A bigfoot sighting caught on video Sunday led to a viral moment for Southwest Colorado, with the video being shown on “TMZ,” the Daily Mail website and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Wyoming residents Shannon and Stetson Parker were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary with a trip on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. While departing Silverton about 3:30 p.m., the Parkers were intent on seeing an elk before leaving the high country. They had keen eyes trained on a mountainside just south of town when Stetson Parker saw something moving in the distance.
“All of a sudden he's like, ‘I see something moving,’ and then he just says, ‘I think it's Bigfoot,’” Shannon Parker said in an interview Thursday with The Durango Herald.
Shannon lifted her DSLR camera with a 300 mm lens and snapped two photos. Meanwhile, a passenger sitting next to them used his cellphone to take a video.
They didn’t know what to make of it. Shannon zoomed in on her photo, but it was still too fuzzy. The passenger’s video showed the upright specimen a little more clearly, thanks to his 9X zoom lens and the fact that it was moving across the landscape.
Their excitement spread to other passengers, who spent the better part of a 3½-hour return trip reviewing the video and discussing what they had seen.
“We're trying to think to ourselves, ‘Is it someone in a costume? What could it be?’” Shannon said.
With the passenger’s permission, Shannon shared the video and photos with OutThere Colorado, a digital publication affiliated with The Gazette.
Not long after that, state, national and international media picked up the story. Shannon has given interviews to Newsweek and the New York Post. She also saw the story on “TMZ.”
“It’s gone pretty viral,” Shannon said. “I think it's just people are maybe enjoying the lightheartedness of a story in a world where everything bad is happening.”
She has heard several explanations from people trying to make sense of the sighting, including that the video is AI-generated, that it was a prankster or it was a hunter in a ghillie suit.
She said the video was not AI-generated. Rather, it was shot on a cellphone camera at a long distance by a man sitting next to her on the train. And if it was a hunter moving through the shrubs, he doesn’t appear to be carrying a rifle or bow.
Some people suggested the railroad might have paid someone to dress up in a yeti costume and crawl around the hillside to give passengers a thrill. But Shannon said that doesn’t add up, because the Sasquatch was so far away that hardly anyone would have spotted it.
Al Harper, owner of the D&SNG, said the railroad had nothing to do with it.
He said the sighting has been good for business. The trains were already packed with passengers wanting to see the fall colors, he said, and now even more people are interested in riding.
“We're adding cars to the train because they want to see the leaves with bigfoot hiding in them,” Harper said.
The railroad posted a link to the video on its Facebook page.
“We can neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of this video but it's common to see wildlife including bear, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions from the train,” the post says. “Talk to any train crew or staff member and they'll have stories about strange happenings in the remote Animas River Canyon.”
Shannon remains split 50-50 on whether it was someone dressed as bigfoot or it was the real thing.
“I don't know. I mean, I just think we saw what we saw,” she said. “I don't know that I've seen anything that's definitive.”
DeAnne Gallegos, executive director of Visit Silverton, said residents have dressed up as bigfoot in the past to entertain train passengers, but that hasn’t happened for many years. Even San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad did it before becoming sheriff, she said.
This is different, she said, and Gallegos thinks she knows who or what was behind Sunday’s bigfoot sighting.
She said a man who identified himself as being involved with a film production crew stopped by the Visitor Center last week to ask if there had been any bigfoot sightings in the area. He said he was interviewing and documenting people who have had such encounters.
“And then all of a sudden there's a video of a bigfoot, and I'm like, ‘Oh, that's just them creating their own content,’” Gallegos said.
The man even left a business card – something staff members have been searching for ever since the bigfoot video went viral.
Gallegos said the bigfoot video is fun for the town, but Silverton residents by and large aren’t under any illusions that they are living with bigfoot.
“All of us are just like, ‘OK, who did it? Who's wearing the costume?’” Gallegos said. “Cause locals have done that before.”
The town used to have a bigfoot shop and a mini museum on Blair Street, she said. Now it has Sasquatch Expedition Campers, which sells high-end, rugged fifth-wheel backcountry campers.
“My logical brain says it's most likely the gentleman who said he was with a production crew who came through our Visitor Center last week asking our staff if any locals had had any legitimate sightings,” Gallegos said. “If you couldn't drum up any sightings, why wouldn't you create your own?”