The Skunk Ape is a supposed animal whose existence has been deemed a hoax by the US National Parks Service. The first time I heard the words “Skunk Ape,” I thought someone was joking or had misspoken. I had no clue what a Skunk Ape was. When facing a gap in my knowledge, I turn to Google. So I searched and…the Skunk Ape is a thing. And that thing has an official research center.
Like Bigfoot, the Skunk Ape is a large hominid with a penchant for being elusive and out of focus. Unlike his cryptozoological cousin Bigfoot, Stinky (for ease of writing I’m going to refer to the Skunk Ape as “Stinky”) emits a foul, gag-inducing odor, hence the moniker Skunk Ape. Alleged sightings have led so-called experts to surmise that the habitat of this creature spans North Carolina, Arkansas, and Florida, with the latter being the primary habitat. Wikipedia informed me that Florida affords the best chance at a Stinky sighting.
The first time I heard the words “Skunk Ape,” I thought someone was joking or had misspoken.
I am hesitant to accept this creature as real because I have never heard of it. I make a choice to embark on a journey to the swampy regions Stinky calls home. First stop, of course, the Official Skunk Ape Research Headquarters. On the road, I mull the possibility that this is a joke and as the miles stack so do my doubts. Upon arriving, I decide to have an open mind. I want to listen to the “experts” and do my best to withhold judgment until digesting all the evidence. That sentiment lasts for about 10 seconds. That’s as long as it took for the dank and musty odor to assault my nostrils as I walked through the door. I ponder, “Is this the scent of Stinky him/herself?”
Past the front door awaits a trinket-filled edifice with a certain post-apocalyptic charm. Moving through the gift shop area, I noticed a doorway that presumably led to fresher air. As I open the door hoping for relief, my senses are overtaken by blood-curdling screams of tropical birds and the stench of caged animals. The visual alone is enough to extract a tear as I anthropomorphize each animal’s experience in captivity. Add in the funky ammonia like air and tears are no longer my biggest concern. Keeping my lunch from escaping my stomach becomes a struggle.
The Skunk Ape Headquarters offers a campground and what they call, “Safari Eco Tours.” Unfortunately, the employee I speak with is filling in for whoever is typically present and was not able to give more information on exactly what a Safari Eco Tour entails. The website, Skunkape.info offered little more, if any clarification. The gift shop has an assortment of Skunk Ape branded merchandise; everything from postcards and t-shirts, to coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets. The merchandise has a certain charm if you appreciate irony or you have a full hearted belief in the existence of the stinky biped lurking in the mangroves.
If you’re looking for something to do in the Everglades and you have younger children who are easily upset by loud shrieking birds or offensive odors, let someone else try to discover Stinky. Rich with natural beauty and teeming with wildlife, the region doesn’t need the mythical Skunk Ape for its economic survival, and I assume would be just fine without it. And if Stinky is out there, he/she is probably not hanging out at the place dedicated to hunting him/her.