After compiling data and analyzing what many eyewitnesses have reported, over many years, I found that the larger data now available supports the earlier conclusion that a hoax or hoaxes played no significant part in the reports. We now consider the wingspan estimates.
But first we review this perspective: A number of species of pterosaurs (more than two) live in many areas of this planet, with at least most of them being at least mostly nocturnal and with some of them being witnessed by people in countries in which universal dinosaur and pterosaur extinction is taken for granted. These species include both Pterodactyloids and Rhamphorhynchoids. For Westerners unfamiliar with the past seventeen years of cryptozoological investigations of apparent living pterosaurs, this perspective can appear too incredible to consider, but the data on wingspan estimates is in harmony with it and out of harmony with any reference to potential hoaxes.
The recent data comes from 98 sightings, in fourteen countries on five continents (plus two sightings over two seas), with 57 of them including estimates for wingspan. The critical point is that the wingspan estimates are fairly evenly distributed from two feet to forty-six feet. Since these are estimates, not measurements, and the sightings were in various countries of the world and under various conditions (and from eyewitnesses with various skills in estimating wingspans), we could expect a wide range of evenly spaced values, especially within the perspective of a number of species that may have a number of common adult-sizes. That is what we see in this data.
But we would not expect so much of an even spacing if hoaxes played a major part in the sighting reports. Why? Because of commonly-held beliefs about what a modern pterosaur should be like, especially in Western countries (and 68% of these sightings were in the USA).
Let’s consider why somebody would want to perpetrate a hoax: To shock somebody who would believe the hoaxer’s story. That means that at least one thing in the story needs to be shocking, but the story also needs to somehow be believable to somebody. Should somebody fabricate a story about a modern pterosaur, and supply an “estimate” of the wingspan, what would that hoaxer fabricate? The wingspan would need to be big enough to be shocking, but not too big. What about fabricating a wingspan of something around nine to thirteen feet? No, that would not do for a fraud, for it is too close to resembling a large bird, and the potential hoax-victim might say it was a misidentified bird. A hoaxer would more likely choose a wingspan from seventeen feet to twenty-one feet: shocking but not too unbelievable, and not as likely taken for a misidentified bird.
But statistics rule out hoaxes as a significant explanation for pterosaur sightings, for 26% of the 57 reports were of wingspans from nine to thirteen feet and 16% were from seventeen feet to twenty-one feet. If we look at eight-to-twelve-feet, instead, we get 21%; with sixteen-to-twenty-feet giving us 18% of total sighting reports: far different from what we would see from significant hoaxing.
The sketch of two living pterosaurs (shown above) was drawn by the eyewitness Eskin Kuhn, minutes after his 1971 encounter in Cuba (Gitmo).