By the living-pterosaur expert and author Jonathan Whitcomb
[Please see the update at the bottom of this page: a revision of the original estimate.]
September 8, 2009, edition:
My press release about the estimated 1400+ Americans who have seen obviously apparent-pterosaurs in the United States within the past three decades–that has attracted attention . . . and some criticism from a few cryptozoologists. I agree that “1400” is a rough estimate, at best: not a head-count. But I suspect that some of those who were most anxious to criticize my declaration were the ones who paid less attention to reading and considering the whole press release, especially the last paragraph. They could look deeper.
I have learned, over the years that I have promoted attention to the eyewitness evidences, that some vocal critics are overly anxious to discredit all those who promote the idea of living pterosaurs. I welcome comments on the eyewitness evidence itself, rather than weaknesses (real or wrongly-supposed) of the interviewers and investigators. But those more-proper kinds of comment have been almost rare, at times. Nevertheless, let’s look at the meaning of “1400.”
The point is that Westerners are very hesitant to report observing what is obviously a living pterosaur. I don’t know of even one cryptozoologist who seems to have looked deeply at the statistics and estimates that I made regarding “1400” (other than my associates, researchers who have been subject to the same ostracism I’ve encountered). A few vocal commenters on one forum have quickly dismissed my work and ridiculed my findings. Another cryptozoology forum has been more considerate; but some of them have been overly anxious about the philosophies of investigators. I’m afraid that too few have properly considered the predicament of the eyewitnesses: how difficult it has been for them to come forward, to tell what they have seen.
One critic said, “light and distance can play funny tricks, especially with something in the air with no size references.” But from reading his many comments I’m sure that critic has not read my book, Live Pterosaurs in America. Look at the details in the reports themselves. The sighting in Irvine, California (2007) was of a creature that flew just over a road in the daylight, and that road was about the same width as the length of the long-tailed creature: 30 feet. There was no obstruction to the eyewitness’s view, and no trick of the light. Now consider how difficult it would be for that eyewitness to report his sighting to the nearby university or to the police station. The man’s career could have been at stake (he works in a profession that requires no reasonable doubt about sound mental health). After one year, he phoned me and I interviewed him (pages 19-22 of LPA)
The point is that only a tiny fraction of those who have seen obvious pterosaurs (over the past 30 years) have contacted me, but the unifying factors in their testimonies are in the descriptions: non-feathers, head crest, long tail with flange (however labeled) at the tail-end. Significantly, those three descriptions do not line up comfortably in every description of a sighting (as would be expected from related hoaxes): They depend on the individual conditions and circumstances of each sighting, as we would expect from honest eyewitnesses who have seen real animals. (See the page on hoaxes-disproven.)
Update on the estimate of how many Americans have seen an obvious living pterosaur
December 26, 2017
It now appears that between 50,000 and 4,000,000 Americans have seen, at some time in their human lifespan, an obvious live pterosaur. See the blog post “How Many Americans Have Seen a Living Pterosaur?“