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Interview: Science, Lore & So Much More – Experts Assemble For ‘Expedition Bigfoot’!

Published on December 8th, 2019 | Updated on December 8th, 2019 | By FanFest

Tonight a top-notch team of researchers will combine their vast array of skills and knowledge as they venture out into the Pacific Northwest during the premiere episode of Travels Channel’s Expedition Bigfoot! Bryce Johnson (Expedition Operations), Dr. Mireya Mayor (Primatologist), Russell Acord (Ex-Military/Survivalist), Ronny LeBlanc (Bigfoot Researcher), and Ryan “RPG” Golembeske (Bigfoot Investigator) join forces in search of evidence for the legendary, yet ever-elusive cryptid.

“Travel Channel has assembled the very best team of experts in Bigfoot lore and science to give us proof of the creature’s existence once and for all. The journey is formidable, and the jeopardy is real. Skeptics and believers alike will both agree the trek this team makes is something they have never seen before.” – Matthew Butler, General Manager, Travel Channel.

Fan Fest News had an opportunity to sit down and chat with the tight-knit team as they discussed their respective roles in the exhilarating expedition. Check it out…

Linda: Shall we get started? I have some questions for you individually, but also as a group. I’d like to start with you, Mireya. How did you get involved in this? You’re finding the smallest primate, and now you’re looking for the largest? 

Dr. Mireya: So you sort of hit the nail on the head. For me, it would come full circle, wouldn’t it? Having discovered the smallest, and then perhaps now the largest. Travel Channel approached me because of my background as a primatologist. I’ve spent the last two decades exploring some of the most remote jungles around the world always in search of primates that are rare, elusive, some thought to be impossible to find and in the case of the mouse lemur, which you brought up, completely undiscovered and new to science. So, it was in a very funny way, a very natural fit. I was asked the very first day of the expedition by one of the producers, “Do you believe in Bigfoot?” and I said, “Ask me in three weeks.” I was there because I believe that it’s possible.

I believe that we don’t have all the answers. In fact, I know that because I have discovered new species to science. I know that there is still [much] we don’t know about the natural world, so it was all about the expedition, the investigation. That’s what it’s always been for me. I’ve never gone for the animals where there is an established field camp, and you can easily see them. Ever. So this was also a natural fit because of my work with apes in the wild. I have spent a number of years working with Western Lowland Gorillas, and Mountain Gorillas. What I discovered during the expedition with these guys, is that a lot of methodologies that I employ during my expeditions with apes are not dissimilar at all from the type of methods that they employ when looking for Bigfoot. I learned a lot from them, there were definitely things that they knew to look for, and based on previous experiences had worked for them in these investigations but the overlap in the scientific approach and how you would go about finding a big ape was incredibly similar.

Expedition Bigfoot, Travel Channel, Mireya Mayor
Primatologist Dr. Mireya Mayor searching for Bigfoot in the Ochoco National Forest. Image: Travel Channel

Linda: Have your beliefs changed?

Dr. Mireya: I can honestly say that my belief in this is irrelevant. It’s not a religion, right? I’m only interested in the evidence, the definitive scientific evidence, but my view on this has definitely changed based on what we found out there. There was one video captured by Russell that truly changed sort of everything for me, and I’d shared it with colleagues who are world renown primatologists, some of which specialize in primate locomotion, one of whom has seen every living primate in the wild, and they too were blown away by this. Our collective feeling was there’s this large ape-like creature living very far from its home.

Linda: Bryce, you’re in charge of the operations. What do you find most challenging in doing that, and were you ever concerned for the team’s well being at any given point?

Bryce: Yeah, for sure because we’re out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s not a relatively human-populated area. So there are always dangers when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

Linda: What’s the most challenging aspect of running the operations?

Bryce: I think it was getting them the technology that they need right away because we had an overall idea of the type of tech we wanted to bring to the expedition but there certain things that were discovered were we sort of had to think on our feet [such as] what type of technology would be good to help solve a particular problem in the field. Something I really enjoyed was going, “Oh, I think I have a great idea that they could work with that.” and using different connections outside of the Bigfoot community to help bring that to the expedition.

Linda: What sets your team apart from everybody else?

Bryce: Oh my god, we were just talking about this before you came in, but I love how this team feels so rounded out. Just to talk a little bit about the individual members of the team, Russell is a boots on the ground survivalist who has an extreme hunting background and experience with vast Bigfoot knowledge so that’s a great practical thing whereas Mireya has her science background in primatology and anthropology, so she brings that willingness to look at evidence, and be objective about it. Ronny has a tremendous Bigfoot knowledge, but he also has a lot of experience in what I like to call the stranger aspects of Bigfoot. So, some could relegate that to the world of the paranormal which can’t be eliminated when one’s talking about the myth and the lore of Bigfoot because at times they do go hand in hand. And then I brought different elements that could help provide technology and speak with witnesses, and so I thought it was just a very well rounded team.

