BEMIDJI -- Tim Kedrowski and his sons, Peter and Casey, are not pushovers for Bigfoot stories, but a frame on a game trail camera set up on their hunting land north of Remer has left them in a quandary.
"To us, it's very hard because we lean toward the skeptical type," Kedrowski said in a telephone interview from his Rice, Minn., home.
But after checking with neighbors and any other hunters who might have been walking through the dense woods at 7:20 p.m. on the rainy night of Oct. 24, he said they couldn't imagine what else the image could be. Tim said he considered ideas from a bear to a bow hunter in a fuzzy suit. But the arm and hand couldn't be a bear's, or its upright gait. And there is no evidence in the photo of a bow or flashlight a hunter might be using to track a wounded deer.
The Kedrowskis checked the Minnesota Bigfoot Web site and came up with the names of Don Sherman and Bob Olson, the Northern Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team.
Sherman is the facilities manager for the Cass Lake Indian Health Service Hospital, and Olson is an auto body repairman in Deer River.
Sherman has responded to numerous area Bigfoot sighting reports and has made casts of footprints. He said he once caught footage of a Bigfoot on a thermal imaging camera and heard its warbling call.
When Sherman saw the image the Kedrowskis sent him, Tim said the researcher responded that he believes it is a picture of a Bigfoot. Sherman went with the Kedrowskis to the photo site and measured the height of the creature in comparison the sapling next to it. He determined the animal is about 7 feet tall.
"I've hunted there for 43 years," Tim said of their property near Shingle Mill Lake. "I've seen one bear off my deer stand. I've seen three timber wolves."
Casey Kedrowski said he and his brother had gone out to the family's hunting shack prior to deer season to bring in firewood and make other preparations. They set up a game trail camera to see what might be wandering around their property.
Casey said he and his brother were the only people who knew where the camera was located. They took the camera down when deer season started, and a couple of weeks later checked on what they had caught.
When they came to the picture of the long-armed creature walking upright, Casey said, "We just looked at each other. Each of us thought we were playing a trick on each other."
When they determined that neither of them had pulled a prank on the other, they checked to see if anyone had been in the area that night. Tim said the only neighbors were two elderly hunters in their own shack, neither of whom matched the size and appearance of the creature caught on camera.
However, he said, when he asked the men about the night the camera clicked on the mystery, they said they had gone out about 2 a.m. to use the outhouse and had heard strange squealing noises. Ted said he asked them to show him the direction of the sounds. They pointed to the area where the camera had been, although they had no idea of its location.
Ted said he just released the photo and permission for its publication last weekend.
"It was deer season and we wanted to concentrate on deer hunting, and (we) really wanted to talk to people in the area and ... make sure they weren't scamming us," he said. "We're not 100 percent sure, obviously. After visiting with (Sherman and Olson) we feel they've done a lot more investigation. That's why we put it in their hands."
Sherman said the Northern Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team started receiving reports of Bigfoot sightings in 2006 and has had reports every year since, including four reports this year. He said the first reported sighting he investigated was from a man running a road grader near Six Mile Lake south of Lake Winnibigoshish. Sherman said he was able to make casts of the footprints. A more recent sighting report was by a truck driver.
"I've talked to this guy - this was last year - he was coming from Crosby (Minn.) with a load of lumber by Washburn Lake," Sherman said. "It had hands, he said, like baseball mitts. It took three steps to cross the road. He was pretty shook up."
In spite of such seemingly credible reports, biologists remain unconvinced.
"Personally, I don't buy the fact this thing exists," said Blane Klemek, assistant wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji.
"There are certainly species that are discovered each year -but megafauna - rare is it a big mammal is discovered," he said.
He noted the belief that the ivory-billed woodpecker is not extinct after all is based on a fleeting, indistinct video image of some kind of woodpecker recorded in 2004 in the Big Woods of Arkansas. No other sightings have been reported.
He also noted than no one has ever found a Bigfoot carcass.
"All organisms die; they don't just go away," Klemek said. "You'd think someone someday would find one."
Evan Hazard, Bemidji State University retired mammalogist, also expressed doubt about the Bigfoot's existence.
"I just don't know," he said. "My background in mammalogy makes me skeptical, not expert. My inclination is to say we really don't have good evidence."
Hazard said proof would be a clear photo matched with footprints at the same site - multiple pieces of overlapping evidence.
Sherman said the research would go on. He said he believes the Bigfoot is intelligent and perfectly at home in the woods.
"That's why they're so elusive," he said. "They know the woods better than any hunter because they live it."
One thing the hunters agree on is that even if they could produce a carcass for examination, they wouldn't shoot a Bigfoot.
"Absolutely not - no way," said Tim. "I asked my sons would they shoot it, and they said no. It has every right to live."
"I've talked to people who've had them in their sights and their scopes, and they said they couldn't pull the trigger," she Sherman.
He urged anyone who wants to report a Bigfoot sighting or evidence of the creature to call him at 218-308-1451 or Olson at 218-246-8493.
"We've got all kinds of equipment, night vision, cameras, listening devices," Sherman said.