Randy Lee Tenley, The Man Killed In The Bigfoot Hoax, Incites Ethical Debate
I’m sure, by this point, you’ve heard about Randy Lee Tenley, the 44-year-old Montana man who was hit by two cars while trying to impersonate Bigfoot. In an attempt to “prompt a sighting of Bigfoot,” Tenley and a buddy went out on Northwestern Montana’s Highway 93 dressed in Ghillie suits. For those of you not familiar, a Ghillie suit is a head-to-toe camouflage outfit that resembles foliage. Tenley stepped out onto the two-lane highway in a Ghillie suit and was struck by two cars consecutively, both driven by teenage girls — one 15 and one 17.
“For somebody who has never seen [a Ghillie suit], they look absolutely odd. You would not understand what you were looking at,” especially in the dark … It goes from head to toe. You would look at it and think, ‘What in the world is that?’ ” said Montana Highway Patrol Lt. Col. Butch Huseby. “This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. Really,” he added. Authorities are still investigating the incident to find out if there was alcohol involved or if either driver is considered at fault.
In addition to being dumb, it’s also tragic for Tenley, the teenage girls and their families. But the death of Tenley has also sparked a bigger debate: Is it ethical to kill a Bigfoot? And should there be legal ordinances in place to prevent it?
In a the Animal Planet series, “Finding Bigfoot,” a team of experts examine alleged videos and photographs of Sasquatch and determine if they’re real. I dated a Bigfoot enthusiast in college, which meant I learned about Bigfoot conspiracy theories and watched hours of alleged sightings of Sasquatch, including the infamous Roger Patterson video filmed at Bluff Creek, CA in 1967. It’s widely believed to be a hoax. I know this because I watched another long video just about the footage with my Bigfoot boyfriend. The main argument for its veracity is that when it turns around the Bigfoot creature turns its entire torso instead of just its head, the way a human would. You can watch the footage here if you’re interested.
In reality, it doesn’t matter what’s determined about Bigfoot videos or photographs. The only way to prove the scientific existence of Bigfoot would be to offer a living or dead specimen of the creature. I imagine it would be awfully hard to show up on the doorstep of any reputable scientific institution with a live Bigfoot. “Harry and the Hendersons” made it seem plausible to road trip with the beast, but upon second thought, probably not. The only way, it would seem, to examine a Bigfoot, would be to present a dead body. Which leads me back to Tenley. In this case, we know that he was a hoaxer, but had he not been hit by two cars, could he have been in danger of getting killed by a civilian who though he was an actual Bigfoot?
Which brings us back to the debate about the ethical question of killing a Bigfoot. Benjamin Radford, editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine writes:
“Would it be ethical to shoot and kill a Bigfoot Some say yes, because that’s the only way to prove they exist, and once proof is found, funds could be made available to protect them as an endangered species. Others say no, that because Bigfoot sightings are so rare, they must have very small populations and killing one might drive the animals to extinction. Ecological ethics aside, aiming a gun at a Bigfoot could be a bad idea. You simply can’t know for sure if the mysterious, burly figure you have lined up in your sights is the real beast, or a bear, or a hoaxer in a costume.”
But the best reason not to point your weapon at what you think might be a Bigfoot, Radford points out, would be because it’s illegal. In Skamania County, Washington, it’s considered a felony to shoot a Bigfoot. But in the state of Texas it is officially legal to kill a Sasquatch because it isn’t technically considered a game animal. But let’s say someone shot a wild boar or a genetically mutated coyote believing it was a Chupacabra (this happened to a Texas teen last month), he could have faced felony charges. No word yet on whether it was actually a Chupacabra or not.
But this question of whether or not it is ethical to kill a Bigfoot– or any other cryptids like Loch Ness or the Yeti– is an interesting one. Even if you are not a believer in cryptozoology, hypothetically, you can argue that it should be illegal, because the killing of a Sasquatch means the probable killing of a human being or scientifically recognized, endangered or rare animal.Therefore, it can be considered inherently unethical.
So what do you think? Should it be legal to kill what you think is a Bigfoot, or any mythical creature?