Linda: You just seem to all fit together well.

Ronny: We do.

Dr. Mireya: We really do.

Bryce: It’s the A-Team of Bigfoot.

Ronny: Yeah, yeah it is.

Russell: There it is.

Linda: I love that and I love that you brought up the paranormal too. I wanted to touch on that a little bit as well, the connection between the two. I feel like interest in the unknown, generally speaking, is exploding. I mean, there’s all these shows coming out.

Bryce: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ronny: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Bryce: Listen, the world of the unknown, the strange, and the mysterious is back in the zeitgeist. I think it all started with that New York Times article that came out in December of 2017, about the Pentagon verifying that they had a $20 million budget looking into UFOs, and not to bring UFOs into the Bigfoot conversation, but there’s a lot that happens when people are investigating and researching Bigfoot. Strange lights, different aspects, eyewitnesses reporting Bigfoot dematerializing, and so a lot of people don’t like to talk about that evidence. I think it’s a disservice to discount that evidence and cherry-pick the data saying, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about that because it doesn’t fit into my little box of what I think Bigfoot is.” So yeah, obviously we want it to be a very scientifically grounded expedition, but I wasn’t going to discount anything strange that happened…

Dr. Mireya: I’ll say that we saw things out there that I if I hadn’t seen with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t believe. This is Ronny’s area of expertise, and so anytime I saw something like a bright light…

Bryce: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Dr. Mireya: …I mean, just something that was completely out of place, I would turn to Ronny.

Linda: Let’s go to Ronny next then. Will you speak to this a little bit?

Ronny: Yes, I’ve had experiences growing up, paranormal experiences, but I’ve always been fascinated with Bigfoot. I wrote a book a couple of years ago called, Monsterland, which focuses on an area of Massachusetts surprisingly, that has a lot of activity… Bigfoot, orange orbs, and UFOs, and looking at the similarities of why they seem to pop up in these same kinds of hotspots. Like Bryce was saying, a lot of researchers in the past when there was a Bigfoot encounter, would scrape out the stuff that just didn’t make sense. [For example] before this encounter, an orb flew over us, or [if] there’s any kind of paranormal thing they go, “Oh, let’s not put that in because no one’s going to believe it.” But if you start to keep those intact, it helps to give us the answer to what is actually happening.

I come from a world of the Native American philosophy, and the belief system that over 200 tribes have a name for Sasquatch. There’s a reason for that, they don’t make names for something that doesn’t exist but they also say that they have one foot in the physical realm and one foot in the spiritual realm, which the spiritual realm is that dimensional kind of aspect, that interdimensional piece. People always ask, “Where’s the bones? Where’s the body?” Well, maybe there’s something going on here with this stuff, and that was one of the reasons I  joined the team with Travel Channel, but also I think we experience a lot of those things and that just opened up everyone’s eyes. For me it made it more firm, it strengthened my belief. I’m like, “Okay, here we go.” These just seem to go hand in hand with the phenomenon.

Linda: What do you believe are the biggest misconceptions about Bigfoot?

Ronny: The biggest one is that there is just one Bigfoot. You think that is nuts, but it’s not. People almost equate Loch Ness Monster [to] Bigfoot. “So how’s Bigfoot popping up all over these places?”

Linda: Yeah.

Ronny: That’s the thing, is that they’re populating the species, they’re spread out. We always think Pacific Northwest, there’s an enormous amount of activity there but you look across the continental US, there are sightings all over from Florida to New Hampshire and Maine, two of the biggest most forested states in the country. There’s a lot of places for things to hide, and experiences and encounters continue. Something is going on, it’s not everyone having these mass hallucinations and seeing things. They’re leaving tracks, they’re leaving evidence, and people having visual encounters that completely change their life. When you see someone that’s a hunter for 30 years, that says, “I’m done hunting, I’m no longer going into those woods.” You should pay attention to that.

Linda: I was given the opportunity to see the first episode and you (Ronny) weren’t in it yet. How did you feel when you were pulled into the situation? Were you just excited?           

Ronny: It was amazing. I mean, I’ve been trying to get to this position and be a part of something like this, a scientific expedition. Right out of the gate, the team started experiencing things and finding things that they’re like, “We need more help. We need more boots on the ground.” That’s where I kind of came into the fray and joined the team.

