Some true believers appear to be coronavirus truthers, while less diehard enthusiasts are using Bigfoot as a symbol of social distancing.

The Weird Culture War Over Bigfoot as a COVID-19 Icon

As the coronavirus pandemic really started to rip through America in mid-March, Todd Disotell wondered how he, a biological anthropologist locked down in his central Massachusetts home, could help others through what was shaping up to be a long and brutal crisis.

Then, the answer hit him: the six-foot tall bronze Bigfoot statue his father gave him for Christmas.

Disotell, a well-known Bigfoot skeptic who is nonetheless cordial with many people who believe in and groups that search for the legendary creature(s), moved the statue to the edge of the road by his house. He then placed a sign in its hand for drivers to read: North American Social Distancing Champion. Every day for about seven weeks, he swapped the sign out for a new, punny public health message, like sasq-wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Disotell was not alone in co-opting Bigfoot into (corny) PSAs. In late March, parks officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma, introduced the Social Distancing Sasquatch, a pandemic safety mascot. Signs went up in Idaho claiming Bigfoot had tested negative for the coronavirus, and explaining how social distancing helped him do so. On sites like Amazon, Redbubble, and Sasquatch Outpost, retailers are currently selling countless shirts and masks, pillows and mugs, featuring Bigfoot and promoting pandemic safety.

Bigfoot’s emergence as a pandemic icon can play a valuable—or at least fun—role in spreading vital information about the resurgent pandemic, public health experts said. But there’s a deep irony at the heart of this trend: Many who actually believe in Sasquatch don’t buy into the science of COVID-19.

Some have even continued to hold in-person conventions, raising super-spreader concerns.