Maine Team Hunts Bigfoot for $10 Million Prize in New TV Series

Article excerpt

"A lot of people don't realize there are monsters in your backyard," said Michael Merchant, one of the two Maine residents starring in the new reality show " 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty," premiering 10 p.m. Jan. 10 on Spike TV.

"In Maine, there are a number of legit Sasquatch sightings," the 50-year-old Hampden resident continued. "And the people who tell the stories will give you chills."

In the new reality show, Merchant will team up with Kat McKechnie, 39, of Bowdoinham to compete against eight other teams for a $10 million prize. Their mission: to uncover evidence of Bigfoot while searching the most remote corners of the Pacific northwest, where sightings of the creature are most common.

Merchant, who studied biology at the University of Maine in Orono, is an expert survivalist and researches all manner of cryptids, legendary creatures that are rumored to exist but for which conclusive evidence is still missing. He has been all over the world looking for Bigfoot, casting tracks or footprints and interviewing numerous eyewitnesses, and he claims to have had two sightings.

"I'm hyperfocused on critters," Merchant said. "I was really lucky to grow up in Tenant's Harbor, a little coastal town. Both my families came from the woods and Down East. So I grew up with it, spending time outdoors. I am probably sleeping outdoors more than I'm sleeping in."

No stranger to reality television, Merchant also has appeared on Discovery Channel's " Out of the Wild: Venezuela," in which he hiked 70 miles through rugged Venezuela jungle, as well as Animal Planet's " Infested" as a herpetology expert.

His team member, McKechnie, has an entirely different skill set. Co-founder of Maine Ghost Hunters, McKechnie and her team of paranormal investigators have been featured on A&E Biography Channel's "My Ghost Story" series. And in 2012, the team launched their own reality show, "ZeroLux Paranormal," which airs on WPME.

"I love the mysteries of life. I can't get enough," McKechnie said. "If [Bigfoot] is real, I definitely want to be the one to bring that science to the table."

And believe it or not, that's what "Bigfoot Bounty" is all about - - science.

Each week, the teams present what evidence they've gathered and their theories to scientific experts Dr. Todd Disotell and Natalia Reagan.

Disotell holds a doctorate from Harvard and is a biological anthropologist who runs New York University's molecular primatology lab. He has been a part of research teams that have discovered several new species and subspecies of primates. And Reagan is a primatologist with a master's degree in anthropology. She specializes in primate conservation and has a wealth of experience tracking monkeys in the wild.

DNA evidence will be processed using Disotell's state-of-the-art mobile DNA lab that can obtain DNA results in the most remote locations within a day. In the case proof is not found, the team that presented the most compelling evidence and theory will be given a $100,000 research grant to continue their search.

"I'm going to tell you, it's science-based," McKechnie said. "They send you out into the woods with a directive: go bring back science. And if you don't bring back science, you're going home."

"I would encourage everyone from Maine to watch the show and make their own decisions," Merchant said. "I think they'll be pleasantly surprised. …