Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review, (August 2008, No. 19)

An Account of a North American Bipedal Reptile from Wyoming

Chad Arment

I've noted before (in earlier issues of the North American BioFortean Review) sightings of large bipedal reptiles (some "dinosaur"-like, some not) from various parts of North America. The most interesting reports have come from the Pagosa Springs, Colorado, area, neatly summarized by Nick Sucik in a chapter in Cryptozoology and the Investigation of Lesser-Known Mystery Animals. More recently, I had opportunity to gather details on another sighting, from Wyoming, which puts me in mind of those Pagosa Springs reports.

The witness, Anita R., contacted me for help in soliciting information about a strange animal she and her mother had seen while driving on Route 80, west of Rawlins, Wyoming (the largest town in that area). As there are several likely hoaxes of this kind (again, see Nick's review), the first thing I did was determine that, in fact, the witness was who she said she was. With that determined, (and full contact information on file) I could start piecing together her story and get the pertinent details. What follows is the initial description in her own words (with minimal editing), followed by clarifications based on my questions.

1. "[Near] the end of April, 2003, while traveling in Wyoming, my mother and I had quite an experience. A creature of some sort, which looked prehistoric, came down in front of our car. It kept its head in the shadows but it was shaped like a head of a kangaroo. It had big feet and small, short arms. Its tail was like that of an alligator and the top of his tail was as wide as my car. [ed.: refers to length of tail.] There is no explanation why we didn't hit it. We swerved, slammed on brakes, but no matter what we did it stayed about two inches away from my car. After sloshing it's tail back and forth one time, in a single leap it was gone and out of sight. This happened on I-80 about 40 miles west of Sinclair, Wyoming. ... I did find a woman truck driver who had seen it and said it was a common sighting there, and people called it the big green dinosaur, even though it was more grayish in color.

"Thank you for any information. My mother and I have been trying to find out what this is for 5 years now."

2. "Chad, I am no artist and I have no way to scan a picture, but I will try to describe what we saw as best as I can. At first it was in the median and we were in the far right hand lane. It was dark, but we saw the shadow of its head, shaped like the head of a kangaroo. Within two seconds it was landing in front of the car. We did not see it jump and it was just coming down in front of the carr. It never touched the ground that we saw, it was rather chaotic! First we saw its feet. They were like huge crocodile or alligator feet. Then we saw his lower body and all of its tail. The tail was scaly, ... about five feet long, best guess. ... When it was landing, it came down sideways. Its body was shaped like the pictures you see of dinosaurs. It was huge to us, but not like in movies where they are as tall as buildings. We estimate it was about 7 feet tall. Its head stayed well above the top of our car and judging by as much of it that was inches from us we guess it at 7 feet tall. ...

"Thank you for listening to our story. People don't believe us and it gets frustrating trying to learn what it is. Also, I would like to know how it survives, as it was totally barren land for miles and miles."

3. "It was about 10:30 pm. I was driving a 1995 Chevy Lumina 4-door sedan with my headlights on. There was a semi the equivalent of two blocks ahead of us. I was heading east on I-80 and was approximately 40 miles west of Sinclair, Wyoming. When first noticing it at all, it was crouched down in the median and we had a perfect view of the outline of its head. The closest we can compare the shape of its head to is like a kangaroo. We were driving 80-85 mph. Upon seeing it in the median, I hit my brakes rather hard because I did not want to hit it if it jumped. As I was braking, it had apparently jumped. We didn't see it jump, we only saw it coming down in front of the car. At this point I was probably at 25-30 mph and still slowing. The only distance between it and us was the front end of the car, as it was right up against it. I veered left then right, but it stayed directly in front of us anyway. We could have counted what we call scales had we have had more time, as it was in plain sight. We did see its entire body up close with the exception of its head. The tail came straight off the body, and was covered with rough scales over the entire tail and had the points of scales coming off the edges. The scales were almost inverted triangular-shaped, not quite diamond-shaped. The legs were not scaly, they were 'rough' skin, like elephants have. I don't know another way to describe it. The feet were long, wide, and flat, also rough in appearance. It had toes, though there was not enough time to count them. I would guess from the short amount of time we had to see it all, that it was either four or five toes. On the toes were wide nails, but they weren't very long.

"The width of the top of the tail was wider than its upper body. The underside of its body did not have scales. His stomach area was rough, leathery skin, but smoother than it's legs. Its back was not covered with scales like the tail, but there were points sticking up on its back, which was also leathery.

