Ohio “alien” creature sighting may have logical explanation

On January 5, DN noted this piece in the Strange Remains –  Strange creature reported in Carmel area – The Highland County Press – Hillsboro, Ohio.

Ron McGlone, an investigator with Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), said “The witness was driving near Carmel on Dec. 12, 2014, came up over a hill and saw a 7′ tall slim, gray creature with muscular legs that walked like its knees were backwards.

The thing was described as an “alien”: Alien Encounter in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States on December 12th 2014.

Drawing of creature seen near Cincinnati, Ohio on Dec 12, 2014. "Coming home, just over a small incline and it ran across the road in front of our truck, into the woods."

Drawing of creature seen near Cincinnati, Ohio on Dec 12, 2014. “Coming home, just over a small incline and it ran across the road in front of our truck, into the woods.”

There was little to go on but it was interesting and started some speculation. Upon discussion in Group of Fort, a Fortean/strange news discussion list I started on Facebook, wildlife biologist Kurt Broz provided Doubtful News with an educated guess on what this “alien” might have been. We are very pleased to welcome his contribution.

By Kurt Broz

While the description of the thing does sound like a hideous creature from the game Silent Hill, I propose a very normal explanation. Assuming that the witness actually saw something, and that the description matches what the witness saw, my educated guess is that the witness saw a very real animal acting in a way that, while not peculiar, isn’t something most people commonly observe. It was a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) walking on its rear legs.

deer on hind legsDeer are extremely common across all of Ohio. The US has about 30 million white-tailed deer and around 152,000 deer were taken by hunters last year in Ohio. Scaling up, Ohio might have one million deer. But the key issue here, is how it was moving. I have only ever seen a wild deer walk on its hind legs once and a few times in captive animals.

Darren Naish, of the Tetzoo blog and podcast, recently had a great article summarizing bipedality in deer. Deer will rear up and even walk on two legs for a few reasons, mostly relating to male competition or reaching food. They don’t normally walk that far but there’s no reason to assume a male couldn’t at least appear to have walked upright as far as the witness claims.

gerenukIf you look at any picture of a deer rearing up, you’ll notice a few crucial details that match the claims of the witness. It would appear lean from the side, would be about 7 ft. tall or so, could appear grayish, and would appear to be walking on “reversed” legs. To really get an idea of how strange this can look, check out this picture of an antelope called the gerenuk (Litocranius walleri), a related even-toed ungulate that has adapted to spend much of its feeding time on two legs.

A few people have proposed the creature may have been some kind of bird. The most obvious answer would be a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) or an egret. Both walk in a similar fashion to the “creature” seen by the witness but egrets do not normally overwinter in Ohio and are small, whitish birds. A great blue heron would certainly match the color of asphalt gray mentioned by the wife of the witness but would not be anywhere near 7 ft. tall. Based on what I know of their behavior, I would also assume you wouldn’t find one running across a field quickly. They tend to walk slowly in a bobbing manner or to fly. The great blue heron might be responsible for some mysterious flying creature sightings, but that’s another story…

Maybe it was an emu, rhea, or ostrich? They could certainly match the color, general height, and weird leg hinging, but they are a bit bulkier. The nearest farm I could find that might raise any of these species (Willow Springs Ostrich Farm) is about 174 miles away. Any escapees would have to pass through Columbus and the freeways around it, and I couldn’t find any recent ostrich sightings. There are quite a few zoos in Ohio, but none appear to have lost a large ratite.

Many people aren’t familiar with wildlife and the sometimes bizarre behavior they exhibit. Even some familiar species have amazing behaviors that even people who spend their lives researching them may be unaware of and that may go against their general appearance. The classic example of this is that your regular domestic goat is an excellent climber and in some areas may spend significant time doing that. By simply not being familiar with the natural world, many regular animals and normal behaviors become strange and seemingly supernatural. A great place to start your skepticism on a bizarre claim, such as the sighting of an alien creature, is by asking simply what animals are going to be found where the sighting took place and what behavior might match what the witness saw.

In this case, I don’t think alien was the best conclusion.

  8 comments for “Ohio “alien” creature sighting may have logical explanation

  1. January 7, 2015 at 9:57 AM

    Kurt gets +20 points for the Silent Hill reference.

  2. Bill T.
    January 7, 2015 at 10:13 AM

    The sighting was at night and was fleeting, hence impressions would very subject to misinterpretation.

    His estimate of the hight of the creature _could_ have been off, suggesting that it could have been about the size of a large bird. The drawing of the legs are pretty consistent with a bird. His statement about the “musclar” legs and when I come on herons, they fly vs. run off, all suggest to me that “deer” is the simplest explanation, in absence of better evidence.

  3. January 7, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    This makes a lot of sense, good work! I might not have bought it if I hadn’t recently seen that amazing footage of a bipedal bear:

    http://gfycat.com/HairySereneBluemorphobutterfly

    There’s a lovely, humble anecdote in a birding guide warning of the importance of questioning your own eyes and brain. The author was in a car being driven by his wife, and they were searching in rural Florida for their first ever glimpse of the rare crested caracara, a tropical bird of prey. He suddenly saw a flash of black, white and red and yelled “Stop!” But traffic forced them to go for a mile and then come back. All the while he was excitedly reviewing what field marks he saw: “Wow, it was DEFINITELY a caracara! It had the red skin around the face, white patches on the wings, a white tail with black tip…” Then they arrived at the spot. It was a rag blowing from a fencepost.

  4. January 7, 2015 at 9:07 PM

    Spectacular article and two thumbs up to Mr. Broz! As I commented on Darren’s referenced article on deer bipedality, “I hate to bring cryptozoological undertones into everything, but was I the only one thinking that here’s another example of a known animal other than bears and humans which could unexpectedly appear bipedal to eyewitnesses?”

  5. Mr. B
    January 8, 2015 at 11:51 AM

    Without really digging into this guy’s story, did he even try to come up with a plausible explanation first? Was the alien-UFO explanation the first thing he thought of and jumped to? Something completely off the wall but, gosh, he’s sure of it?

  6. Bill T.
    January 9, 2015 at 1:29 PM

    I believe it has to do with the “seeing is believing” and “eye-witness” biases. “What I saw is what I saw and therefore that’s what it was.” People’s priming to accept the unlikely doesn’t help.

  7. Lynn D.
    February 26, 2015 at 6:31 PM

    I believe he saw what he saw. A deer doesn’t run across the road on it’s hind legs and if it did, it would not have a roundish head and no arms. I’ve seen some strange and unexplainable things myself. I have a photo I snapped in my back yard one evening of a winged creature with the same backwards legs, only it was much smaller and it was flying near my house. I took the picture of my house and this thing (about the size of a football and glowing white in the photo) was NOWHERE to be seen when I snapped the picture. And I’ve never seen a pygmy deer flying. But skeptics are gonna be skeptical until the day THEY finally see something they can’t explain. Humans are so incredibly arrogant to think they know everything about this universe. They are in for a rude awakening some day.

  8. February 26, 2015 at 7:20 PM

    Skeptics and scientists know they don’t know everything about the universe. That’s why we ask questions and look for evidence. It’s why we have things like Voyager 1 and 2, the Mars Curiosity Rover and the Hubble telescope out there. To find out more about the universe, because we want to know.

    Plenty of skeptics have seen things they can’t explain. But just because we don’t currently have an explanation for something, doesn’t mean it’s unexplainable. And it certainly doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever belief that best suits your point of view.

    If anything I’d say you’re the arrogant one here.

    As for your picture, ask a biologist or zoologist to help you determine what the creature is. Odds are they can help you find out.

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