Linda: Russell, obviously I can’t give away the show in this article, but let’s go prior to the filming of the show… What was your biggest evidence discovered during all of your explorations for Bigfoot?

Russell: To date, my biggest evidence has been impressions in the ground or sounds that you suspect, but you have no proof of, or just testimonials from people that I would literally put my life in their hands, that I trust. For me coming from a military background, I’m that stubborn [guy], you can’t change me, I’ve been this way my whole life. I believe in flesh and blood. If it leaves an impression, if it has a heartbeat, it’s just flesh and blood. Simple as that.

I’ve hunted my whole life because we came up in a large family in Montana, so I know that if you follow tracks, there’s something standing in it and it’s breathing. Okay, so if I am following tracks and they stop making tracks, or if something happens to where what I was looking for vanishes, I don’t get that. That is completely out of my comfort zone. So having Ronny come on the team was perfect because [when I thought], “Okay, I don’t get this. I’m not comfortable”, and I [could] shove it into his lane and say, “Ronny, this is yours and I’m going to keep going this way now. I’m going this way, you take over from here.” It was comfortable having him there. Before the show, that’s what I did, strictly flesh and blood and this show has made me face things that I am just not comfortable with…

Linda: You all keep saying this, I can’t wait.

Ronny: Yeah. That being said though too, I think we find a lot of what Russ was talking about, that physical evidence that points to a flesh and blood creature, so don’t let us fool you that we’re luring a way to something in the world of paranormal. We don’t know. We do know that we found evidence that could be interpreted and looked at by scientists.

Dr. Mireya: The truth is, is that that was never really supposed to be…

Ronny: Part of the plan.

Dr. Mireya: A part of the plan.

Russell: Right.

Bryce: Yeah.

Dr. Mireya: Right? As things started happening more, and more, and more, you couldn’t just ignore that they were happening. So that’s where, for me as a scientist, there were moments where I thought, “Okay, I can explain this.” but then there were other moments where I know what we saw, but science couldn’t explain it.

Russell: Don’t get us wrong though, because there were a long of things that were kind of creepy and out there for me but there was plenty of physical evidence too. That’s why this thing has such a great balance. You’ve got physical evidence, then you’ve got stuff that’s just out of my comfort zone. So it was great.

Expedition Bigfoot, Travel Channel, Russell Acord, Mireya Mayor
Team members Russell Acord and Dr. Mireya Mayor discuss strategy. Image: Travel Channel

Linda: I feel like this show is going to generate even more interest…

Bryce: 100%.

Linda: …more and more people wanting to go out and do stuff. What, and this goes to any of you, is the best piece of advice you could offer to somebody wanting to go out and explore? What should they know? What should they do or not do?

Russell: Be prepared. The wilderness is not something like running to Walmart and back where you know your path, you know the dangers to and from Walmart. Be prepared if you go into the vast wilderness. Number one, know how to get back to your vehicle, don’t get lost out there. If you’re going to spend the night, or if you’re going to get too far away from your vehicle, be prepared to spend the night. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation, there’s a lot of things that are unforeseen in the forest that you have to be prepared for. It’s not a dangerous place if you’re prepared. But if you walk in there not prepared for the elements, and you get too far, you get turned around, then that could have bad results.

Dr. Mireya: With that being said, my answer is to go explore.

Russell: Exactly.

Dr. Mireya: I mean the more sort of citizen science Bigfoot researchers we have, the better. That’s true for any species, right? My hope from the show is that more and more people will come forward. I’ve already noticed an uptick from my scientific colleagues who have reached out to me now that they know that I’ve participated in this investigation [saying] that they’ve had experiences that they were too afraid to talk about. They’ve come to me and now said, “I’ve had experiences like this, and I can’t wait to watch what you guys found.” It may grant people the confidence, and almost the permission to go ahead and share these stories because the stigma may not be there as much. If more and more people come forward that would help any scientific investigation, because then you have more and more data points to look at when you’re going to go out there and investigate. Hopefully, that will be one outcome of the show.

Russell: True.

Dr. Mireya: One of the things I came to learn as Bryce was conducting a lot of eye witness interviews was these people had a lot to lose by coming forward. In fact, a lot more to lose than they did to gain. Many of them had very compelling stories that they had kept to themselves for…

Bryce: Their whole life.

Dr. Mireya: …20, 30 years, not even sharing with their spouses. I mean these are incredible stories, and I think the more people that have had experiences that feel more comfortable in sharing those, the better that is for the scientific community to help propel forward, to further investigations.

Linda: Who was in charge of developing the algorithm?