"Its forelimbs were short and narrow, not like the legs which were thick and heavy. The forelimbs hung down at the 'elbow' joint. After it 'swiped' its tail back and forth one time, it ascended until it was out of sight. The feet never touched the ground.  We estimate it to be around 7 feet tall. It does not have a long neck.

"Apparently this was all watched by the truck driver in front of us, as they almost jack-knifed while this was going on. We attempted to catch up with the driver to confer with them about what we saw, but even at high speeds, he couldn't be caught.

"While we were terrified, afraid of hitting it, we were so amazed we noticed every detail. It is gray in color, the scales being 2 shades of gray. That's the best way I know how to describe what we saw. Again I want to mention that a female truck driver online that travels that area frequently, when I asked her if she'd seen anything weird there, her comment was, 'You mean the big green dinosaur?... You should try stopping with a fully loaded trailer'... but, it isn't green. It is gray. At least what we saw and when we saw it, it was gray."

4. "I know the lady truck driver I spoke to online said she had to stop for it before with a fully loaded semi. She also stated that every time an alternative route was available, she took it because everyone knew how that would jump in front of your vehicle. ????? She's the only person I've ever talked with that had seen it or heard about it. Keep in mind, I didn't tell her what we saw, I only asked if she had ever been on that stretch of I-80 and had she ever seen anything strange. Her reply was, 'you mean the big green dinosaur?' It's not green though. It is gray. So that was confirmation and corroboration."

5. "The nails didn't extend out like long claws. We saw its right foot up close and personal. The closest in that movie [ed.: Jurassic Park] to compare it to is something they called raptors, but the feet were different. In the movie, their toes were more separated, spread apart, than what we saw. I am sure there is a logical explanation, but I don't know the first thing about 'dinosaurs.' We had only seen them in commercials or on billboards out west. Being from the south, it was new to us. Out west here, it is a tourist attraction. We didn't have any prior exposure to dinosaur phenomena or publicity. It did not look like an iguana or crocodile or anything familiar. It looks like what you see on the billboards here for the exhibits."

As it currently stands, the incident joins a number of others that seem to suggest the presence of a large bipedal reptile in certain western states. It doesn't immediately suggest a viable conventional explanation, though of course, any skeptic could toss it aside as a loose kangaroo, monitor lizard, or the like. Obviously, all caveats about witnesses and brief anomalous sightings apply. At this point, I don't see any reason to force a specific explanation on it, without a great deal more investigation taking place.

Anita and her mother have no idea what it was they saw, but are very curious about it. They have looked at a number of reptile and dinosaur images to see if anything looks similar, but with no exact matches. They do think the general body structure (particularly the feet) matches a reconstruction of Parasaurolophus on the UK NHM site, but that the head was more elongated, similar to a reconstructed image of Nanotyrannus. At this point, I prefer not to force morphological specifics in absence of a physical specimen, and suggest the following steps need to be taken.

First, with regard to what may be local folklore of this animal, if one female trucker in the region is familiar with it, there should be other stories. My initial attempts to solicit information from that area have been unsuccessful, primarily because I'm working from the other side of the country. An on-site regional ethnozoological investigation is necessary to determine to what extent these stories are being spread (from both a geographic and phenological perspective). With more data, assuming that there is a discernible recent pattern in sightings, it should then be possible to set up a project specifically to obtain a specimen or other physical confirmation. (What we don't need are projects set up to acquire circumstantial and non-confirmative evidence.) Admittedly, this means consistent long-term field research in an out-of-the-way spot, on a mystery animal that has very little history in cryptozoological investigations. It might be better to start off seeking further local sighting accounts, then offering a full report to regional media services in hopes that local residents will keep an eye out for the animal and perhaps aid in acquiring a specimen.

I will note one geographic 'coincidence' with this sighting. If you look up Rawlins, Montana, on Google maps, you'll find that it is almost directly north of (with most of a state between) Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Without visiting these two areas, I can't immediately correlate habitat or other ecological factors, but that may be worth further investigation.

In any case, further sightings of this type would be of great interest to the author, and will be passed along to these witnesses, as they are eager to find a solution to this mystery.

References:

  • Arment, Chad (editor). 2006. Cryptozoology and the Investigation of Lesser-Known Mystery Animals. Landisville, PA: Coachwhip Publications.
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