By Lisa Cilli

OCHOPEE (CBSMiami) – Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Yeti. The names are different all over the world, but in Florida, Sasquatch is known as the Skunk Ape. It is elusive, it is mysterious, and Florida’s Skunk Ape headquarters is holding a celebration in honor of the mystifying creature.

It is their inaugural Motorcycle Swamp Rally on Saturday, April 24 and Sunday, April 25. The event is free and family-friendly, located at the Trail Lakes Campground between Miami and Naples on the Tamiami Trail.

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There will be motorcycles, live music, food, beer, and arts and crafts vendors, Skunk Ape merchandise and more.

So, what is the Skunk Ape?

Dave Shealy, who has dedicated his life to studying the smelly, elusive brute, runs the Skunk Ape headquarters in Ochopee. It can be found on Tamiami Trail near Naples, nestled just past Clyde Butcher’s Art Gallery and the United States’ smallest post office.

It is here in the depths of the Florida Everglades, where Shealy and his son Jack, conduct studies, investigate reports on sightings, and bring awareness to the Skunk Ape.

(CBS4)

“A lot of folks coming here, the first thing they ask is, ‘What is the Skunk Ape’? explained Jack Shealy in a 2019 interview with CBSMiami. “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 mammal in the Glades.”

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Dave Shealy insists that there are 7-9 Skunk Apes currently living in the Everglades. “There have been Skunk Ape spotted on the Loop Road which is in the Big Cypress Preserve. Some of the most well covered sightings were in Davie, Florida which Davie is grown up now, but back in the 60s, and 70s there were a lot of Skunk Ape sightings in the Davie area,” explained 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,” said Jack.

An image of the Florida Skunk Ape as reported by Dave Shealy, who has spent his life researching and reporting on alleged sightings. (Courtesy: Dave Shealy)

Dave Shealy claims to have seen one of the hairy manlike beasts as a child and again three more times including in 2000 when he shot video of the creature in an open field.

“I was actually looking for deer 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 was running, it wasn’t running like a deer or a bear,” recalled Dave.

Is it true or just a myth?

According to Shealy, an average male Skunk Ape reportedly stands 8 feet tall and weighs roughly 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.

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“It’s all in the books history wise, folk lore about the Skunk Ape in the Everglades,” said Kenny Hill, a Naples tour bus operator. “Some guys claim they’ve seen it out here at nighttime. It’s hard to say what it is or what’s it not. There’s a primate facility in Hendry County. It’s known that there have been escapes from there. Maybe it’s some kind of primate that’s running around maybe there is a real big foot, Skunk Ape, who knows, only time will tell, evidence will tell.”