Bryce: Well so, in developing the show, part of the idea was looking at what’s gone wrong with Bigfoot expeditions in the past. You know? Usually, the modus operandi is a witness will see something, or a research will find a trackway, and they’ll go there after the fact. So it’s kind of blunt and obvious to say, “Well what if we could get there before this creature does, at the time and place when they’re most likely to be there?” So that gave us the idea to really try and run it through a computer program because there are thousands of reported sightings, and what that gave us was a time and a window of opportunity, and a few hotspots within North America. One in particular that just screamed out, “This would be, I think, one of the best places to go, and this would be the time to go there.”

What I will say about the algorithm, is that it absolutely worked. Not only that, but I think what makes this different is the amount of time that we were able to spend in one location. Most researchers usually only have a weekend to get away from work and to go investigate a spot, and that’s just not enough time. You have to think that when you enter into the grounds, or into the hot zone or as we like to call it, that if that creature does exist, it probably is already aware of you being in that area. You really have to think that [we will] just run our investigation as best that we know how and get this creature interested in what we’re doing and maybe as that happens it will allow itself to be revealed.

Dr. Mireya: I mean if you look at Western Lowland Gorillas, it took more than 14, 15 years to habituate a group of Western Lowland Gorillas, and that’s day in and day out, boots on the ground trying to follow these animals. So, going in for a weekend into a spot, I mean you could perhaps get unbelievably lucky but the chances of really being able to turn up anything of real value is pretty slim.

Bryce: Yeah, I love using that word, ‘mini-habituation’ because so many people will report that these creatures will get used to their property in the back of the woods and they’ll start to come onto their backyard and steal apples. So yeah, it was a great opportunity to be able to spend as much time as we literally could be there. Not only that, but our algorithm told us this is a window of opportunity where it’s a feeding season, it seems to be a migratory pattern. So it was a great time.

Linda: That makes sense. Ronny do you have advice for people wanting to go out?

Ronny: I think this expedition is going open people’s eyes and it’s going to get people that have been on the fence, if this is real, to go into the woods. I think that’s exciting, and we all have 4K now for our phones. I think [the show] is going to create some courage [because] there’s some scientific backing. Dr. Mireya is going to inspire a lot of people to pursue this more on the academic side of things. I think it’s going to give people the courage to go into the woods, and have the experience, or try to find something. The beauty is that everyone can do it, it’s not isolated to this particular group, anybody can go into the woods and you can have an experience, you can have something. “If you seek, you shall find”, kind of statement.

I think that’s exciting to see it kind of cracking open, and Bryce referenced earlier about the UFO thing and I would bring that up a lot… creating the climate of trying to figure out the truth. If now the Navy has come, and the Pentagon has come forward and said, “These things exist, we don’t know exactly what they are but they’re real and our pilots are seeing them.”, the next thing in line is Bigfoot, right? People are going to go, “All right, well if that’s real, then what about this?”, there’s going to be that focus. I think the timing is ripe for the show to come out, and I think it’s going to really create some interesting responses from people. I think it’s going to shake the world.

Linda: I have to agree, and along the lines of everybody filming, I’d like to ask your thoughts on social media. Do you think it helps or hinders these types of explorations?

Russell: Sharing information will help… means and methods of research, places to avoid, things to avoid, or things to look for. I think sharing ‘good’ information is a very positive thing. I think encouraging people to get out and do their research as she (Mireya) said, citizen scientist, I agree with that 100%. The one thing, and I have to throw this in here because you said something about Dr. Mireya inspiring people… my own 11-year-old daughter made a video and said, “Of everybody on Expedition Bigfoot, Dr. Mireya is my favorite.”

Linda: Awww.

Russell: It crushed me, but made me feel great at the same time.

Dr. Mireya: So cute. I asked if I could keep her.

Russell: She’s inspiring, and that’s good, I mean that’s what I want. If you’re going to have somebody that you look up to, make sure you have somebody who has credentials, and who is a good role model. So there it is.

Ronny: I would like to add one thing, there’s also the spirit of collaboration that you’re seeing with this group and I hope that creates this paradigm shift because what has been happening and why we haven’t come to any kind of conclusion is that people have been so, “This is my research area, I’m not telling you the location, I’m not sharing.” They could be corroborating an experience or a sighting that these other people had in the same spot but they keep it close to the chest, and that’s also because of ridicule, that’s also because of the stigma that comes along with it. But again, I think that’s getting shedded, and I think this will hopefully kind of show people that we’re going to share the data, share the information. Social media is a great tool to kind of get that out and I think that we’re going to spearhead that, that movement.

