Cryptid Profile: The Badger State Pterosaur
When someone says Pterosaur, few may actually know what they are talking about. But if someone sees the image of a Pterosaur, they will instantly know what it is. The image of a large flying reptile with huge wings that extend from hands to feet, a long sharp beak, and a head adorned with a crest on the back of it. Everyone recognizes this creature because the general image of it hasn’t changed in decades. And because everyone has seen this depiction before, most would refer to this creature as a Pterodactyl, which is commonly accepted as “close enough” in general conversation.
Along with the commonly accepted name is the belief that these creatures went extinct 65 million years ago during the mass extinction which removed Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs from the earth. All the large reptiles that once ruled this planet were wiped out in a cataclysmic event and became fossils for us to discover millions of years later. While some argue as to the exact nature of this event, the overall theory is widely accepted as the truth of what happened to these animals.
But if this is the accepted truth and Pterosaurs are supposed to be extinct, why are they still being reported today?
While a majority of people refer to any flying dinosaur as a Pterodactyl, the correct term is actually Pterosaur. Science recognizes that there are over 110 uniquely different species of extinct flying reptile under this name. The commonly accepted name of Pterodactyl actually refers to just one of these unique species which is noticeably different from the other hundreds related to it. But enough with the Paleontology lesson, let’s get to the modern day sightings.
As stated above, people claim to see extinct Pterosaurs flying around in our modern day and age. Reports of sightings are made from all over the world of what appear to be giant reptiles gliding through the skies above the heads of shocked witnesses. So if this phenomena is being reported from all over the world in countless countries, could it be true? Is there a chance Pterosaurs could still exist? Let’s check out some sightings.
Presented below are three reports of Pterosaur sightings from around the state of Wisconsin.
Sighting 1: This sighting took place in the late 1970’s early 1980’s in an unnamed Wisconsin city. The witness reports that one day while doing farm work with his sisters, he noticed a strange looking creature flying in the sky above him. The witness claimed that while driving a tractor to move some crates of vegetables, a creature that resembled something from the age of the dinosaurs flew overhead. The creature possessed a long pointed head, oddly curved wings, a dark body color, and a long tail with a ball-like shape on the end. The witness tried explaining to his siblings what he saw, but they did not believe him. The creature was never seen again.
Sighting 2: This sighting took place in the city of Brookfield in September of 1988. The witness reported that while standing inside Elmbrook Memorial Hospital awaiting the birth of his first child, he caught sight of a giant, unknown flying creature through the hospital windows. The witness claims that the creature had a wingspan between 12-15ft, featherless leathery skin, a long beak, and a thin head with a long crest on the back of it. The creature, which was as big as a pickup truck, flew towards the window before darting back up above the hospital and out of sight. The man, unable to compare it to any living bird, said it looked just like a Pterodactyl.
Sighting 3: This sighting took place in the city of Edgerton in 1996. The witness reports that when he was 8yrs old and living on his family farm, he caught sight of an odd-looking creature flying in the sky above him. The witness described the creature as being very large and did not resemble a bird at all. The wingspan was gigantic, the body was very streamlined, the color was brownish-tan, and the creature possessed a long tail with a bulb on the end of it. The witness was able to watch the unknown creature fly for nearly 3mins before it was completely out of view and never seen again.
Could the three reports above be of true surviving Pterosaurs? Or are these stories nothing more than just that, stories? Proponents of the surviving Pterosaur theory believe that what the witnesses have seen/are seeing, are legitimate living Pterosaurs. But more specifically, they believe these prehistoric survivors are Pteranodons and Dimorphodons. The reason for this belief is that out of all the species of Pterosaur, these two specific species most resemble what witnesses have reported seeing.
The first theorized survivor is the Pteranodon, a species of large Pterosaur that possessed the classic long beak, long bony head crest, is believed to have flown like a modern-day albatross, and had an 18ft wingspan. While alive, the Pteranodon would have stood nearly 6ft tall and would have weighed around 60lbs. But, it lacked a long tail that some witnesses have described seeing.
The second theorized survivor is the Dimorphodon, a species of medium-sized Pterosaur that had a total body length of 3ft, a wingspan of 5ft, a head that resembled a dinosaur (think of a small T-Rex), and a tail that could be twice as long as its body (depending on age). The end of the tail possessed a flap of skin that was shaped like a diamond and this Pterosaur was thought to have soared on steady wings rather than flap like a bird. But, this species lacked the long beak, bony head crest, and was only the size of a modern-day crow, so significantly smaller than reported sightings.
Could these two Pterosaurs be responsible for what witnesses are seeing? Not according to skeptics. Non-believers in the surviving Pterosaur theory claim that what witnesses are seeing are nothing more than misidentified cranes, vultures, or any other large bird. The reason for this is that if Pterosaurs somehow managed to survive into modern times, there would be significantly more documented sightings over the course of the last few hundred years. Also, it would be extremely hard for a large breeding population of Pterosaurs, especially carnivorous ones as large as Pteranodon, to remain hidden and go unrecognized by modern science.
Finally, skeptics point out that it seems just a little bit odd that a majority of witnesses who claim to see surviving Pterosaurs describe them as being almost identical to the classic pop culture images of what Pterosaurs are thought to look like. Remember, modern-day illustrations of extinct animals are not 100% exact to what these creatures actually looked like, they are only interpretations based on the most up to date data that science has gathered. So it seems odd that as the scientifically accepted depictions of these creatures change and evolve, so do the descriptions of these creatures from eyewitness reports. Coincidence, or something else?
So what do you think, have a relatively small group of Pterosaurs somehow managed to survive into modern times? Or is this nothing more than misidentified big birds causing big problems for those not sure of what they are? You decide.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
Image Credit: https://indominusrex.deviantart.com/art/Jurassic-World-Concept-Art-Pteranodon-695943403