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The Skunk Ape

Updated: Feb 8


The Skunk Ape is a bigfoot-like Cryptid said to live in Florida, and across the southern United States. There are many theories as to what the creature could be, and whether indeed it exists at all. From the physical description of the creature to the habitat it is said to inhabit, I have put together this guide to explore the main information about the Florida Skunk Ape.


Physical Description

Whilst there is little photographic or video evidence for the Skunk Ape, eyewitness testimony has provided us with some pointers as to what the creature may look like.


The Skunk Ape is significantly smaller than the Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest, standing at (only!) 6-7ft tall on average. The creature is said to be very muscular, as indeed are many bigfoot-like cryptids. It also is said to have ape-like proportions, with arms much larger than a human's, and a conical head shape.


Many reports suggest that the creature has thick, shaggy hair which is red to reddish-brown in color. Indeed, this color and the nature of the fur has drawn comparison to the orangutan and has made some claim that the Skunk Ape may be nothing more than a rogue orangutan, surviving in the thick forests having escaped or -been released from- a private collection.


Is the reddish fur of the Skunk Ape an indication it could be an escaped orangutan?

The supposed feet of the Skunk Ape do appear to support it being a more ape-like than the Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest. Although evidence is limited, if the most common footprints are to be believed, the foot of the Skunk Ape is much narrower and may show evidence of a divergent big toe.



History


The Skunk Ape may have risen to popularity and to the attention of the media quite recently through such great and interesting series as Finding Bigfoot, and the documentary the Skunk Ape Lives, the creature has existed in stories and newspapers for ages. The Smithsonian piece about the Skunk Ape by Joseph Stromberg cites the earliest well-publicized cases of the Skunk Ape as 1957, and the creature’s appearances were only to increase in media through the ’70s and ’80s, coinciding with the wider bigfoot trend.


But the folkloric aspect to the Skunk Ape has persisted for much longer than the ‘50s. The Native American tribes in the Florida Everglades area, the Seminole, talked of a “tall man” they called Esti Capcaki. According to Donald L Fixco’s book That’s What they Used to say, the Esti Capaki were said to be “protector[s] of the woods”, and have “the power to disappear”.


History of the Southern Sasquatch extends much further, with reports coming from Georgia from the 19th century, or from South Carolina at around the same time.


Habitat -The Everglades


The most common habitat associated with the Skunk Ape is Florida, and although there are sightings attributed to the Skunk Ape from across State, and throughout the Southern US, the area most commonly associated with the creature is the Everglades. Stretching 1.5 millon acres in total, the unique environment of the everglades is a mix of forest, sawgrass, and wetland unlike anywhere else on the planet. At the southernmost tip of Florida, the national park is home to a wide range of wildlife and plant life, many not found anywhere which have specifically evolved to exist in this unique landscape.


Diet


Could the Skunk Ape be amongst them? With such a specialized habitat, the Skunk Ape would have to have a very specific diet to survive. That isn’t to say that the creature would struggle to live in the swamps and marshes. There is infact a rather large assortment of food which an enterprising and intelligent ape could take advantage of.


Under the water, an ape might have found a way to harvest the fish and crustacean, whilst avoiding the chomping alligator jaws. Outside of the fish life, the Skunk Ape could hunt the 40 or so species of Mammal that live in the Everglades. Many of these, such as the Gray Squirrel would be little more than a snack for such a large animal as the Skunk Ape, but larger animals such as White-Tailed Deer could be a much more substantial food supply for a large ape.


I am of course working on the assumption that the Skunk Ape eats meat at all. Gorillas, the largest scientifically classified apes, have a largely vegetarian diet but do eat termites and ants.

The Everglades are thankfully the home to a good range of berries, succulents, and underwater plants that could help to sustain a species.


My impression is that Skunk Apes would probably benefit from being omnivorous, and use their intelligence to adapt to changes in the environment that can happen because of storms, invasive species, or human expansion.


