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The Skunk Ape Legend – the Cyptid that leaves a stench

The Skunk Ape legend is an interesting example of urban myth and folklore while being notoriously tantalising for many Cryptozoology fans. In the paranormal and cryptid community the Skunk Ape is a moderately popular legend but to the general public he remains a relative unknown, especially compared to his forest-dwelling cousin, Bigfoot. That’s why they landed in our top 5 list of amazing Cryptids you’ve never heard of.

Let’s take a bath and wash ourselves clean (omg! here we go…) of our ignorance then and take a good look at the smelly legend.

I kinda feel like we have to get started on the right FOOT (okay, enough) here. It’s important to note that the Skunk Ape and Bigfoot are two very different creatures. Naming convention doesn’t help much in this case; the Skunk Ape has been called the Florida Bigfoot on more then a few occasions, but generally speaking Cryptozoology considers them two separate beasts.

Names aside, the Skunk Apes differ quite a bit from their forest dwelling kin. Experts in the field believe that a Bigfoot can reach a solid 9 feet tall while it’s typically thought the StinkSquatch (yet another name) max out at 7 feet for the males and considerably shorter for the females. They also weigh less and are more muscular with less fatty reserves. They have less hair with longer, thinner fur and more skin patches around their bodies. The hands and feet are different too, with extended finger-like toes and agile fingers that make them adept at climbing tall, thin trees. And then, of course, the most distinguishing feature of the Skunk Ape… The smell.

The skunk ape, caught at night by surprise
A big, beautiful Skunk Ape caught by surprise

To hear it told, the rancid, putrid stink that comes off a Skunk Ape would be enough to make just about anyone sick. THEY say the smell comes from being born and living a lifetime in the swamps of Florida, where it’s generally thought almost the entire population resides. As it turns out the Everglades and its massive surrounding swamp lands are filled to the brim with alligators (not the New York Mutated sewer kind) and those alligators dig up gator holes that they fill with corpses, waste and a lot of swamp gunk. The Skunk Ape spends a lot of time in these gator holes – eating, sleeping and hiding from humans. It would seem the smell literally rubs off on them.

If this all seems like a lot of information for something we’ve never captured or have ZERO empirical evidence of, you’re not wrong. A lot of what we think we know comes from a variety of source but none more than from Dave Shealy.

Skunk Ape Expert Dave Shealy
Dave Shealy, Skunk Ape Expert

Dave is as versed in Skunk Ape lore as anyone you’ll ever meet and as close to an expert as can pass for this sort of thing. He runs the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters (and zoo) in Ochopee, Florida, the heart of Skunk Ape territory.

Over the years Shealy has amassed and put on display a considerable amount of evidence ranging from footprint castings to Polaroids. Listen to his stories and he’ll tell you that reports of the Skunk Ape have been around, in some form, dating all the way back to the 1940s. Foot mouldings and pictures are great but Dave says he’s seen them. Several times.

He says his obsession started as a young man hunting around the deep Florida Glades, finding evidence of an unknown beast until finally coming across his first Skunk Ape. Over the years Dave has reported 4 sightings, spotting a total of 7 Skunk Apes in the process. That includes what Shealy calls undeniable proof of Skunk Apes in this video from 2000.

As is par for course with these sorts of things, the video wasn’t without its fair share of controversy. Maybe in a testament to Dave Shealy’s popularity, he might say credibility, Smithsonian Magazine themselves came to investigate the sighting. While they couldn’t prove, or disprove, the existence of the Skunk Ape they did comment on the video itself saying: “It’s extremely hard to watch this video and see anything but a guy in a gorilla suit.”

To be fair, I know this kid called Nick, bit of an oddball, he walks around in a gorilla suit all the time (for reasons) and it does have a passing resemblance to this video. Get a grip Nick.

Other sightings

The wonderful thing about Skunk Apes is Skunk Apes are a wonderful things (bouncy, bouncy, bounce!) AND that they’re not entirely shy. It would seem that Shealy is not the only one to have gotten some good footage of the great big stinkers.

We’ve posted about a video taken in Mississippi of a cryptid that looks like Bigfoot but behaves like a Skunk Ape. Although Mississippi is way out of its territory, it was definitely interesting footage.

Then we have this video from 2013. Mike Falconer was driving by the Myakka River in Florida when he saw something big walking around in the field.

In this case the Skunk Ape was so obvious and out in the open that a number of cars stopped to join Mike on the side of the road to get a good look at the strange creature.

While video and photographic evidence is always important to have on hand, for many residents of Sarasota and Manatee county the Skunk Ape is just a fact of life. Like homemade stand selling oranges on the side of the road. They’re just there. For more years than most residents can remember the stinky cryptid has been seen around the Myakka River or even the Myakka City park.

For the people who are there, the men and women who live in and around the real Glades, the Skunk Ape isn’t some random fad of an urban legend. They’ve grown up seeing something strange just past the trees, a glimpse of something large moving further into the bush in the distance. A far-off strange call that doesn’t sound like anything they know and then, of course, the terrible smell that can only be the Skunk Ape.

Written by Danny Beauregard

Danny is the founder of and your resident raving loon. When not writing and researching for the site he's busy being a husband and a father.

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