Skunk

North American Ape of southern and central Florida.

Etymology: From the animal's intensely unpleasant smell.

Variant names: Abominable Florida apeman, Abominable swamp slob, Bardin booger, Sandman, Squattam's growler.

Physical description: Height, 5-9 feet. Hair color, red to dark brown or black.

Behavior: Calls are a wide range of hoots, whistles, and screams. Aggressive toward dogs and humans. Seemingly vegetarian but may kill livestock or small game.

Tracks: Usually five-toed prints, 8-19 inches long. Three- or four-toed prints reported occasionally, as are knuckle prints, sometimes with opposed thumb. Toes dig in deeply.

Distribution: Southern Florida, from the Keys north to the Brooksville area in the west and to Palm Beach in the east.

Significant sightings: Trappers and fishermen have told stories of Skunk apes since the 1920s, but reports became frequent after the 1970s when real estate developers invaded the Everglades.

H. C. Osborn (or Osbun) was camped out near an Indian mound in the Fort Lauderdale area in February 1971 when he looked out of his tent and saw an 8-foot, 700-pound, apelike creature standing a few feet away. It was covered in light-brown hair and smelled awful. The next morning, he found five-toed prints, 17.5 inches long and 11 inches wide.

On June 7, 1975, twelve-year-old Ronnie Steves woke up in his home east of venice, Florida, when he heard a disturbance in the duck pen outside. Investigating, he saw a 6-foot, dark, apelike animal that ran away. Investigators found 8-inch tracks with a discernible arch.

Everglades Day Safari tour guide Dow Roland saw a reddish-brown Skunk ape about 150 feet away from Turner River Road when he had a half dozen tourists in his Ford van on July 18, 1997. The tourists got two glimpses of it as it appeared briefly from the woods. However, Roland and many of the adults thought it might have been a man in an ape suit.

Ochopee fire control chief Vince Doerr

Slump Ape Man Dave Shealy

snapped a vague picture of a Skunk ape on July 21, 1997.

On September 8, 1998, David Shealy took twenty-seven photos of a Skunk ape after an 8-month vigil sitting in a tree in his backyard in Collier County, Florida, though only one was released to the public. Author and naturalist James McMullen examined Shealy's photos, noting that the creature closely resembled the 7-foot, 500-pound hairy primate that he had encountered in August 1997 when stalking panthers in the Everglades. In July 2000, Shealy videotaped an ape lurching through a field near Ochopee, Florida.

In September or October 2000, a woman took two photos of an orangutan-like creature seen in a kneeling position in her backyard, near the Myakka River, Florida. She estimated it was 7 feet tall. It had a strong odor and was making "woomp" noises. The photos were sent anonymously to the Sarasota County sheriff s office, since the woman did not want anybody on her property.

Possible explanations:

(1) Hoaxers in ape suits.

(2) A Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) escaped from a zoo, though no escapes were reported.

(3) An unknown ape, as reported in other wetlands of the southern and eastern United States.

Sources: "The Abominable Florida Apeman," St. Petersburg Times-Floridian, March 26, 1972; William Hartley and Ellen Hartley, "The 'Abominable Snowman' of Florida's Everglades," Men, July 1974, pp. 16-18, 78-79; B. Ann Slate, "Florida's Rampaging Man-Ape," Saga UFO Report 4 (July 1977): 32-34, 65-67; John Green, Sasquatch: The Apes among Us (Seattle, Wash.: Hancock House, 1978), pp. 271-281; Frank Spaeth, "The Everglades Skunk Ape," Fate 50 (December 1997): 53; Michael McCormick, "Skunk Ape: Shealy Claims to Have New Photos of Elusive Legend," Naples (Fla.) Daily

News, September 12, 1998; Ralf Kircher, "Dave Shealy: On the Trails of a Skunk Ape," Naples (Fla.) Daily News, September 5, 1999; "Myakka Skunk Ape Photos," Fortean Times, no. 145 (May 2001): 6; Loren Coleman, "The Myakka Skunk Ape Photographs," Fate 54 (May 2001): 8-11; Mischa Vieira, "Tracking Myakka's Wily Skunk Ape," Bradenton (Fla.) East County Observer, July 12, 2001; RatsNest, "Skunk Ape," http://www.ratsnest.net/bigfoot/ skunkape.htm.

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