BETHEL -

In recent weeks, a Southwest Alaska legend has shown legs -- or at least feet, if you believe those who say they've seen the Hairy Man.

Also known as Urayuli and depicted as a hermit with large feet, the story of the Hairy Man is similar to that of the Sasquatch. With the Delta Discovery newspaper's recent series of published Hairy Man stories from area residents, though, the long-told tale has become a bit more hair-raising.

Dana Kopanuk and his nephew were setnetting for whitefish on the Tarperrnaq River on a fall afternoon in 2011 when he said he saw the Hairy Man.

Kopanuk tells the story at his kitchen table in Bethel. He illustrates it with a pencil drawing he made of the area where they saw the Hairy Man.

The two were approaching their net when they saw someone walking through the willows on the bank. Kopanuk says the willows and brush would have been taller than he was, but this creature that looked like a man could easily see over the top of foilage. Kopanuk first registered it as a person -- until he saw that this creature was larger, hairier, and not wearing clothes.

Kopanuk said this creature didn't act like a person.

"If he were from camp, he would wait for us," Kopanuk said.

The two fishermen watched the creature for about 10 minutes until they moved along the river and the creature moved out of sight. While watching, it was difficult to comprehend what they saw, but Kopanuk said when they discussed it later, they decided it must have been Hairy Man.

Kopanuk's story is one of many that has been published in the Delta Discovery for more than a year. What's different about Kopanuk's story is that he let the paper publish his name. Many witnesses leave their name off their account, not wanting to be tied to these strange encounters.

"I say my name and I believe what I see," Kopanuk said.

Kopanuk said before the Delta Discovery started publishing stories, he hadn't heard a lot about the hairy man. Most of the stories are published with anonymous witnesses. Even the illustrator that creates drawings for the paper wants to be known only as "AI."

Kopanuk says he doesn't have theories about the creature he said he saw.

"I don't know where they live. I don't know how they survive," he said.

Despite the sighting, Kopanuk said he wasn't scared when he saw the Hairy Man because the creature isn't known to try to hurt people. To him, the story is simple.

"I saw what I saw," he said. "I'm not trying to defend it or anything."

At the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge office, large-game biologist Spencer Rearden isn't buying it.

"As a biologist," Rearden said, "Hairy Man does not exist."

Rearden grew up in Bethel. He studies moose and caribou, and says he doesn't need to believe in Hairy Man because these animals are fascinating on their own.

"They're more interesting. I know they're there. I see them." Rearden said.

Rearden says it would take a lot of hard evidence to change his mind.

"We would have to have hair samples. We would see footprints, possibly photographs and video," he said.

Margaret Nagasiak said she may have found that evidence pressed into the tundra.

Locals in Bethel Report 'Hairy Man' Sightings

She shows the picture of a print that she found when she was picking berries with a few family members. She says the photo shows a clear outline of toes, as part of a footprint larger than an average human foot.

"It felt like someone was watching us, but we looked around and we didn't see anybody," she said.

That feeling was a clue for the group to leave. They also noticed another harbinger of the Hairy Man's presence.

"It had some kind of stink smell," Nagasiak said.

Eyewitnesses say they're just sharing what they saw, despite a measure of skepticism from others.

"He's out there somewhere," Nagasiak said. "We just can't find him."