ATLANTA " A hairy corpse crammed in a Georgia freezer is Bigfoot, say two men who have been tracking the legendary creature, when they aren't busy looking for leprechauns and the Loch Ness monster.
Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer say they stumbled across the corpse in the woods of north Georgia, across the country from the remote regions of the Northwest where people usually claim to see the man-ape.
Still, the Georgia men say DNA will prove once and for all that the frozen creature is Sasquatch. They plan to present DNA test results and photographs during a news conference Friday in Palo Alto, Calif.
Skeptics say it's just another Bigfoot hoax.
"What I've seen so far is not compelling in the least, and I think the pictures cast grave doubts on their claim," Jeffery Meldrum, a Bigfoot researcher and Idaho State University professor, told the Scientific American. "It just looks like a costume with some fake guys thrown on top for effect."
Meldrum said the DNA test likely won't prove anything and, at best, might yield a gene sequence that doesn't match any other known primates.
Whitton, an officer on medical leave from the Clayton County Police Department, and Dyer, a former corrections officer, announced the discovery in early July on YouTube videos and their Web site www.bigfoottracker.com. The site on Friday would not load.
The picture they sent out in a press release and on their Web site shows what appears to be a hairy corpse crammed into a chest freezer. The accompanying announcement describes the creature as a 7-foot-7 male, weighing 550 pounds with 16-inch human-like feet and reddish hair.
Efforts to reach Whitton and Dyer early Friday on their Bigfoot Tipline were unsuccessful. The voice mail recording says they have expanded their search to look for leprechauns and the Loch Ness monster. They also offer weekend expeditions to search for Bigfoot in the north Georgia mountains for $499.
In August, Tom Biscardi, head of a group called Searching for Bigfoot, joined the men.
Other Bigfoot hunters call Biscardi a huckster, a Las Vegas promoter and a scam artist looking for media attention he's gained since he began his search for Bigfoot three to four years ago. He released a photograph and announced the news conference earlier this week, drawing national attention.
Whitton and Dyer promise to tell the story of how they found the corpse at the news conference. They have offered three different tales so far:
" In early videos, the animal was shot by a former felon, and the men followed it into the woods.
" In a second version, they found a "family of Bigfoot" in North Georgia mountains.
" In the third, the two were hiking and stumbled upon the corpse with open wounds.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Reserve spokesman Tom Mackenzie said officers also are not taking the claim seriously and will not investigate Bigfoot because it not a federal priority.
"It's not on endangered species on any list that we've got," Mackenzie said.
An anonymous letter to the agency in July said the creature is "the remains of a small gorilla or chimpanzee that may have undergone some taxidermy treatment."
Whitton, who also goes by the name Gary Parker, has been on medical leave from the Clayton County Police Department since July 3 after he was shot in the wrist. Police spokeswoman Sonja Sanchez said the department has been fielding many media inquiries because of Whitton's claims, but she doesn't know much else.
"Right now that is just what they are " claims," Sanchez said Friday.