This Monday we are moving from the Lochs of Scotland to the Swamps of Florida…or more specifically the Big Cypress Nature Preserve which is located along the Myakka River near Sarasota, Florida. Many Floridians believe an ape like hominid akin to the Bigfoot of northern states makes its home here, however there are significant differences between the 2 variety of Sasquatch. One main characteristic that separates the Florida variety of ape like hominids is the pungent aroma that accompanies a sighting of the creature. The most common skeptical opinion on debunking the sightings of the cryptid is that it is an escaped Orangutan as they are commonly used as pets by individuals who may or may not be prepared or equipped to deal with such a large, wild creature in a private setting. Today I want to take a look at the skunk ape and the Orangutan theory to find a correlation or lack thereof by looking into the habitat each require to thrive, the size and behavioral patterns of both creatures, and a number of other characteristics used to identify a creature in the wild.
A Look at the Skunk Ape
The skunk ape is also known as the Myakka ape due to the generalized location of many sighting along the Myakka river. There are also reports calling the creature the stink ape. This not so appealing name comes from the pungent aroma generally associated with sightings of the beast. It is believed that sighting of the creature go as far back as the 1940′s, however around the 1960′s there began to be a flurry of sightings of the creature in Florida, Arkansas, and North Carolina. ( The majority of sightings however remain in the area of the Myakka river)
Evidence of the creature includes photos, video footage, verbal confirmation of observance, plaster foot casts, and potential hair samples from nesting areas and other areas that the Skunk Ape is believed to frequent. Although the US park service believes the stories of the creature to be a hoax, the local Miccosukee Indian tribe insists not only that they are real but that they should be left to their own devices rather than hunted or bothered by humans. The Miccosukees had to adapt to living in small groups in temporary “hammock style” camps spread throughout the Everglades’ vast river of grass following the Indian Wars of the 1800′s. ( Miccosukee Tribe ) In one incident in Tennessee in 2009 speculation was made that a potential skunk ape was attacking local pets. According to the article 6 cats and one dog were killed by what was speculated to be a primate like creature. ( Channel 6 Knoxville, Tennessee )
Skunk Ape Vs. Orangutan
As the Skunk Ape is most commonly written off as an escaped Orangutan, let’s take a look at just how realistic that claim may be
- The skunk ape is believed to live in swampy areas and in the grasslands near the Myyakaa river. The average temperature in the Sarasota area are highs of up to 80 degrees and lows down to the 40′s in the evening ( Weather Channel )
- The Orangutan comes from the tropical rainforest. However, as stated above there are Orangutans who have been brought to live in captivity in the United States that appear to do well.
- The skunk ape is thought to be a solitary animal. However, there have been sightings of groups of the creatures in recent times.
- The Orangutan male is a solitary animal generally roaming a large territory. Female Orangutans and their offspring will stay together for several years before going off on their own.
- It is believed that the skunk ape is an omnivore, eating small animals, roots, and leaves from the swamps
- The orangutan is also an omnivore, however they do tend to lean toward a more herbivore diet. It is believed that the males hold such a large territory to allow them the amount of foliage to sustain them. ( This could be the same for the skunk ape as they tend to be solitary animals, however most sightings are concentrated in one location although researcher Dave Shealy believes that there are around 7-9 of the creatures in the Big Cypress Swamp ( Skunk Ape Research Headquarters ) However, it should be mentioned that some believe Shealy to be a hoaxer… I’ll let you decide that one on your own.
- The skunk ape is believed to be a bipedal hominid which walks upright on 2 legs much like a human. Although some animals such as apes and bear have been known to walk upright, this type of locomotion is generally only for a short period of time before returning to 4 legs.
- The Orangutan can walk on two legs. However, they more often move by swinging through trees ( brachiating ) as it is their preferred method. Interestingly, Orangutans never swim which means it would be odd to find them in a swamp environment.
Size & Appearance
- The skunk ape male is believed to be around 7 feet tall and weigh 450 lbs. The female of the species is believed to be 6 feet tall with a weight of about 250 lbs. Both the male and female are believed to have reddish black hair.
