Strange States: Florida's Skunk Ape

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Not even four days could cover all of the weird stuff happening in Florida...

The Skunk Ape: Bigfoot’s Foul-smelling Cousin

There may not be any giant penguins in Florida, but the jury’s still out on the existence of the Skunk Ape. Similar to the Pacific Northwest’s Bigfoot, the legends of an 8-foot-tall, very hairy primate stomping through the swamps of Florida, reeking of anything from rotten eggs to cow manure to its namesake mammal, have been circulating for decades.

Most sightings tell of a large man-ape lurking in the backyard or appearing out of nowhere on the side of the road late at night, before it goes running back into the woods. Some physical evidence has surfaced, such as plaster casts of footprints or fuzzy photos and video, but no such creature has ever been captured or killed. The sightings hit a peak in the 1960s and '70s, but there are always a few every year, keeping the legend alive.  

The sightings became so common in the 1970s that many thought it was only a matter of time before a Skunk Ape was caught.  So, in 1977, State Representative Paul Nuckolls (R) from Fort Myers tried to pass House bill 1664 (HB1664) which would make it a misdemeanor to “take, possess, harm or molest anthropoid or humanoid animals.”  

“I’d hate to see someone catch one and put it in a circus or in a zoo,” Nuckolls said. Although the “Skunk Ape Bill” made it through Committee, it was withdrawn before an official vote could be taken by the House. Undeterred, Nuckolls tried again the follow year with HB58, but it too got shot down before a vote could be taken.  

Perhaps the best-known and most compelling of the Skunk Ape stories comes from an anonymous letter sent to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in December 2000 from a concerned woman who claimed the “orangutan” in the accompanying photos could cause a car accident if not caught soon. The photos show a large, ape-like creature partially concealed behind saw palmetto leaves. Many believe the creature is too large to be an orangutan, but insist it must be the elusive Skunk Ape. Of course, with the anonymous nature of the letter, it’s also very easy to dismiss the photos as a hoax. Sadly, the woman who sent the letter has never come forward to provide more information. So for now anyway, the existence of Florida’s stinky sasquatch remains a mystery.

Come back tomorrow for the last—for this week, anyway—of our Florida entries, and check out the whole Strange States series here.

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October 19, 2013 - 2:00pm
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