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According to a new report, a local government in Russia's Siberia region is considering creating an institute for the scientific study of the Yeti . The Yeti, which also goes by the name Abominable Snowman, is often claimed to live in Asian mountain ranges including the Himalayas, where people occasionally come across its tracks in the snow.

So what, exactly, should the researchers look for, if the institution is created?

The Yeti is said to be muscular, covered with dark grayish or reddish-brown hair, and weigh between 200 and 400 pounds. The Yeti is relatively short compared to the North American Bigfoot, averaging only about six feet in height. Researcher Myra Shackley focuses on the Yeti in her book "Still Living? Yeti, Sasquatch, and the Neanderthal Enigma," (Thames and Hudson 1983), and offers the following description, reported by two hikers in the mountains near Bhutan in 1942 who saw "two black specks moving across the snow about a quarter mile below them."

Despite this significant distance, they described the creatures in detail: "The height was not much less than eight feet... the heads were described as 'squarish and the ears must lie close to the skull because there was no projection from the silhouette against the snow. The shoulders sloped sharply down to a powerful chest... covered by reddish brown hair which formed a close body fur mixed with long straight hairs hanging downward." Another person saw one "about the size and build of a small man, the head covered with long hair but the face and chest not very hairy at all. Reddish-brown in color and bipedal, it was busy grubbing up roots and occasionally emitted a loud high-pitched cry."

Though this is the most common form, claimed Yetis come in a variety of shapes. Last year a strange animal caught by hunters in China was touted by some as a Yeti. This mysterious hairless four-legged animal was initially described by eyewitnesses as having features resembling a bear, but was finally identified not as a Yeti but likely a civet a small, cat-like animal native to the region which was afflicted with mange. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Everest , found no evidence of the creature there. Mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who spent months in Nepal and Tibet researching the Yeti, found only that large native bears were frequently mistaken for Yeti sightings and tracks.

In reality, the chances of finding the Yeti aren't good assuming, of course, that they exist . The terrain where Yetis have historically been reported is rugged and remote, and a fallen Yeti body might easily be covered by an avalanche and never be found.

Researchers would have far better luck looking for Bigfoot, for several reasons. For example, Bigfoot specimens are apparently spread all across the continent, and have been reported in nearly every state. Because the U.S. is relatively populated, the chances are much higher that an unknown, giant bipedal creature would be noticed, or found dead, or even hit by a vehicle on one of the many roads and highways that criss-cross our country. (In fact, last week a Bigfoot was seen in North Carolina if a blurry, dubious home video is to be believed.)

If Yetis and Bigfoot exist, they are certainly worthy of serious scientific inquiry, though cash-strapped governments might demand better evidence before funding more searches.

Benjamin Radford is managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore. His Web site is www.RadfordBooks.com.