Skunk Ape Research Headquarters
Field review by the editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
You may be surprised to learn that the most likely place to see an American bigfoot, outside of the Pacific Northwest, is in the Florida Everglades. The region around the tiny town of Ochopee is particularly favored by smelly, hairy bipeds, and it is here that the Shealy brothers — Dave and Jack — have opened the world’s only Skunk Ape Research Headquarters.
Dave Shealy, the younger and more outspoken of the two, is Florida’s self-appointed Skunk Ape expert. Slim, in his mid-forties, he wears dark, wraparound sunglasses, a hat with a band of alligator teeth, and no shoes. “There’s never been a documented case of anyone ever being physically attacked by a Skunk Ape,” he says, reassuringly. “But also, there’s a lot of people that go into the Everglades that never come out.”
Dave has been studying the Skunk Ape “pretty much all my life” and describes it as six to seven feet tall and 350 to 450 pounds. He guesses that there are between seven and nine of the creatures around here, in a waterlogged and buggy wetland of buzzards, alligators, and towering sawgrass.
“Not everyone who sees a Skunk Ape reports it,” says Dave. “They don’t want people to poke fun at ‘em, or to tell ‘em they’re crazy. That’s not the exception; that’s pretty much the rule.” But reports do get through. Dave recalls that in 2003 two European women were in the Big Cypress Swamp, photographing plants, when they were surprised by “a huge male Skunk Ape” with an erection. “It was what I believe was the mating season,” Dave explains. The women escaped unharmed.
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