Every sufficiently quirky geographical region must be in want of a hirsute hominid to call its own. So it is that we hear of the Florida Skunk Ape. What distinguishes the Skunk Ape from its Pacific Northwestern and Himalayan brethren, the Sasquatch and Yeti, you might ask? Well, as the name implies, what our critter supposedly has going for it is its hideous stench. Delightful!
The Skunk Ape (also known, according to Wikipedia, as the swamp cabbage man, swamp ape, stink ape, Florida Bigfoot, Louisiana Bigfoot, myakka ape, and swampsquatch) was attested primarily in the ’60s and ’70s, when major development in Dade County was ongoing and likely drove local black bears out of their swampy forested habitats. Black bears, which are known to stand on two legs and probably don’t smell great, are common sights in Florida neighborhoods today, but back then they may well have seemed like inexplicable cryptids invading a perfect subtropical suburbia.
While the truth behind the Skunk Ape legend may be more transparent than most, I do still enjoy the fact that our greatest endemic cryptid is essentially a Sasquatch, just smaller, grosser, and way, way smellier. It’s very Florida to take another region’s cultural export and say “Hey, we’ve got that too, only it’s mildewed!”
Of course, there are Skunk Ape true believers out there. The most compelling piece of evidence for the beast is a photograph sent to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 22, 2000. It appears to show a hunched orangutan-like creature with matted fur and prominent teeth, peering through flashbulb-lit palm fronds. I include it here, behind spoiler tags, so as not to startle the faint of heart.
While the photo could easily be a hoax, or at best an escaped circus ape, it’s enough to make one want to tread lightly in the Everglades, just in case.