John Bindernagel always encouraged individuals to share stories or reports of sasquatch encounters with him. Photo submitted.

Renowned Valley sasquatch researcher passes away

A renowned biologist and leading Canadian sasquatch researcher who called the Comox Valley home has died.

Dr. John Bindernagel, 76, passed away Jan. 17 after a two year battle with cancer.

A wildlife biologist since 1963, Bindernagel grew up in Ontario and moved to B.C. in 1975, largely due to the high number of reported sasquatch sightings.

Bindernagel worked in the Serengeti in Africa and travelled throughout the Middle East and the Caribbean.

Over the years, he dedicated much of his life to studying the sasquatch in North America.

In 1988, he and his wife found several sasquatch tracks in good condition on Vancouver Island. He made plaster casts from the tracks, which he noted provided the first physical evidence for the existence of the sasquatch.

John Bindernagel engaged in scientific research in Africa. Photo submitted.

“I am satisfied that the sasquatch is an extent (or ‘real’) animal, subject to study and examination like any other large mammal,” he wrote. “I remain aware, however, that many people – including scientific colleagues – remain unaware of the information that exists about this species.”

Bindernagel’s son Chris – who lives in Courtenay – said his father was important within the scientific community because he was pushing the boundaries in terms of trying to get acceptability in mainstream science.

“(He had a) really lively curiosity and engagement for what was around him in the natural world. That was really an inspiration to me,” he explained.

“(His frustration) was really the focus of his work in the last few years especially. Not trying to convince the scientific community at large necessarily, but trying to get them to consider the evidence in a proper fashion, to seriously look and see what was available, not just dismiss it out of hand.”

He noted one of the highlights growing up with his dad was his resurgence of interest in the sasquatch during a field trip in Strathcona Park, where he accidentally ran across tracks.

“It was a balance – as I learned more about it, I realized some of this are hoaxes and pranks, but there’s a core of really good evidence that was really convincing to me as well,” said Chris.

“He has a good way of connecting with people and was really interested in people and wanted to share what he was doing, and somehow try to give it some kind of credibility and he felt like he was in that role because he had that background in traditional science.”

Hugh MacKinnon, Comox councillor and former high school administrator, said he first met Bindernagel while working at G.P. Vanier, and brought him in as a speaker to a biology class.

“We really hit it off; he was a real gentleman – just the nicest man. He stuck to his beliefs and was using science to do so. He had time to listen to everyone.”

Bindernagel worked closely with members of First Nations communities on the Island, and MacKinnon noted he “gave credence to traditions and beliefs and encouraged people to speak about it. He made the First Nations communities feel comfortable and validated their beliefs and history.

“John in a nutshell never made you feel out of place.”

Thomas Sewed, researcher and administrator for the Sasquatch Island Facebook group recalled meeting Bindernagel in the early 1990’s after witnessing two sasquatches near Knight Inlet.

“I went to see him and our friendship was created and grew stronger,” he explained in a phone interview from Washington State.

He said Bindernagel encouraged him to draw upon his First Nation heritage when discussing the possibility the creatures could exist.

“He said ‘Tom – you know so much about Potlatches, so much about much about your culture; you have got to look deeper and connect the dots.’ ”

Sewed is planning to organize a John Bindernagel Sasquatch Memorial Conference at a Big House on the Island in his honour, with the hopes of bringing together researchers, scientists, dancers, carvers and singers.

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