Bryce: Well, and if your friend saw something in the woods, you no longer have to be the crazy one. You know what I mean? I think that’s an important part of this too, it’s a very ostracized community. I think a lot of these witnesses are good, hardworking, honest people, and what’s kind of fun about this is helping to champion their experience and say, “Hey, we believe you. We take this very seriously too.”

Linda (to Mireya): Do you feel pressure, coming from the science side, in giving validity to the field?

Dr. Mireya: No. The investigation is real and worthwhile because if you have that many consistent accounts coming forward, you have to pay attention, and you have to take it seriously. The truth is that the majority of them could be invalid for whatever reason, but all you need is that ‘one’ to be true and authentic for the investigation to be worthwhile. As an anthropologist, which is what my PhD is in, you know that out in the field scientists heavily rely on local’s accounts. Always have. I certainly have on all my expeditions and I’ve been able to find animals deemed impossible to find, because of the accounts of the locals.

You have situations where a story was considered legend, as in the case of the little ape men running around the forest, [then later] teams of archeologists discovered fossils that matched the descriptions that the locals had been giving for years, and years, and years and now we know that in fact, it was fact. I think that what holds true is that for every legend there are kernels of truth that you have to pay attention to, and so I don’t feel it’s my job or my responsibility as a scientist to validate these sorts of investigations. I think that the investigations will prove themselves in the end, and that’s true of any investigation. In fact, I would say that most, let’s call them science experiments, is a long line of failures leading up to that one moment of success.

So even if you go out there and you don’t find evidence for Bigfoot, even in your first 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 investigations, it doesn’t mean that those were worthless or invalid, because you learn from each and every one of those which will, in the end, be the potential payoff. That’s true all across the board with science.

Linda: That makes sense. Speaking to the paranormal for just a second, you can go into an investigation and have nothing happen but it doesn’t mean nothing is there.

Bryce: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Mireya: Correct.

Linda: When I was asking about social media earlier, and this can be in any field, people often sensationalize certain things. When I’m watching TV, of course, I want to be entertained. Who doesn’t want to be entertained?

Bryce: Right.

Dr. Mireya: Sure. It’s ‘edutainment’, right?

Linda: Yeah, exactly. Some people though have a difficult time deciphering between what’s actually the truth, and what is not.

Dr. Mireya: So we’re all legit in our respective backgrounds, right? So that’s what he does, that’s what he does, that’s what he does, and that’s what I do, irrespective of cameras, or show premises, or that sort of thing. While in my case, I was not out as a Bigfoot researcher, all of the science and methodology that I brought into this was no different. I think the authenticity was led by the fact that we are all experts in our respective fields and there was nothing that the production company needed to tell us or guide us in while we were out there because we were out there looking for evidence in the way that we all knew how to.

Linda: Right.

Bryce: Not only that, in starting of the premise of this show, we had to think, “Okay, here’s eight episodes. Let’s plan for what’s going to happen if we don’t find anything. How are we going to make this a show?” And we had to think about that, and we had to plan for that. That being said, thank god we were so lucky and luck is preparation meeting opportunity.

Dr. Mireya: You make your own luck right?

Bryce: Yeah, absolutely. We were prepared for an opportunity to strike, and it did. I guess we weren’t prepared for as much as we encountered and I think that’s going to make for a great first season of Expedition Bigfoot.

Russell: One thing I will say about Travel Channel is, that I appreciate it. I have a certain method and means in which I do my research, and so does Ronny, so does Mireya, and so does Bryce. We all have our own ways that we bring things into the game. They (Travel Channel) set up a set and said, “Hey Russ, will you do a Bigfoot howl for us?” In all my research, I have never done a vocalization. Never have, never will. I said, “I don’t do those.” and as soon as I said that, it was, “Okay, that’s right. You don’t. Ronny, can you do a vocalization for us?”

Ronny: Sure.

Russell: We never had to step out of our comfort level. Everything that Ronny did, everything that I did, everything that Dr. Mireya did, everything that Bryce did, it was all within what we do.

Bryce: Yeah, we didn’t want to fake anything.

Ronny: No, we didn’t.

Russell: No, that is not what we were about. That’s not how we do business at all. You’re going to see that in the show, there’s just some really extreme things that Ronny, this is your lane. I’m out.

Linda: To Bryce’s point, even if you didn’t find anything, I’m still fascinated by the steps that are taken and the research behind it…

Dr. Mireya: I think the scientific investigation is quite fascinating.

Bryce: Mind you, we were planning on it being a good show. We’re so fortunate that it became an exceptional show.

Linda: I’m looking forward to it.

Ronny: I don’t throw this term around all the time, but I do mean it in this situation, this whole thing was magical. There was something I think all of us needed to kind of be there in our respective roles, and things happened because of what we were bringing to the table. It’s bigger than what you think and it was, it proves itself on the show.

