With the rash of media reports about Bigfoot sightings beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Floridians began coming forward to make their encounters with their "Skunk Ape" known. As with Bigfoot in the Northwestern United States and Sasquatch in Canada, legends of an apelike monster that haunts the more remote areas of Florida have been in circulation since the early days of that state's history. And as with the legends of the hairy giants of the North, members of Native American tribes insisted the centuries-old tales were true.
On December 5, 1966, Orlando Sentinel staff writer Elvis Lane wrote about two hunters who claimed to have wounded the monster. Although it left a trail of blood, the creature—at that time dubbed the "Florida Sandman," in contrast to the "Abominable Snowman"—seemed relatively unscathed by their volley, and the two men fled in the opposite direction. In another report, Lane described how the son of a ranch hand had gone to investigate the sounds of someone opening their garage and had surprised the hairy giant raising the door. When the young man shouted his alarm, the monster threw a heavy tire at him.
Area residents also complained about the Sandman or Skunk Ape peeping in their windows at night. Others said that they had had garbage cans upset by a huge creature that retreated into the night when they clicked on yardlights. The more observant eyewitnesses described the nocturnal marauder as standing between six and seven feet tall and weighing somewhere between 300 and 400 pounds. Nearly every witness mentioned the terrible stench that accompanied the giant intruder.
According to some of its pursuers, the creature lives in muddy and abandoned alligator caves deep in the steamy Everglades swamp. The alligators leave the rotting remains of their kills behind to putrefy in the heat of their hideaways, and the Skunk Apes absorb the stench into their hair, thus accounting for their awful smell. Although the Skunk Ape is said to be primarily a vegetarian and often steals produce from area gardens, Everglades hunters claim to have seen the giant kill a deer and split open its belly to get at the liver and entrails.
In 1980, large footprints, complete with the impression of toes, were found in the Ocala National Forest. The sheriff's department estimated that the unknown creature that had made the prints was about 10 feet tall and weighed around 1,000 pounds.
On Monday evening, July 21, 1997, Vince Doerr, chief of the Ochopee Fire Central District, told the Miami Herald that he had seen "a brown-looking tall thing" run across the road ahead of him. He was certain that the thing was not a bear. Ochopee borders the Everglades, and a few days after Doerr's sighting, a group of six British tourists and their guide, Dan Rowland, saw a Skunk Ape on Turner River Road, just north of the town. According to Rowland's statement in the Miami Herald (July 28, 1997), the unknown apelike creature was between six and seven feet tall, "flat-faced, broad-shouldered, covered with long brown hair or fur and reeking of skunk." The seven witnesses observed the Skunk Ape "in a slough covered with bald cypress trees." Rowland added that "…it loped along like a big monkey or gorilla, then it disappeared into the woods."
In February 2001, the Sarasota Sheriff's Department received an anonymous letter containing some photographs of an apelike creature that had been taken by a woman who feared that an orangutan was running loose in the area of Myakka State Park and might harm members of her family. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who examined the pictures along with animal welfare specialist David Barkasy, said that they appeared to be good graphic evidence for the unknown anthropoid known as the Florida Skunk Ape. According to Coleman, "The photographs clearly show a large, upright dark orangutan-like animal among the palmettos, showing eye-shine and typical anthropoid behavior of fright due to the woman's flash camera."