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Skunk ape

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Skunk ape
Shealy ape.jpg
A photograph alleged to depict Skunk ape in Florida, taken by tour bus operator David Shealy in 1998.
Similar entities
RegionSoutheastern United States

Skunk ape, also known as the Swamp ape[1] and Florida Bigfoot,[2] is a purported ape-like creature said to inhabit the forests and swamps of some southeastern United States,[3] notably in Florida.[4][5]

The Skunk ape is sometimes compared to, synonymous with, or called the "cousin" of Bigfoot, a prominent subject within North American popular culture.[6] 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.[7] The majority of mainstream scientists have historically discounted the existence of the Skunk ape, considering it to be the result of a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax, rather than a living animal.[8] The Skunk ape has permeated into the popular culture of the southern United States, especially in Florida.[9]


The Skunk ape is commonly described as a bipedal ape-like creature, approximately 1.5–2.1 m (5–7 feet) tall, and covered in mottled reddish-brown hair.[10] The Skunk ape is often reported to be smaller in stature compared to traditional descriptions of Bigfoot from the northern U.S. and Canada.[11] It is named for its foul odor, often described as being similar to a skunk.[12]


Indigenous and early records[edit]

The Skunk ape has been recorded as appearing in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama folklore since European settlers first occupied the region.[13] 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.[14] Seminole culture includes stories of a foul-smelling, physically powerful, and secretive creature called Esti Capcaki, a name which roughly translates to "cannibal giant".[15] In 1942, a man in Suwanee County reported a similar creature rushing out from the brush line while he was driving down an isolated road. It was alleged to have grabbed onto his vehicle and beat on the running board and door for half a mile before departing.[16] In the small community of Bardin, in Putnam County, Florida, beginning in the 1940s, there were a number of alleged sightings of a creature that came to be known as the Bardin Booger.[17]


1997 photograph taken by Ochopee Fire Control District Chief Vince Doerr that he claims depicts a Skunk ape (edited by Smithsonian Magazine to encircle alleged subject).

Reports of the Skunk ape were particularly common in the 1950s into the 1970s. The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has archived hundreds of alleged sightings across almost every county of Florida, from 1955 to the current year.[18]

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.[19]

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".[20]

Several Everglades wildlife tour bus operators and their guests have reported alleged sightings.[21] In July 1997, one such operator, David Shealy, reported wildlife bait stands laden with lima bean had been raided and he noticed strange tracks surrounding them. He baited several locations with more lima beans and multiple witnesses reported Skunk ape sightings soon after. Shealy and others attributed this instance to high seasonal flooding haven driven numerous animals into tighter ranges around higher ground.[22] One such sighting was by Everglades tour operators Steve Goodbread and Dow Rowland, as well as their guests reported Skunk ape sightings. Both operators claimed that 38 °C (100 °F) weather, high humidity, and the rural location would make a hoax unlikely.[23]

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 Big Cypress National Preserve.[24]

A dubious photograph of an alleged Skunk ape sent to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Department in the year 2000.

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.[25]

Proposed explanations[edit]

Most anecdotal reports and alleged visual evidence are deemed to be fabrication or hoaxes.[26] Skeptical investigator Joe Nickell has written that some of the reports may represent sightings of the American black bear, possibly some suffering from mange, and it is likely that other sightings are hoaxes or general misidentification of wildlife.[27] The United States National Park Service considers the skunk ape to be a hoax.[28]

In popular culture[edit]

The Skunk ape has been widely adopted across Florida as an unofficial mascot for wilderness and rural culture, including appearing in roadside businesses and attractions, television commercials, and on signs.[29] During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, several Florida businesses used the Skunk ape's reported foul smell to promote social distancing.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chapman, Dan (28 October 2020). "Not even Swamp Ape legend deters hunters from flocking to Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  2. ^ Holland, Kaylee (16 October 2019). "Does Florida's Bigfoot really exist?". Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  3. ^ Lennon, Vince (2003-10-22). "Is a Skunk Ape Loose in Campbell County?". WATE 6 News. WorldNow and WATE. Archived from the original on 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2006-12-23.
  4. ^ Bertelli, Brad. "The Skunk Ape Lives… in the Florida Keys". FLKeys News. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  5. ^ Perry, Catie (27 January 2021). "Florida's Bigfoot? Residents share their sightings of 'massive' Skunk Ape". Fox News. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  6. ^ Desjarlais, Jacob (2020). The Florida Skunk Ape: A Complete History. p. 17. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  7. ^ "'In The Everglades, Anything Is Possible': Legend Of Florida's Skunk Ape Lives On". WFOR-TV. 17 June 2019. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  8. ^ Capozzi, Joe (27 June 2019). "South Florida's elusive Bigfoot: Does the Skunk Ape really exist?". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  9. ^ "BFRO Report 44837: Years of South Florida Skunk Ape stories supported by witness accounts and newspaper articles". Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  10. ^ Carey, Nick (2 March 2007). "Skunk ape tracker seeks to protect the creature". Reuters. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  11. ^ Times, Dean PolingThe Valdosta Daily. "Planet of the Skunk Apes". Valdosta Daily Times. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  12. ^ Montgomery, Madeline (8 January 2021). "The legend of skunk ape creeps up the East Coast". WPEC. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  13. ^ Stromberg, Joseph. "On the Trail of Florida's Bigfoot—the Skunk Ape". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  14. ^ Robinson, Robert (2016). Legend Tripping (1st ed.). Adventures Unlimited Press. ISBN 978-1-939149-69-5.
  15. ^ Childress, David (2018). Bigfoot nation : the history of sasquatch in North America. Adventures Unlimited Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-1-939149-96-1.
  16. ^ Desjarlais, Jacob (2020). The Florida Skunk Ape: A Complete History. p. 17. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "BFRO Geographical Database of Bigfoot Sightings & Reports". Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  19. ^ Kleinberg, Eliot. "South Florida skunk ape sightings peaked in '70s". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  20. ^ Thursday, The Immokalee Bulletin is published every (1 November 2018). "Area was famous for close encounters with Cryptid 'Skunk Apes'". Immokalee Bulletin. Archived from the original on 2020-09-17.
  21. ^ Magazine, Smithsonian; Stromberg, Joseph. "On the Trail of Florida's Bigfoot—the Skunk Ape". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  22. ^ Desjarlais, Jacob (2020). The Florida Skunk Ape: A Complete History. pp. 16–25. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  23. ^ Desjarlais, Jacob (2020). The Florida Skunk Ape: A Complete History. pp. 18–20. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  24. ^ Desjarlais, Jacob (2020). The Florida Skunk Ape: A Complete History. p. 22. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  25. ^ Castello, David. "The Skunk Ape – Florida's Bigfoot". Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  26. ^ Speigel, Lee (1 February 2015). "Another Skunk Ape (Or Bigfoot Hoaxer) Rears Its Ugly Head in Florida". HuffPost. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  27. ^ Nickell, Joe. "Tracking Florida's Skunk Ape". Archived from the original on 2014-07-25. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  28. ^ "The abominable swampman". BBC News. 1998-03-06. Retrieved 2006-12-23.
  29. ^ "Official Skunk Ape Headquarters". Everglades Adventure Tours. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  30. ^ Winningham, Cathleigh (19 May 2020). "Skunk Ape: Here's how Gatorland will enforce social distancing". WKMG. Click Orlando.

Further reading[edit]