Linda: Did you all know each other before the show? How did that collectively come together?

Bryce: I knew about the work of Ronny and Russell, and I was certainly familiar with Mireya [but] I had never met any of them. I think I’d met you [Russell] at a Bigfoot conference before. It was really unique to be able to start to get these people together, and meet them, and get them excited about the opportunity. Especially Mireya, getting her onboard… she was excited from the get-go.

Linda: What would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned from each other? 

Ronny: I learned a ton, I really did. Just learning to rely on and trust these guys, I trust them with my life. I think you need to have that. It was like a military unit, you need to have that kind of respect and care for each other, love for each other. I just learned so much from Dr. Mireya, from Russ, from Bryce which made my perspective stronger, it helped to solidify what is going on. That was the best thing that I took out of that. Now I consider these guys family, so…

Russell: It’s like a chair. We all support our own corner of the chair. I learned so much from you, Ronny, just your background and things that I didn’t understand [that] you had a response for. The intellectual conversations I’ve had with Dr. Mireya, because if I ask her a question, she just pops up with this knowledge that blows me away. I remember when I asked you about the eye shine, and you just, “Oh, well that’s blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” But I don’t know what you said, but it was just fascinating.

Dr. Mireya: Tapetum lucidum.

Bryce: Yeah, yeah.

Russell: There it is.

Bryce: There you are.

Russell: Those big words that I can’t remember, let alone spell. Bryce, being able to bring some of the most state-of-the-art equipment when we needed it. It wasn’t him throwing all the stuff in a pile in front of us and saying, “Okay, go use this.”, it’s when we came up against something in the field, and he came up with, “I know exactly what we need, and the application will fit this need.”

Ronny: And deploying things that haven’t been done before. Haven’t been used before was just awesome. We’d be like a kid in a candy store and I’m like, “We get to use this?”

Bryce: That’s what everybody would ask, right? We’re in an age of such high technology, why haven’t we discovered this creature yet? So that was an obstacle I definitely wanted to overcome and be like, “Well, we do have high technology that other expeditions haven’t used before. How can we incorporate that into this one? Why shouldn’t it work?” And it did, in a lot of it, so…

Russell: Yeah.

Ronny: Yeah.

Linda: What other crypto creatures would you guys be interested in investigating?

Russell: I’m going to throw out Mothman.

Ronny: I mean, there’s some interesting sightings of a winged humanoid in Chicago area that’s been popping up the past couple of weeks.

Bryce: Return of the Mothman.

Ronny: Yeah. There’s also, the Rougarou, which is almost like this werewolf type dog man, type creature. A lot of people encounter those in these Bigfoot hotspots too, [perhaps] he’s another type of species of this? More people are going to come forward with these stories that they just can’t explain, things that they’ve never seen before… a lot of people going in not looking for those things, and having these experiences like, “I don’t believe in this stuff, but I saw something that doesn’t make sense and now I’m like 180 degrees going this direction, so…”

Russell: When you mentioned the Rougarou, I actually took a testimony about two weeks ago from a tribal member and his father that saw…

Ronny: A dog man, wow.

Russell: To listen to these guys talk about this, and the kid was scared out of his mind, and he was probably 22 years old, 23 years old. The dad you could tell he was in and out of whether he could really justify in his head or not. It walked like a man, had hands and fingernails, not claws, but the head, he said was shaped like a Doberman Pinscher… pointy ears, and a mouth and a face like a dog. He still can’t get his head wrapped around it.

Bryce: This is the perfect example of us being willing to go outside the parameters of what’s in everybody’s little gray box. What I mean by that is just us even discussing that while we’re doing a Bigfoot show is not heresy, you know? People are seeing all kinds of weird shit all over the place and it’s not just Bigfoot. Yeah, we want to lock down this Bigfoot thing first but yeah, we’re not going to say, “Hey, this person’s crazy over here while these people are not.” It’s not fair to do that.

Linda: Mireya, how does your family feel about you going out and searching for Bigfoot? Are they supportive, are they loving it, are they excited?

Dr. Mireya: My family’s incredibly supportive. My children in particular, were sweetly worried about me during the expedition, but several of them asked me to bring back a baby Bigfoot with me. They’re super excited to watch the show this Sunday, they think it’s great. I love that they’re open-minded, they’re curious. They’re all the things that a scientist should be, in my opinion.

You have to have an open mind, you can’t stick to what you think is true, or think is real because you miss all the color, you miss all the detail, you miss everything else that is important and that curiosity, and that sense of adventure, all of those things. But yeah, they’re super supportive and they’re excited.

