MOORHEAD (AP) -- If Bigfoot is living in the dense, wooded areas of Minnesota, Mike Quast hopes to be the one who finds him.
Quast, 34, who lives in Moorhead and works for a custodial company, has his work cut out for him.
First of all, most people scoff at the existence of such a creature. And second, most of the people who believe in the existence of a Bigfoot-like creature are searching for it in the Pacific Northwest.
Quast's belief stems from his own sighting. It happened in 1976, when Quast was 8 years old. He was in a car with his parents when he saw what he believes was Bigfoot. They were driving near Strawberry Lake, which is on the White Earth Indian Reservation north of Detroit Lakes.
"I was kind of stunned and didn't say anything for a while," he said. "I told my parents later, and they didn't take it too seriously."
Quast's mission began when he graduated from Audubon High School in 1986. Since then, he's collected stories from people who claim to have seen Bigfoot, and he's hunted for the creature. He has taken all of his evidence and written a book called "The Sasquatch in Minnesota."
"When I first started looking into it and reading all the books, there were nine reports of sightings in Minnesota, but the official records were really incomplete," he said.
The first story he ever investigated was about a creature that was seen in the Vergas area.
"There was an urban legend story going around there about the hairy man that I heard about from my brother-in-law," Quast said. "He said he knew someone who had seen it."
Quast tracked down a mechanic from the Vergas area who told Quast that when he was a teen-ager in 1968, he and his brother and his brother's girlfriend were driving around in a wooded area near Vergas, and a creature leaped out at them. When they turned the car around to get another look at it, it more or less attacked their car.
They later found a large dent in the trunk lid. They described the creature as weighing about 300 pounds and standing 7 or 8 feet tall.
"He said it had a face like a gorilla and an upright body like a man, and it was covered with hair, a standard Bigfoot description," Quast said.
The townspeople built a story around it, saying that it was some crazy hermit that lived in the woods.
"They started to hunt for the thing over the next few months, and they saw it a couple of more times running at night," he said.
They never saw the creature in the winter, so they figured it was hibernating. Then one spring, they found a shack with a hole dug under it. It smelled like a dead animal so they burned the shack down.
"I heard about other stories, and I started searching the area," Quast said.
Quast spent much of his time searching in the Vergas area.
"In August of 1989, I found what I believe were Bigfoot tracks."
The tracks were 16 inches long with three toes. He made plaster casts of the tracks. In August of the next year, he found another set that were 20 inches long, and over time, he's found three different sets of tracks, one only 12 inches long.
"I thought it might have been a small family group that passed through the area once in a while," he said.
"I haven't found anything there in recent years because there's been a lot of development out there," he said. "It's still a woods, but it isn't as wild as it used to be."
Then, in the early 1990s, Quast met a trapper who lived near Zerkel straight east of Mahnomen in Clearwater County.
"He found some tracks on his property that he couldn't explain," Quast said.
The tracks were of a two-legged creature, but they weren't typical Bigfoot or human tracks. The tracks were circular with two large toes and, where the three other toes should have been, there was an impression of hair growing under the toes. There are also two slightly different sizes of tracks. Quast figures the tracks were from a subspecies of Bigfoot.
"The DNR suggested he get in touch with me," Quast said. "It became a fascination with him, too."
The trapper found the first set of tracks in December 1990 and more tracks in March 1991.
"The tracks turned up again, and there were a lot more of them the second time," Quast said. "He thought he saw close to 2,000 tracks that day."
The trapper put up notices around town and started asking people in the area if they had seen anything.
"Other people had seen tracks, and there were sightings over the years," Quast said.
The trapper became the best source of information Quast ever had, and he spent a lot of time hunting for Bigfoot on the trapper's property, even after he died over a year ago.
"During the time I knew him, there were occasional reports, and he found more tracks," Quast said. "After a while, he started finding the more common type of tracks with the more human type of foot. Many of the tracks were smaller, indicating they were from a young Bigfoot."
Since then, Quast has concentrated his Bigfoot hunt in the White Earth State Forest in Clearwater County in a heavily forested area the locals call the Buckboard Hills.
One night when Quast was camping on the trapper's property, he heard what he believes was a Bigfoot.
"If you study the Bigfoot literature, they describe the sound as a scream, and I think that I heard it one night when I was camping there," he said. "At about 10 at night, this noise just came out of nowhere. It was so loud, the woods just shook with it, and I remember feeling very alone and very vulnerable out there, at that time. The pitch was like a police siren, but the noise was like an Indian war cry from some old movie. I think there were two of them calling back and forth to each other, because I heard it come from two different areas."
Quast said he will keep searching until he has proof that Bigfoot exists.
"I think one of the main reasons why science doesn't take this animal seriously is because we have labeled it a monster, and nobody is supposed to believe in monsters," Quast said. "If it had just been thought of as a new species of wildlife, there would have been scientists out there looking for it."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.