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St. Paul Park men persist in pursuit of bigfoot

Abe Del Rio, founder of the Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team, points to a poster-size reproduction of a frame from a film that was shot in 1967. The film, shot by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin, purports to show a bigfoot walking along a riverbed in northern California. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)1 / 3
Abe Del Rio, founder of the Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team, displays some of the gear he uses on tracking expeditions. The small clubs are “Squatch Sticks,” which are knocked against trees to elicit a response from the creatures. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)2 / 3
Abe Del Rio (left), founder of the Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team, and team member Dylan Severance. The two, who live in St. Paul Park, recently returned from an expedition tracking the elusive bigfoot in Paul Bunyan State Forest in Hubbard County. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)3 / 3

Believe it or not, there are actual bigfoot hunters in south Washington County.

Finding one doesn’t require infrared binoculars, thermal imaging devices, motion activated cameras or other electronic equipment that searchers sometimes use when they venture into the north woods in search of Sasquatch.

Abe Del Rio, founder and chief researcher of the Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team, lives in St. Paul Park. Del Rio, 35, has hunted the legendary monster for 14 years. He’s tracked bigfoot in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. He’s attended bigfoot conferences in a number of states, including Washington and Oregon.

During his very first expedition in Ohio in 2001, Del Rio said he became the hunted one when a bigfoot chased him and a companion back to their car.

He understands why some people might think he’s seven kinds of crazy to haul tents, camcorders and tape recorders into remote tracts of forest in search of King Kong’s North American cousin.

“I guess you have to have a little bit of craziness in you to go looking for something that is 6 to 8 feet tall and 600 to 1,200 pounds,” Del Rio said.

But the persistence of reported bigfoot sightings — in every state except Hawaii — indicate that the debate about the existence of the ape-like creatures is far from settled, he said.

“We remain skeptical ourselves,” he said. “Not everything we come across is done by a bigfoot or made by bigfoot or sounds like bigfoot.”

During their expeditions, the  team looks for footprints, tufts of hair snagged on a tree, or broken branches. Del Rio has a plaster cast of a footprint he said he made from a footprint he discovered in an Ohio forest in 2012.

Some bigfoot hunters also look for “teepee formations” and other makeshift groupings of large tree limbs that some think the creatures erect to mark their territory. While they could be the work of human pranksters, bigfoot hunters say that’s a lot of trouble to go to for a joke.

Before embarking on a Sasquatch sortie, the seven-member Minnesota Bigfoot Research Team packs a variety of gear. It ranges from the prosaic — insect repellent, tape measure and GPS — to the more specialized — a parabolic dish to pinpoint and amplify sound, a stun gun and heavy-duty, bear-strength pepper spray, “for whatever comes charging our way, be it on two legs or four,” Del Rio said.

The newest member of the team is Dylan Severance, 25, of St. Paul Park. He went on his first field excursion last month when Del Rio led an expedition to Paul Bunyan State Forest in Hubbard County in northern Minnesota.

People seem interested when they learn about his singular hobby, he said. Jeers are few.

“I don’t really get people who will make fun of me,” Severance said. “Usually people say, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’”

Even should they obtain video footage of a bigfoot, it wouldn’t satisfy skeptics since there have been prior video hoaxes, Severance said.

“It probably would take a body,” he said.

“Science requires a body,” Del Rio added. “But it’s not going to come from us.

“We’re in it to document the species to prove that they’re real. And hopefully get protection for them. We’re a no-kill team. We just want to connect, protect and preserve their way of life.”

Del Rio hosts a radio show 8-10 p.m. Mondays at For more information, visit their Facebook page.