The Indian Army kicked off a storm of publicity after publishing photos on Monday of giant “footprints” – allegedly 81 centimeters long – found in the snow by some of its mountaineers in Nepal.

The army put the photos out on Twitter, to nearly 6 million followers, saying it had discovered “mysterious footprints of mythical beast ‘Yeti’ at the Makalu Base Camp” in the Himalayas.

The footprints were discovered on April 9, but the army only announced it publicly after deciding that it matched earlier theories about the yeti, according to a Times of India report.

The army said the “evidence” had been photographed and would be handed over to experts for scientific evaluation. It said the region where the prints were found is between China and Nepal.

One of the Indian Army pics of ‘yeti’ footprints. Image: Twitter

“Makalu is among the highest mountains in the world and stands near the Makalu-Barun Valley, a remote wilderness that has also been surveyed for researchers also looking for the Yeti,” the paper said.

Tales of a wild hairy beast roaming the Himalayas captured the imagination of climbers in Nepal in the 1920s. They had prompted people such as Sir Edmund Hillary and other explorers to go looking for the mysterious elusive creature, it said.

The news stirred stories far and wide, with the army’s announcement covered by top media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

The response in India was mixed, with some urging the army to delete the tweet to avoid international embarrassment. Another follower suggested the yeti had simply emerged to vote (in the Indian election).

The New York Times got comments from Daniel C Taylor, author of Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery, who was quoted as saying: “The only animal that has made a footprint that long is a dinosaur.”

So either there were giant creatures roaming the mountains of Nepal, or the footprints were created by a bear and its cub.