Skunk Ape, also known as the Swamp Ape and Florida Bigfoot, is a purported ape-like creature said to inhabit the forests and swamps of some southeastern United States, notably in Florida.
The Skunk ape is sometimes compared to, synonymous with, or called the "cousin" of Bigfoot, a prominent subject within North American popular culture. Articles have been presented in an attempt to prove the Skunk ape's existence, including anecdotal sightings, disputed photographs, audio and video recordings, and footprints. Mainstream scientists have historically discounted the existence of the Skunk Ape (like Bigfoot and Sasquatch), considering it to be the result of a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoaxes, rather than a living animal. The Skunk Ape has permeated into the popular culture of the southern United States, especially in Florida.
The Skunk Ape is commonly described as a bipedal ape-like creature, approximately 1.5–2.1 m (5–7 feet) tall, covered in mottled reddish-brown hair and only has 4 toes. The Skunk Ape is often reported to be smaller in size compared to traditional descriptions of Bigfoot from the northern U.S. and Canada. It is named for its foul odor, often described as being similar to a skunk.
Many Florida researchers believe that we possibly have both Bigfoots and Skunk Apes in our state based upon reported sightings and how different the elusive creatures are described in the North and South Florida regions. Reports from the Central to Northern areas of Florida describe a typical Bigfoot creature that stands approximately 7-9 feet tall and has 5 toes, where the reports from the Southern areas of the state describe a different, smaller type of 4-toed creature, which is known as the Skunk Ape.
History – Indigenous and Early Records
The Skunk ape has been recorded as appearing in Florida, Georgia and Alabama since European settlers first occupied the region. In 1818, local newspapers reported a story from what is now Apalachicola, Florida that spoke of a "man-sized monkey" raiding food stores and stalking fishermen along the shore. Seminole Indian culture includes stories of a foul-smelling, physically powerful, and secretive creature called “Esti Capcaki”, a name which roughly translates to "cannibal giant".
In 1977, a failed-to-pass bill was proposed to the Florida state legislature to make it illegal to "take, possess, harm or molest anthropoids or humanoid animals".
The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) has archived hundreds of alleged sightings. In the small community of Bardin, in Putnam County Florida, beginning in the 1940s there were a number of alleged sightings of a hairy ape-like creature called the "Bardin Booger".
In the 1970s, two Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies named Marvin Lewis and Ernie Milner reported that an ape-like creature stalked them through a grove before they shot at it with their firearms. They reported following a trail of footprints where they recovered hair snagged on a barbed wire fence line that had been pushed down.
Several Everglades wildlife tour operators and their guests have reported alleged sightings. In July 1997, one such operator, David Shealy reported wildlife bait stands laden with lima beans had been raided and he noticed strange tracks surrounding them. Since then, has baited several locations with the beans over the past 25 years and has reported finding lots of footprints and a few more Skunk Ape sightings.
David Shealy has lived in the Everglades all his life and the first time he saw a Skunk Ape was when he was 10 years old. He was out deer hunting in 1974 with his older brother, Jack, in the swamp behind his house when they encountered the Skunk Ape in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
David has found over a hundred 4-toed footprints throughout his lifetime, which he has casted and keeps in his private collection. He has even filmed one moving swiftly through an open swamp area along a tree line and has also taken numerous photographs of them throughout the years from his tree stand in the Everglades. (Watch the video here)
David Shealy’s hard work, determination, and dedication to Skunk Ape research has made him the leading expert and researcher in the state of Florida. He also opened the “Skunk Ape Headquarters” in Ochopee Florida, where he displays some of his 4-toed footprint casts, photographs and research equipment. He also has some wildlife on exhibit that he has captured during his research, which includes one of the world’s largest pythons named ‘Goldie’ which is over 25 feet long.
Additional Everglades tour operators Steve Goodbread, Dow Rowland, and their guests have also reported Skunk ape sightings. Both operators claimed that 38 °C (100 °F) weather, high humidity, and the harsh rural location would make a hoax extremely unlikely.
In 1997, a photograph of a dark upright figure in the swamp was taken by Ochopee Fire Control District Chief, Vince Doerr that he claims is of a Skunk ape. He reported observing the creature cross the road and stopped his car to capture a photograph. Within two weeks, over fifty people reported alleged sightings of a hairy creature within the infamous Big Cypress National Preserve.
In the year 2000, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office received two anonymous photos depicting a large, hairy, ape-like creature. The author of the letter claimed to be an elderly woman who reported the creature had been stealing apples from her back porch near I-75, and upon surprising it with a camera she was afraid it was an escaped orangutan that might harm her family. The scrutinized photos, dubbed the "Myakka Skunk Ape," remain a polarizing topic and their authenticity remains debated.