Visit Everglades City and the Ten Thousand Islands of Southwest Florida, the Everglades

Year of the Skunk Ape Is Real

Everglades City

by Kelly J Farrell

It’s a big year for the smaller Bigfoot— the Everglades’ Skunk Ape.

“This is the Year of the Skunk Ape,” proclaimed David Shealy — and he seems to be correct. Everywhere one looks, from the Everglades, to the big screen and national news— there it is— a large man-like ape. Even if the name changes, the shape of the large primate is much the same, whether Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Bardin Booger, Grassman, Fouke Monster, Abominable Snowman— or the legendary Godzilla gracing theaters nationwide once again.

Year of the Skunk Ape Real by Kelly J Farrell in the Mullet Rapper
Jack Shealy and father David Shealy at Shealy’s Skunk Ape Headquarters on U.S. 41 in Ochopee in May following national headlines of Skunk Ape HQ being named No. 2 roadside attraction in the U.S. and No. 1 in Florida by the USA Today readers’ poll, catapulting the proclaimed ‘Year of the Skunk Ape’ into reality.

Sparking even more interest, Shealy’s Skunk Ape Headquarters in Ochopee was voted second best in the U.S. and the No. 1 best roadside attraction in Florida. Top 10 winners of the USA Today readers’ poll were announced in mid-May, increasing visits to the Skunk Ape store, research center, boat tours and Trail Lakes Campground, all located at the Headquarters on U.S. 41 southeast of SR 29.

“People are looking for authentic Florida and this is it,” said Jack Shealy, known for his southern rock and soul music in The Jack Shealy Band.

Jack’s grandparents started the Campground and each generation has found a niche at their site in the Everglades.

Jack’s father, David Shealy, has been tracking the Skunk Ape since David was about age 10. That’s when David and his older brother, also named Jack, saw a Skunk Ape not far from the Headquarters. On three other occasions David reported seeing Skunk Apes, including a sighting that led to 27 photos, another that led to a 15-minute video and in recent years, he saw a mother and two young Skunk Apes.

“I didn’t get a photograph that time, but it was personally special to me,” David said of the Skunk Ape family sighting.

David is the foremost Skunk Ape researcher in his family and arguably in the world. However, the interest and intrigue began long before him. Local indigenous people, including the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes, have had a long history with the Skunk Ape. Additionally, David Shealy’s father, Jack, had found a Skunk Ape track not long before the two then-young brothers saw their first Skunk Ape, according to David’s report.

Most recently, David’s research has led him to finding Skunk Ape tracks. These tracks show that the Everglades Skunk Ape is different than the Bigfoot and Sasquatch of Northern America as well as similar man-like apes throughout the world. It is a bit smaller and stinkier, among some other distinguishing characteristics, according to Skunk Ape researchers.

“The Skunk Ape has four toes and a lot of Bigfoot researchers don’t like me for that,” said David.

Despite David’s relative fame, those four digits on the foot often keep him from the spotlight at Bigfoot conventions, including the 4th Annual Great Florida Bigfoot Conference on June 8 in Ocala, he said.

Though he wasn’t invited to speak, he was a hit with attendees looking for a bit of his time, knowledge and a photograph, he reported.

“I decided to be the bigger man and go there,” said David.

The tracks of Bigfoot and other similar creatures have five toes, he explained. Despite meeting what David described as an honorable skeptic from the Animal Planet show “Finding Bigfoot” at the Conference, many other people do accept that the Skunk Ape is an intriguing genetic offshoot of the Bigfoot.
David continues his research and the prominence of Skunk Ape as he travels to conferences in Washington and Oregon this summer, including one held by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians.

In addition to planning a Skunk Ape festival by the end of the year to celebrate all the success, David is working on filming so that people will see this littler Bigfoot, the Skunk Ape, on the small and big screens as soon as next year, he said. This could give Skunk Ape fame similar to other primates nabbing movie-goers attention, such as the “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” and “Godzilla X Kong.”

In the meantime, learn more by visiting the Skunk Ape Headquarters, 40904 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, visiting, reading “Everglades Skunk Ape Research Field Guide” by David Shealy or attending the lecture, “ The Skunk Ape – Florida’s Favorite Cryptid,” 2 – 3 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at Museum of the Everglades, 105 Broadway Avenue West Everglades City.

Year of the Skunk Ape Real by Kelly J Farrell in the Mullet Rapper
2024-06-13T13:28:47-04:00June 22, 2024|Community, Wildlife|

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