Someone found the footprints of a yeti, yet again.
Mountaineers from the Indian Army spotted the 32-inch footprints near the Makalu Base Camp in Nepal, the army said Monday on Twitter. It is unclear if the expedition team was serious about its findings or conducting a trolling experiment on its followers.
Photos the team posted show several long prints in the snow, one directly in front of the other.
Twitter users immediately responded to the tweet, calling the footprints a “yeti catwalk” or saying that the yeti was “hopping” because the footprints were in a line instead of side by side. Others tweeted that it was a “mythological one-legged creature.” One asked the army to please “delete this tweet to avoid international embarrassment of India.”
But what is a yeti? Could these footprints have been from one? And if yetis are real, how could they have existed for so long without posting a single selfie?
The yeti is the mysterious cousin of Bigfoot, both part of the same extremely elusive family. They are part human and part creature — the best of both worlds, if you will. Legends of hairy, oversize hominids lurking at the outer reaches of civilization have been around for centuries and are part of the folklore of several cultures.
The extraordinary thing about the footprints is that they are 32 inches long, Daniel C. Taylor, author of “Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery,” said. “The only animal that has made a footprint that long is a dinosaur.”
Because a single, lonely animal cannot survive on its own, according to Mr. Taylor, there are two possibilities.
Either there is a population of dinosaur-size creatures roaming the mountains of Nepal, or — and this idea is supported by basic logic — the footprints were created by a bear and its cub.
The footprints in the photos appear to lead into bushes, Mr. Taylor noted, where he said he would expect to find a clearer set of prints — “not the one that is out in the sun and melted.”
“I am not interested in the one footprint as I am in the trail of what the footprint leads to,” said Mr. Taylor, who is also president of Future Generations University.
He added that the prints would eventually lead to a bear and her cub. “In every case you will find that all yeti footprints were made by the Himalayan black bear, Ursus thibetanus,” he said.
Most people could probably distinguish a bear’s paw print from the footprint of a half-human creature. But a bear’s paw is not necessarily three feet long, so how to explain these prints?
“The front foot of the mama bear goes down and the back foot goes down so you have an overprint,” Mr. Taylor explained. The footprint becomes 32 inches long “when a baby cub hops behind the mother,” he said.
The cub hopping behind the mother, combined with the snow slightly melting around the edges of the print, could very clearly create a 32-inch-long print.
Still, that does not mean yetis do not exist.
In his research, Mr. Taylor discovered what he considers the three types of yetis.
The first yeti Mr. Taylor identified is the legend. “That yeti is very much like Santa Claus,” he said.
The second yeti “is the yeti that lives inside of people,” Mr. Taylor said. That yeti is fueled by humans’ need to be closer to nature.
As humans increasingly live in cities, and as climate change begins to endanger Earth’s least populated, most remote natural places, humans indulge their inner yeti to be closer to nature, according to Mr. Taylor.
“We are seeing more yeti sightings now — or footprints now — than we did 20 years ago,” he said.
“The third and final yeti is the one that actually made the footprints,” Mr. Taylor said: the mama bear and her cub.
“I would love for the yeti to exist, but I have never found any yeti evidence that I can’t explain,” he added. “Nothing would make me happier than to find a yeti.”
Perhaps the most likely possibility? That the footprints lead to the yeti inside of everyone.