Russell: I know my daughter supports you.

Bryce: There’s a fun factor to this Bigfoot thing, what a gateway into science. I have an eight-year-old son, and so often when they ask, “Dad, are monsters real?” and as I’m turning off the lights, and closing the door, “Well, maybe.” That’s what this is, it’s that sense of the exploration, and adventure, and the mysterious, and the unknown that we all feel when we’re young and that we could still feel today, even being older.

Dr. Mireya: I’m now the Director of Exploration and Science Communications at FIU (Florida International University) and I felt like what a great way to introduce the importance of talking about exploration, and science, and discovery. This is sort of a perfect topic. As a result of this show and the little releases that have gone out, meaning the video clips and stuff promoting the show, I’ve now gotten requests from different universities around the country like, “Hey, we’re teaching this class”, incorporating something that traditionally had not been really included in that scientific world.

Primatologist Mireya Mayor plays a Bigfoot vocalization into the corridor, while the CTSi sound experts track the sound using the Dragon Egg software. As seen on Travel Channel's Expedition Bigfoot.
Primatologist Mireya Mayor plays a Bigfoot vocalization into the corridor, while the CTSi sound experts track the sound using the Dragon Egg software. Image: Travel Channel

Linda (to Mireya): I’d be remiss not to mention the ‘Female Indiana Jones’ title. I mean how do you feel about it?

Dr. Mireya: I’ll tell you a funny story about that. I had dinner with Harrison Ford several months ago and I said to him, very cheekily, “For nearly two decades the media has coined me the ‘Female Indiana Jones’, so for just one night, you’re going to be the ‘Male Dr. Mireya Mayor.'” Luckily he had a very good sense of humor.

Unfortunately, we’re sort of at an age where people don’t refer to ‘male’ Bigfoot researchers but they’ll say ‘female’, so we’re still at that point. The reason that it [title of ‘Female Indiana Jones’] doesn’t bother me is that it’s just a way of people understanding what I do and basically being intrigued by the adventure of it. I get to tell the story and explain what I am doing out there because it’s really important to me that we share these stories. So, if that’s the hook, then that’s the hook.

Linda: That’s a great way to explain it, it’s how people can relate to what you’re doing.

Dr. Mireya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Linda: Do you find females now being more interested in this type of research?

Dr. Mireya: I’ve had lots of women, which you all knew from your conferences, and research that have reached out, and I’ve actually spent some time on the phone with several of them now. We talk about their interest, and their research, and how they got started. A lot of those women have scientific backgrounds, some of them have Masters, a few of them had PhD’s and they have a genuine interest. I was the first female wildlife correspondent hired at National Geographic and having women at that televisual forefront, or the scientific forefront, as a role model, that either young girls or older girls, can relate to, I think is really important. Growing up I had Jane Goodall, but there aren’t a lot of women at the televisual forefront doing adventurous, dare I say dangerous…

Bryce: We realize it too, we are so fucking lucky to have her and I think we all know it, and we admire the hell out of you.

Dr. Mireya: These guys have been the absolute best to work with. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, because I’m not from that world and, it’s like Ronny said, we worked so well together. We all had very different takes on things, like Russ, I’m looking for physical flesh and blood evidence but we were very respectful and open to one another’s methodologies, and views. We’ve become like family, which is great.

Russell: I want to, I got to throw something in here, I can’t help myself at this point.

Dr. Mireya: Oh, no.

Ronny: Help us. He’s going to start crying.

Russell: When you look at Dr. Mireya, you see this classy, fragile-looking, pretty woman. But I’m going to tell you guys…

Dr. Mireya: Fragile, really?

Russell: She looks like she weighs no more than a bag of Skittles, she’s just this adorable woman. But out in the field, she carries more weight than most lumberjacks I’ve ever met. She is fearless, tough as nails, and gets the job done. I love working with her because…

Dr. Mireya: Everybody needs to stop. Let’s talk about Bigfoot.

Russell: If I’m seeing her running off in the distance, I’m yelling, “Wait for me! Wait for me!” I know I’m in trouble. She’s just, for lack of better terms, she is a badass.

Ronny: You said the right word, fearless.

Russell: She is just tough as nails, I love working with her.

Linda (to Mireya): How do you feel about that?

Dr. Mireya: Yeah, I’ve never been very good with compliments, but thank you.

Russell: Pink Boots and a Machete, right? There it is.

