FUNKS GROVE - Researchers have been looking for Bigfoot in Funks Grove, but a local zoologist interested in the elusive creature's lore said he would be very surprised if one is found there.
A report last fall by people who said they saw a large hairy upright creature in a ditch in rural Shirley attracted a team of researchers from Searching for Bigfoot Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif.
Angelo Capparella, a professor at Illinois State University, said he also heard the report and talked to the people at the time.
He said that if there is a Bigfoot - a big if in his book - Central Illinois is not the place to find one. Even though Funks Grove is a wooded area, there just isn't much habitat locally to support or conceal a large primate, Capparella said.
"Illinois ranks 49th out of 50 in the amount of natural vegetation left," he said. Only Iowa has less.
"As a zoologist, it's hard to give a lot of credence," he said.
The Pacific Northwest, the traditional center for Bigfoot sightings, has a lot of remote, rugged areas, he said.
"I'm a zoologist who's taken a curiosity in the Pacific Northwest," he said.
The research group from northern California has been stopping at various locations in the United States to track reports of the creature also known as sasquatch.
Team leader Tom Biscardi told a local television station he has been searching for three decades, and he estimates there are more than 3,500 Bigfoot-like animals in the United States.
Biscardi's team has focused on Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, California, Oregon, Montana and Washington, said the group's Web site.
The professor said he talked to the people from Bloomington who claimed they saw Bigfoot last fall. The creature allegedly scratched their car.
Capparella told them to try to record noises, get hair samples and look for footprints. He said he could make nothing out of the pictures they took.
"They gave me a call," Capparella said. "They seemed sincere about seeing something."
He has not heard from them since last fall. "They apparently contacted Tom Biscardi," he said.
They told Capparella they also heard strange noises and they were able to get the creature to interact with them in some way. Capparella noted Bigfoot is supposed to be very shy so this behavior would be highly unusual.
Reporter M.K. Guetersloh contributed to this story.