MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Sunshine State has beautiful beaches, thrilling theme parks, and great nightlife; but did you know we are home to the elusive and mysterious Skunk Ape?
As you head west on U.S. 41 to Big Cypress National Preserve, you'll pass Clyde Butcher's Art Gallery and the United States' smallest postoffice, then the official Skunk Ape Research Headquarters at Ochopee on Tamiami Trail near Naples.
It is here in the depths of the Florida Everglades, where Dave Shealy has dedicated his life to studying the smelly, elusive Skunk Ape.
Shealy and his son Jack, conduct studies, investigate reports on sightings, and bring awareness to the elusive creature of the everglades.
"A lot of folks coming here, the first thing they ask is, 'What is the Skunk Ape'? Explains Jack Shealy. "The Skunk Ape is the southernmost relative of Big Foot, like a Yeti or a Sasquatch. All of the stories over the years add up to sightings of some sort of large mammals in the glades. "
Dave Shealy insists that there are 7-9 Skunk Apes currently living in the Everglades.
"Skunk Ape spotted on the Loop Road which is in the Big Cypress Preserve. Some of the most well-attended sightings were in Davie, Florida, which Davie is growing up now, but back in the 60s, and 70s there was a lot of Skunk Ape sightings in the Davie area, "explains Dave.
"The legend of the Skunk Ape here in the Florida Everglades goes back hundreds of years, all the way back to the indigenous cultures, and my father has spent the better part of 20 years trying to find out if there's any truth to that," says Jack.
Dave Shealy claims to have seen one of the hairy manlike beasts as a child again in the 2000s when he shot video of the creature in an open field.
"I was actually looking for that day. I wanted to get some photographs for some hunting friends of mine. That's when I heard something moving in the water. It's running, it's not running like a deer or a bear, "recalls Dave.
Is it true or just a myth?
"In the Everglades, anything is possible," says visitor Becky Cunningham. "It's hard to say what's going on, roaming around here because nobody gets to see all of the everglades."
According to Shealy, at average male Skunk Ape reportedly stands 8 feet tall and weighs approximately 450 lbs. Females are smaller. Both are covered in long, reddish or black hair, similar to an orangutan or gorilla. They stand upright on two legs.
Kenny Hill, a Naples tour bus operator, says, "It's all in the books history wise, folk lore about the Skunk Ape in the Everglades. "Some guys claim they've come here at night. It's hard to say what it is or what it's not. There's a primate facility in Hendry County. It's been known that there have been escapes from there. Maybe it's some kind of primate that's running around, Skunk Ape, who knows, only time will tell, evidence will tell. "
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