Does Bigfoot Belong on a License Plate?

Bigfoot may not exist — but he's still managed to make a lasting cultural and economic contribution to Washington state. RikoBest/Shutterstock

If there’s one thing just about everyone ends up doing at some point in their lives, it’s staring at the license plate of the car ahead of you. Mostly, it’s for the worst of reasons: bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Being bored out of their gridlock-addled minds, people will often gaze listlessly at whatever is in front of them: GDG486. Hmmm.. wonder what stands for...

But some state's plates do at least add a modest splash of style.

Nevada plates have a sun setting behind mountains. Texas? Guy on a horse. New York reminds us that the Statue of Liberty lives there. And Hawaii? A little rainbow.

U.S. license plates hanging on a wooden wall.
For the most part, license plates aim to convey a dash of the local charm. Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Only the U.S. government can’t be bothered to throw us any kind of bone at all.

U.S. government license plate
The U.S. government is serious business — no sunsets here, buddy. Wikipedia

So you’ll understand if a state senator from Washington wants to shake up the license plate landscape.

Ann Rivers wants Washington state plates to bear a picture of Bigfoot. And, although Bigfoot has (so far) only proven to be a creature of fiction, the senator suggests the creature made a very real contribution to the state. Indeed, Washington boasts the highest number of Bigfoot sightings in the country — a detail that has drawn thousands of Bigfoot-hunting visitors.

So far, they've seen nothing. But sales of action figures, T-shirts and Bigfoot field guides are the real deal. And the state also draws a global crowd every year with its International Bigfoot Conference.

Even event organizers, like Russell Acord, aren’t entirely sure the beast exists.

"I've been a researcher forever," he told CBC News in 2016. "I have yet to find anything that tells me with definitive proof that Bigfoot does or does not exist. I believe in the possibility, but I've never found anything that tells me for sure that it does," he said.

Bigfoot as seen in a 1967 documentary film.
A single frame from a 1967 film claiming to have captured evidence of Bigfoot has been widely debunked since. Patterson-Gimlin/Wikipedia

The benefits of Bigfoot

But for Rivers, the creature, also known as Sasquatch, doesn’t have to be real to be a big contributor to the state’s culture — and coffers.

"I’m guessing Sasquatch has a hidden talent as a fundraiser," Rivers noted in a press release. "And assuming that Sasquatch is a native Washingtonian, and our state parks are part of Sasquatch’s native habitat, it makes perfect sense to capitalize on Sasquatch’s popularity in a way that would help protect and improve that habitat."

That’s an admirable ambition, even if her fellow lawmakers don’t quite see it the same way. Rivers introduced the same bill last year, only to see it founder.

The thing is, most states stick with sobering reality for license plates, often showcasing flora and fauna unique to the region.

Like that chickadee and pine tassel on Maine plates. Or the guy riding a horse in Texas. In that sense, a license plate is kind of like a tourist ad on wheels.

Come to Florida. We have oranges!

Florida license plate
Florida keeps it short and sweet. Florida Department of Transportation

Come to Washington. We may or may not have Bigfoot.

If you aren’t a Bigfoot devotee, it might make you wonder what else is worth seeing in Washington — which would be a shame, because the state has much to boast about that actually exists.

No state, for instance, grows more apples, pears and sweet cherries. This is orchard country. And Washington is home to the Yakama Reservation and a 5,000-strong herd of wild horses.

What does it say about a state that it has to resort to made-up things?

Sure, in a not-very-crowded field, Washington would instantly be America’s most exciting license plate.

Washington state license plate
Washington plate designs often feature mountains, but some are even much more basic. Like green. Krasovski Dmitri/Shutterstock

But what price, Bigfoot? And how long before other states start selling their own fiction?

Maybe California, a state that squeaks by with a handwritten font on its plate, ups the ante and puts Peter Pan on its plates.

And, not to be outdone, Nevada could add a flying saucer to its plate — maybe even changing its official slogan to, "The truth is out there."

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But when it comes to license plate designs, the truth should probably be in there.