The latter is perhaps of most interest. As we as a species have expanded into new environments, wildlife has had to adapt as best it can to the changes human habitation can bring to an area. Perhaps the same could be true for the Skunk Ape. A well-known encounter on the Bigfoot Field Research Organisation’s (BFRO) website tells of an encounter with the Skunk Ape, where the creature was said to be raiding a dumpster in search of food. If this report is accurate, then it speaks of a creature, much like a raccoon, that has learned that garbage can provide a significant source of food for an animal bold enough to exploit human waste.


Climate


The Skunk Ape deep in the Everglades is probably less concerned by this human interference, but that doesn’t mean that the ape wouldn’t still face challenges. The Everglades largely only have two seasons, a Wet Summer, and a Dry Winter.


The Wet Summer months are characterized by heavy rainfall, high temperatures, and thunderstorms. All this means that the humidity in the Everglades is very high, which raises an immediate question about the Skunk Ape - Why do so many witnesses claim to see a creature with long, shaggy, thick hair?


If we look at the largest categorized mammal in the Everglades, the elusive Black bear, we can see a creature that not only has short fur but also molts in the warm summers. There remains not enough evidence to say why the same is not necessarily true of the Skunk Ape. Though there are reports of near-bare Skunk Ape like creatures that seems to show evidence of molting, this area of study is inconclusive. However, as a quick observation, the orangutan - which incidentally the Skunk Ape is occasionally compared to- has long fur, yet lives in a temperate climate. This fur is long but sparse, and the orangutan’s face remains more-or-less bald. Perhaps this can go some way to explaining the Skunk Ape’s apparent thick fur.


Location, Location



Could this be the home to the Skunk Ape?


Whilst people may be seeing a shaggy, long-haired Skunk Ape, it is perhaps still difficult to understand how they’re seeing it at all. The area of the Everglades is rather sparsely populated, with Monroe County, which houses part of the National Park, having, according to a census, a population of just 17 in the Everglades region of the county. Perhaps then it is unsurprising that so few reports of the Skunk Ape emerge - the bulk if it’s habitat is largely uninhabited and generally inhospitable.


But surely if it’s hard for humans to traverse the wetlands, a 6-7ft tall Ape would find it equally difficult. Well, not necessarily. Across the continental US, Sasquatch and other similar creatures appear to be able to move seamlessly amongst dense forests, and disappear up steep hills, and across wide creeks within a matter of seconds. If these creatures exist, they would have to be highly adapted for a life in the undergrowth, away from the threat that human beings could cause them.


Their muscular bodies would be developed to push aside dense vegetation and to navigate difficult terrain, including water, and the alligators beneath it. Great apes are known to be significantly stronger than human beings, and strong enough to be able to manipulate the forest to their advantage. If Skunk Ape’s are of comparable strength to gorillas, then it is possible to assume that they would be strong enough to navigate difficult terrain effectively.


Habitat - Across the South


Whilst the Everglades may be the area most associated popularly with the Skunk Ape, it accounts for only a small amount of the alleged range of the creature. As previously mentioned, I’ve stumbled upon early reports from South Carolina and Georgia, but there are a multitude of reports attributed to the Skunk Ape from across the Southern United States.


Most famously is the Fouke Monster of Arkansas, made famous in the popular B-Movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek. You can read a lot more about both the Fouke Monster, and the tales of Southern Cryptids in the works of Lyle Blackburn, which I highly recommend.


Whilst the variety of landscapes that cover the South are so varied as to make it difficult to draw comparison with how a Skunk Ape would live between the Swamps of the Everglades, and the rugged terrain of Arkansas. Perhaps this could be a testament to the resourcefulness of the creature, or is a broader example of diversification within bigfoot types.


Evidence


As with many cryptids, photo and video evidence is limited, and the Skunk Ape is no exception. A quick look around the internet though quickly shows the best that is on offer relating to the Skunk Ape.


Video


One of the most famous pieces of footage was uploaded to Youtube in 2013 by Josh Highcliff. Totalling over 550,000 views at the time of writing, this footage is titled ‘I think i saw a Skunk ape - please help’.




The video appears to show a blackish creature in the woods of Mississippi. According to Highcliff, the creature was investigating a dead cypress tree, and, when it stood up, was 7ft tall.


