0819bigfootaudAtlanta resident Rick Dyer talks about finding the humanoid creature popularly known as Bigfoot somewhere in North Georgia.
0819BIGFOOT2AUDIf you call Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer's Bigfoot tip line and no one picks up, this is the message you'll hear.
Two hikers claiming to have found Bigfoot somewhere in North Georgia have stirred up talk across a region known more for boiled peanuts than legendary hairy creatures.
Speculation particularly centers around just where Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer found the creature - along with some other fellow man-apes.
The two men aren't saying, so the rumor mill has taken over, placing the June 10 discovery in woods either north of Helen or in Rabun County, on the Georgia border.
But Judy Walker, president of the White County Chamber of Commerce, said she hasn't heard of any other sightings in the area.
"We've not heard anything whatsoever about it," Walker said, adding that recent rumors she heard from the story put the creature in Rabun County.
But Rabun County Sheriff Don W. Page said confusion might come from the fact that Whitton, one of the alleged Bigfoot discoverers, works with the Clayton County Police Department, but the town of Clayton is in Rabun County.
Whitton, who is on leave from the Clayton County Police Department, and Dyer, a former corrections officer, have attracted national attention, including a report on CNN, with their claim of the June discovery.
They are sticking tightly to their story, even setting up a Web site, Bigfoottracker.com and offering weekend search expeditions in Georgia for $499. "We have had to cancel two trips because of the media attention," Dyer said in an interview with The Times.
Their Web site wouldn't open Monday, except to provide a tip phone line.
They faced a mob of skeptical reporters in a press conference in Palo Alto, Calif., last week. Tom Biscardi, head of a group called Searching for Bigfoot, joined them in fielding questions.
In The Times' interview, Dyer talked about the discovery.
"We basically stumbled upon this body. Matt stayed with the creature and I ran back and got a tow truck and I got three other people and drove all the way back there," he said.
"We wrapped a tarp around it and we all (dragged) it."
Dyer said that "while we were dragging it out, there were other creatures around. ... When we got to a trail that led out of the woods, it was like they stopped following."
He said he was "shocked, scared and amazed" by what was happening.
"We did not believe in Bigfoot before we stumbled across it," Dyer said. "We weren't looking for it. If someone said they had found it, we would have laughed at 'em too."
The body now is at "an undisclosed location somewhere in Georgia and it will be moved ... to another state for lab testing," Dyer said.
"They have already gotten a piece of DNA and the first sequence has come back positive for (an) unknown creature."
The two friends also have released a much-circulated picture showing something resembling an ape-like creature crammed into a chest freezer.
They have described the creature as a 7-foot 7-inch male, weighing 550 pounds with 16-inch human-like feet and reddish hair.
So far, the photos and the accounts have met a number of detractors.
"I think the pictures cast grave doubts on their claim," Jeffery Meldrum, a Bigfoot researcher and Idaho State University professor, told Scientific American. "It just looks like a costume with some fake guts 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.
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.
Rick Lavender, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division, said the division is not commenting on the two men's claims.
Rabun County's Page said he has served as sheriff for 24 years and in law enforcement for 30-plus years, but has never heard of any mysterious creatures roaming the woods.
"We have a lot of (U.S.) Forest Service land, wooded areas, recreation areas, a lot of hiking trails and nothing like this has ever been reported, to my knowledge," he said.
Dyer, meanwhile, isn't surprised he has doubters.
"There are a lot of wacko people out there. I was one of the ones making fun of these wacko people," he said. "When I made this discovery, I still believe there's a whole lot (of wacko people)."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.