Dr. Mireya: It’s funny because you say, tough as nails’, and then look at my nails, right? I wrote a book called, Pink Boots and a Machete and that was why I titled it that because when I first entered the sciences, I had just come off being an NFL cheerleader. All of these stereotypes were coming up, and it was sometimes difficult to be taken seriously in the very beginning because of that and so I started playing down the femininity as a way of fitting in and breaking into this more male-dominated field. What I quickly learned is I wasn’t going to change who I was, I was every bit as good as these other male researchers, and I had led expeditions in several parts of the world. So, I actually started doing the opposite and playing up the femininity, and so I started sporting pink boots. I just decided I’m not changing, this is who I am.

Bryce: When you think about it, she really fits into this outliers community because that’s what this Bigfoot community is, we’re all kind of outliers…

Dr. Mireya: That’s a great point.

Bryce: It’s a nice fit.

Russell: Yeah, it is.

Linda: So if you guys want to wear pink boots…

Bryce: Yeah, I’m down.

Dr. Mireya: I think they should.

Ronny: I would.

Dr. Mireya: I think they should all start sporting pink boots. Season two.

Linda: Season two, you’re bringing up a good point. What are things looking like to continue the journey?

Bryce: You start to think about it and you’re like, “God, what are we going to do if there is a season two? How could we match?” You start to think of expectations and anticipations.

Dr. Mireya: We’re going to keep searching…

Russell: We’re not going to match it, we will exceed it.

Bryce: I hope you’re right.

Dr. Mireya: That’s the beauty of science and expeditions, no two journeys are alike. They’re all full of surprises, you can plan all you want and things happen that you don’t expect. So, I think that’s where the magic really is, you do need to plan for things, but you also have to expect that none of those plans are going to be what actually happens when you’re out there. That’s where the grain is, and that’s where the interesting stuff happens, it’s the stuff you don’t expect.

Russell: We didn’t know what to expect in season one, and we all came into it kind of blind and the results were astronomical. We’ve become very, very cohesive, we have a rhythm of working with each other and we know exactly when we come across something, whose lane it’s in, and that makes it wonderful. I can only imagine what season two would be like with a rhythm we’ve already [have]. You have that awkward moment the first week or so of just kind of dancing that dance around each other, going into season two already knowing…

Ronny: In sync, yeah.

Russell: Absolutely.

Bryce: Well that algorithm did point out more than just one hotspot so there are other places worthy of exploration.

Russell: I’m ready.

Ronny: We’re ready.

Linda: So you guys are ready to go for season two, I like it. What do you want fans to take away from the show?

Bryce: I would say that we haven’t explored every square foot of the world. There is a lot of unexplored territories. Not just on the planet, but in our minds as well. There are a lot of questions still unanswered, and for me, having those questions has always been a great part of my life. I love exploring the mystery, and it keeps the world exciting, and it keeps it fresh, and it puts a certain type of panache on the day that you don’t have when just everything is said and done.

Dr. Mireya: I hope people leave feeling with a sense of wonder and also a curiosity and a desire to want to go out there and explore and learn more. And understand that we don’t have all these answers.

Bryce: We’re explorers at heart, all of us I think.

Dr. Mireya: Yeah, all of us.

Bryce: So many of us have sort of squashed that withinside of us, you know?

Linda: I feel like as we become adults, you lose that wonder and excitement.

Ronny: Yeah.

Bryce: Right, yeah.

Dr. Dr.nMireya: Think about toddlers and how curious they are and as parents, we spend our entire time, “Don’t do that. Don’t do that.” Or the, “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?” We squash that too because it drives us nuts as adults but the truth is, is we’re innately curious beings and that’s one of the reasons that we have so much advanced technology, and why we question things which lead to answers, which then lead to more questions. That’s that human journey. That’s that thrust, right? Just wanting to know more and more.

Russell: Don’t settle for mediocrity. Demand more, search more, always keep looking because there’s so much out there that we haven’t seen, and until people get out and keep looking and keep searching, you have no idea what’s out there. I’m curious, everybody likes a good mystery, everybody wants to see the treasure hunt, everybody wants to find that thing that nobody else has seen. That’s what we’re here for.

Ronny: I got your last five words of the article.

Dr. Mireya: I’m scared.

Ronny: This is what I would want people to take from after watching this…

“The journey has just begun.”

Expedition Bigfoot, Travel Channel, Russell Acord, Dr. Mireya Mayor, Bryce Johnson, Ronny LeBlanc
Image: Travel Channel

A Big(foot) thank you to Dr. Mireya, Bryce, Ronny and Russell for taking the time to give us a glimpse in their investigative adventures. Check them out on Travel Channel’s new eight-part investigative-adventure series, Expedition Bigfoot, premiering Sunday, December 8 at 10 PM EST.

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