The other compelling piece of Skunk Ape footage is the Brown footage. Filmed on a thermal camera, the story of the footage is retold in the Amazon documentary The Skunk Ape Lives by Stacy Brown Jr - which I recommend watching.


Photo


In terms of Skunk Ape pictures, there is one example that is immediately brought to mind. Respected cryptozoologist Loren Coleman is in possession of two photographs many believe to show a skunk ape in Myakka, Florida. The full story and explanation are provided in Coleman’s excellent book Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America, but here’s a brief synopsis:


Two photos, which you can see on Coleman’s website, arrived with local police, and an anonymous letter. Since the account is anonymous, there are few conclusions that can be drawn as to the validity of the story. Nevertheless, these images remain an important part of the skunk ape story.



Theories


The story itself can be looked at through a variety of prisms, all of which cast the creature in different lights.


Bigfoot


The most common theory about the Skunk Ape is that it is a Bigfoot-like phenomenon. That is to say that it is potentially a relative of the Bigfoot of the Pacific North West. Whilst there are many different theories as to what exactly Bigfoot itself may be - hominin, ape, gigantopythicus, paranormal etc, I use the term bigfoot-like as a shorthand for any number of these theories, rather than making a particular judgment on the validity of any theory.


Through this assessment, the Skunk Ape could be said to be a different version of the Bigfoot, adapted to living in a different terrain, or atleast a creature which has convergently evolved similar traits to its Northern cousin.


Escaped Ape


Another theory is that the Skunk Ape could be a known ape transplanted to the Southern US. More so than the Bigfoot, the Skunk Ape shows many more ape-like traits, especially if the footprints associated with the creature are to be believed. Is it then possible that the Skunk Ape is an escaped or released Orangutan or Chimpanzee? There are a significant number of chimpanzees in private hands in the US, but there appears to be little information as to the number of orangutans. Given how challenging these animals are to keep as pets, it is entirely possible that presently or historically, some of these privately owned creatures could have been released or escaped to start a new life in the forests.


There are several criticisms of this theory though. Firstly, would a creature raised in captivity be able to quickly adapt to living in the wild? An animal that has had its food provided for it since it’s birth may struggle to adapt to a life of foraging and hunting, especially when that animal wouldn’t be aware of what was edible and what was poisonous. As such, an escapee could not necessarily be expected to survive long enough to cover the time period that Skunk Ape has been seen for.


Secondly, surely a creature raised around humans would have a diminished fear of, or even affinity towards humans. Even if this was only to a minor extent, a Skunk Ape would most likely try to remain active around human populations, rather than isolating itself in the deep Everglades.


Misidentification/ Hoax


The final possibility is that the whole thing is a series of misidentification or hoaxes. Whilst it is undeniable that a percentage of sightings are due to this, is it possible that each and every one could be?


There are credible witnesses who report seeing Skunk Apes and, whilst this does not necessarily exclude misidentification, even if one story is true, then the Skunk Ape would have to exist. That is not to say that the creature definitely exists - the volume of reports should not be conflated with proving the existence of the creature. Instead, the reports should inspire efforts to find out the truth about the creature, whatever that may be.


Conclusion


The Florida Skunk Ape, the Southern Sasquatch, is every bit a part of the Bigfoot mythology as its cousin in the Pacific North West. It is ever-present in history, as long as the area has been inhabited by human beings, and we are able to trace it’s origins from Native American tribes, through European settlers, to up until present-day accounts. The habitat of the creature would appear to support that an ape could live in the Florida Everglades, and across the Southern US, where areas of wilderness could house a small, mobile population of large, intelligent apes. Whilst there remains only a small amount of photographic and video evidence of the Skunk Ape, that which does exist deserves further exploration. Finally, the theories around the beast could provide an important basis as to how we can approach understanding this animal if indeed it does exist.


Want to talk about the Skunk Ape? I’m always keen to learn and explore what’s going on with the Southern Sasquatch! Drop me an email at freshlysquatched@gmail.com , and let's explore the Skunk Ape topic together!




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