Research that I’ve done over the past ten months has convinced me that the American eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs have not been playing practical jokes. Several separate characteristics of the data from across the United States demonstrate that hoaxes could not be a significant factor in the testimonies.
When an eyewitness estimates wingspan (not all eyewitnesses estimate it), I record it and later compare it with other estimates. After several years of interviewing eyewitnesses of apparent pterosaurs in the United States, I found a peak at 8-10 feet; in fact, 27% are in that range, with a wide variety of other estimates falling off on both sides. This size is far too small or too big for hoaxers, for standard models suggest Rhamphorhynchoids were much smaller but cryptozoological reports from Papua New Guinea suggest ropens can get much larger. A combination of hoaxes would not produce this peak.
When I questioned eyewitnesses in detail about featherless appearance, most of them admitted some doubt about what seemed like a lack of feathers. Hoaxers who wanted to convince somebody that they had seen a living pterosaur would not have left any doubt about that.
The great majority of eyewitnesses report a long tail. This would not be a common lie from hoaxers, as this is not what is portrayed in movies and on television. In addition, if hoaxers were acquainted with standard-model teachings about pterosaurs, they would have lied with a Pterodactyloid (short-tailed) pterosaur-description, for those were the ones said to have lived more recently.
No, hoaxes did not cause the many reports of living pterosaurs seen from the West Coast to the East Coast and from the deep South to New England. [Note the comments regarding the book Hunting Marfa Lights, on the Post “Living Nightmare: Attack in the Dead of Winter. The author never suggested living pterosaurs but published a book with data that seems to validate the possibility. Obviously this author is not playing a joke to promote the idea of living pterosaurs.]