coming from an area about 250 yards away. KT stated the knocking sounds had been going on since about 5:45am. KT also said that the first knocking sounds were not very loud. The sounds were made in a sequence of two, with about a five second pause, then followed by three. Later from the same general location there were a series of two knocking sounds in succession which were very much louder. Those sounded as if a sledge hammer had been used to strike a tree.
After the sounds ceased, we drove to the area from which we thought the sounds had originated. When we arrived we noticed two limbs that had been placed in a fork made by two trees that had grown together near the ground. The limbs were crossed (forming an X) between the fork. The crossed limbs did not come from nearby trees, and there were no stumps nearby that the limbs may have come from. It appeared that someone or some animal had deliberately brought the limbs from another location and placed them between the two trees. (Note: On August 23, while this report was being finished, MG & KT drove to the site. They found that one of the limbs had been moved and placed on the opposite side of the forked tree with the other limb.)

 

We also noticed several small sweet gum trees, from 2 inches to 2-1/2″ in diameter, had been recently bent over and the uppermost leaves (newest growth) had been removed. Other similar sized sweet gum trees in the area had not been affected. There has been no winds in the area that would have bent the trees. There were no tracks seen to indicate deer had eaten the leaves after the trees had been bent over.
Before leaving the area we drove an eight-inch gutter nail through a new plastic jar of peanut butter and then drove the nail into a live pine tree about 7 feet off the ground. About four or five inches of the nail penetrated the tree. We then left the area about 8:30am.
August 15, 2007 – We placed another jar of peanut butter and a watermelon in the tree about seven feet off the ground. As we were leaving we saw the original peanut butter jar which had been hung on the stub of a limb on a small, dead and rotting tree a few hundred yards off the road. The limb on which the jar was hung was about 10 feet off the ground.
We attempted to retrieve the jar by bending the tree over, but the top broke out of the tree and the top and the jar fell to the ground. Without touching the jar, we placed it in a zip-lock bag. The jar was as clean as if it had been washed with water. It is being saved in case the inside surfaces contains saliva residue for DNA analyses. (The jar may have been licked clean of peanut butter.)
There was no evidence that a vehicle had been near the tree. The size and decayed condition of the small tree precluded the possibility that a person had climbed it, or placed a ladder against it to place the jar on the limb.
August 17, 2007 – MG and KT arrived at the site to check the bait we had left on the 15th. About 9:00am we were walking toward the bait area when we detected a strong urine/sewage smell. The odor was so strong that it caused both our eyes and noses to burn. We stopped immediately and looked around and listened for a few minutes. After seeing or hearing no movement, we continued on to the baiting location. When we got there we found that both the jar and the nail that had been used to secure it to the tree were missing. The watermelon had been partially eaten and part of it was missing. While looking around for the jar we noticed a piece of the watermelon wedged between two small dead trees.

 

The piece of melon was about eight feet off the ground, and the tree was about 30 feet from the tree that we placed it in originally.

While looking around the area for other sign we found one of the nails stuck in a small knot hole of a small tree. The tree was in a small creek bed and about 20 feet from the road. The nail and the knot hole in which it was inserted were about 4 feet off the ground.

Investigator’s Comments: Residents of this area have, over a period of many years, reported to others that they have had personal encounters with large, enigmatic hirsute primates that walk in a bipedal manner. During the past three months we have seen sufficient physical evidence and heard audible evidence to conclude that those reports are valid, and to conclude there is at least a small group of these animals that inhabit and routinely forage in the general area in which these investigations were conducted. We continue to receive new reports of these animals’ presence, and some of those reports are being investigated at present.