- The Orangutan is generally about 2/3 of the size of a gorilla, weighing in at around 200lbs for a male and a height of 4.5ft. Females of the species are generally about 110lbs and 3.5ft tall. The orangutan is believed to have reddish-brown hair.
- Most if not all casts believed to be that of the skunk ape foot shows a 4 toed foot. However, the Orangutan has 4 digits and an opposable thumb.
- The skunk ape is believed to build a sleeping “nest” or bed inside underground caves or alligator caves. It is believed that this might explain their aroma due to the carrion and other smells associated with the caves they prefer to reside in.
- The Orangutan is also known to build a sleeping nest, however they are in trees rather than caves. The Orangutan has also been known to create a rustic “roof” of leaves to protect their nest from rain.
- While we have no real evidence of use of tools by the skunk ape, it is reasonable to expect that they may do so.
- There is documented evidence of Orangutans using tools much like the Chimpanzee to obtain food and do other rudimentary tasks
As one can see there are many correlations between the skunk ape and the orangutan. However, there are several important differences. This is most easily seen in both the size and body construction of the two animals. The skunk ape is considerably larger than the Orangutan and does not appear to show the opposable thumb that would be present if making a cast of the Orangutan foot. Another major difference is that the orangutan prefers to reside in the trees and sleep in arboreal settings where the skunk ape is almost always seen on land and prefers to reside in caves throughout the swamps of Florida although they have also been spotted in other Southeastern states such as North Carolina and Arkansas ( Primate Incident List )
- Myakka Ape sighting in 2000. In an incident in Sarasota Florida a woman who preferred to remain anonymous sent in 2 photos ( one of which is shown above ) along with a letter stating that the animals came to her backyard on several occasions to eat apples. ( It is my belief that the “glowing eyes” of the animal in the image are due to the camera flash reflecting from the inside of the eye much like is seen in photographs of cats, dogs, and even humans when taken at night or in low light situations. )
- The May 2013 sighting video ( shown above) from Mike Falconer and son appears to show a bipedal hominid that was recorded from an iPhone after Falconer’s son spotted the creature and the two left their truck to give chase to the animal. ( Sun Sentinel, 2013 ) Many believe this video to be a hoax. However, it should be noted that dressing in a gorilla suit and running through the nature preserve is not the best idea as there is a large hunting population making the likelihood of being shot high. There are also a few who believe the animal in the video to simply be a bear.
- A photo taken by fire chief Vince Doore shows a large hominid with reddish brown hair standing in the trees. This image can be seen at the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters website. Many believe this image too to be a hoax.
- Dave Shealy has stated that he has had 3 sightings and obtained numerous foot casts and hair samples from what he believes to be nest areas. He has appeared on many television shows on Discovery Channel, Travel Channel and others to discuss his findings and research on the creature ( Skunkape Info )
- The Florida Skunk Ape website has a comprehensive page of sighting listings separated by zones across Florida and beyond ( The Florida Skunk Ape )
When it comes to the question of how dangerous the creature is to humans it appears as though there are little to no reports of an attack by the skunk ape. There is one reported incident where 6 cats and one dog were killed by what was believed to be some type of primate.
There are also little to known reports of attacks from an Orangutan. In 2009 there was a report of an Orangutan from NBC in Connecticut. However, upon looking further I believe that this was a misprint as it matches the time and location of the vicious attack of a Chimpanzee named Travis who attacked a woman. ( NBC Connecticut )
So ape, hoax, or some type of hybrid monster there is no doubt that the creature seems to have a presence at least in the minds of individuals across the southeastern United States. In my opinion, although there are many differences, the creature greatly resembles an older Orangutan. Judging from the Myakka photo the animal shown is not as large as the Skunk Ape is believed to be, but naturally this could just be one incidence which does not represent the sightings as a whole.
Has your team done an investigation in the swamps of Florida in search of the beast? I’d love to hear from any teams who have information to share on the skunk ape.