Bigfoot is totally real.
At least that's what veterinarian Melba S. Ketchum claims after a five-year study of more than 100 DNA samples that she believes comes from the elusive hairy beast.
Under Ketchum's direction at DNA Diagnostics in Nacogdoches, Texas, a team of researchers has concluded that the creature may be a human relative.
One that somehow developed around 15,000 years ago as a result of a hybrid cross between Homo sapiens (modern humans) and an unknown primate.
While many people have claimed to have seen the creature over the years, its existence has never been confirmed, despite a plethora of photos and footprints.
The ongoing search is the subject of Animal Planet's "Finding Bigfoot" TV series.
"Well, it came to me, I didn't go after it, that's for sure," Ketchum said of the evidence of Bigfoot's existence in an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post.
"I did not believe in it. But my lab did a lot of animal testing, and we did species identification. We didn't have any hits on anything interesting until five years ago."
Ketchum's professional work includes nearly 30 years in genetics research and forensics, and has yet to pass the scrutiny of independent researchers.
After her team attempted DNA sequencing of hair samples from an alleged Bigfoot encounter, however, they say they found some unusual things in the hair.
There wasn't enough DNA to conclusively verify what they were seeing in the material, but DNA Diagnostics later received more samples to investigate.
Those included hair, blood, saliva and urine, all reportedly from Bigfoot sightings.
Ketchum's team believes that over the past five years, the team has successfully found three Sasquatch nuclear genomes - an organism's hereditary code.
That, they believe, proves that the animal is real and a human hybrid.
Ketchum's study showed that part of the DNA her team sequenced revealed an unknown primate species, she said, which suggests that Bigfoot is a real creature.
"They're not any of the large apes - they are a separate lineage," Ketchum said. "My personal theory is that it probably branched off and evolved in parallel with the rest of the primate lineage."
Bigfoot, she says, is a being "crossing with female Homo sapiens."
But skeptic Benjamin Radford told Live Science is not convinced. The scientist raised doubts about the outcome of this latest attempt to give credibility to Bigfoot.
"If the data are good and the science is sound, any reputable science journal would jump at the chance to be the first to publish this groundbreaking information," Radford said.
Radford, in critiquing the findings, suggests that if the mitochondrial DNA is identical to Homo sapiens (modern humans), it could mean one of two things:
"The first, endorsed by Ketchum, is that Bigfoot ancestors had sex with women about 15,000 years ago and created a half-human hybrid species currently hiding across North America."
"There is, however, another, simpler interpretation of such results: The samples were contaminated."
"Whatever the sample originally was - Bigfoot, bear, human or something else - it's possible that the people who collected and handled the specimens accidentally introduced their DNA into the sample, which can easily occur with something as innocent as a spit, sneeze or cough."
Not so, counters Ketchum.
"Early on, we started getting human results on the mitochondrial DNA - that's maternally inherited and it can show where you're from," Ketchum said.
"Different labs had already tested alleged Sasquatch samples in the past, and all of these labs were getting human results, so they just threw it out."
"We split the samples with another forensic lab - one worked on it manually while the other did it robotically, extracting the DNA - and we ran several tests."
"That confirmed there was no contamination. And we ended up getting human sequences on many samples."
Bigfoot: Real or fake?