IT MUST HAVE been a slow day at the Legislature.
Somebody cracked open the Oxford English Dictionary and found the word “cryptid.”
According to the OED, that’s a fancy name for “an animal whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated.”
You might think they were referring to your weekly wilderness gossip columnist, but no.
Ann Rivers, a Republican state senator from La Center, introduced a bill that would declare the Sasquatch the “official cryptid” of Washington state for its “immeasurable contributions to Washington state’s cultural heritage and ecosystem.”
This is in keeping with our proud tradition of bestowing state titles on majestic creatures that define our identity.
Our Washington state fish is the steelhead.
It is a noble fish that has made immeasurable contributions to our cultural heritage and ecosystem.
We even put the steelhead on a license plate.
It was claimed that money from the sale of the steelhead plates would be used to preserve steelhead.
Until that happens, your best chance of actually seeing a steelhead in Washington state would be on the steelhead license plate.
Our state rodent, the Olympic marmot, has also made immeasurable contributions to our cultural heritage and ecosystem.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but both of these official state creatures, the steelhead and the marmot, are being threatened and endangered by everything from nylon pollution to poison rain.
There’s just something about the distinct honor of being made a state critter that seems to jeopardize its survival as a species.
Now, in appreciation for the vital role that the Sasquatch play as live bait for the tourist industry, we are about to officially bestow the honor of Washington state cryptid upon them.
Also known as Bigfoot, Sasquatch People or Forest People, the Sasquatch has haunted this land since before the beginning.
While applauding the Sasquatch for being considered the state cryptid, we might also consider other eligible cryptids that deserve state recognition, or at least their own license plate.
I and many other right-thinking cryptozoologists (students of creatures that may or may not exist) believe that the sea serpent or water dragon that haunts the Strait of Juan de Fuca should also be considered a serious candidate for the official Washington state cryptid.
Known as “Hiaschukaluck,” this massive, undulating creature has been spotted many times in Port Angeles Harbor.
In the 1930s, 14 millworkers on the Olympic Forest Products dock saw Hiaschukaluck swimming off the mouth of Ennis Creek, according to “Port Angeles, Washington: A History” by Paul J. Martin and Peggy Brady.
In fact, there are many animals that may or may not exist that deserve serious consideration as the official Washington cryptid.
Take the hatchery-raised steelhead.
They contributed to our cultural heritage and ecosystem, but these fish have been eliminated from our streams by bureaucratic fiat.
I heard one hatchery steelhead actually returned to the Dungeness hatchery this year, but a fisherman told me, so it may or may not actually exist.
It’s only a matter of time before our salmon will also qualify as the new Washington state cryptid.
Their uncertain future is currently being negotiated at something called The North of Falcon meeting.
These include secret negotiations between the state, the tribes and the myriad federal bureaucracies who are co-managing our salmon into cryptid status.
The halibut might be another good candidate for our official Washington state cryptid.
We only get three days a year to fish for halibut, but once the commercial fleet gets done, it takes a lot longer than three days to catch one.
With reduced fishing seasons and a proposed fishing license fee increase, the fishing license holder could be the next Washington state cryptid. I hope we get our own license plate.
Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected].