(NBC) - Ask anyone who's grown up in the small town of Whiteriver in the White Mountains, and they'll tell you that stories of a large, dark and hairy creature lurking around the woods have been around for generations. Now, recent evidence shows that this creature, that the Apache call Keh-Chew, may have never left.
"Have you been drinking? Are you high or something?" are questions A.K. Riley says he gets all the time when he tells people that Big Foot does exist and is living in the White Mountains in Arizona.
"You can feel it. It's like someone's watching you," Riley said, standing on a dirt road in the middle of the woods on the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. "It's just like someone's watching you. You can just feel it."
Within the last two weeks, Riley found a trail of "Bigfoot" prints on that very road, which he says are proof. His search for the elusive creature began four years ago when he says local pets started missing, some turning up mutilated, and sightings of a Bigfoot were made in the area.
"They needed a Bigfoot investigator," Riley explained, "so I kind of went along with it, and as I neared retirement I figured I'd make it my hobby."
It's a hobby that has turned into an obsession when Riley claims he saw one.
"It was tall and we just sat there, and we froze," Riley recalled of the encounter, "It was frightening."
Riley rumages through a room in his home and minutes later comes out to show us that his four-year search has turned up more than just footprints - he has collected hair, pictures of shelters made of tree branches and even a very fuzzy black and white photograph taken by a trip-camera at 5 a.m. one morning last May.
He explains that from the various sizes of footprints he's found over the course of his investigation, he believes there's not one Big Foot but a family of four living in the area year round.
A lot of Riley's leads come from calls made to the local Game and Fish Department.
"I don't think he's crazy because I've heard my grandfather talk of it," said Manuelita Kanty, who relates Bigfoot calls made to Game and Fish to Riley, and even investigates Bigfoot sightings for Riley when he's not around.
"It's tracks," said Game and Fish employee Krista Beazley, "but not really hard evidence, so that's where I'm still skeptical."
Hard evidence that Riley says is out there, but he just hasn't found it yet.