| Animals |

Skunk Ape Caught on New Video, Men Claim

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This week, two men from Lakeland said they recorded video that included footage of the elusive Skunk Ape, a Bigfoot-type creature rumored to roam Southern swamps. 

The men, Mark Barton and Chris Conner, have been searching for the creature for two years and post videos of their exploits to a YouTube channel, the Trail to Bigfoot. They say they caught a glimpse of the Skunk Ape in the Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area in Central Florida, as seen on this video: 

The men are so-called "cryptozoologists" who research mythical animals. 

Efforts to reach them yesterday were unsuccessful, but Conner described the sound of a Skunk Ape to Bay News 9: “Most of the time it sounds like, 'bluh, bluh.'”

The best-known human in Skunk Ape circles, Dave Shealy, told New Times he was "a little skeptical" of the footage, "but I still have hope."

Shealy runs the Skunk Ape Headquarters and campground in Ochopee, Florida — in Big Cypress National Preserve, on Tamiami Trail near Naples. He has been featured on the Discovery Channel and the Late Show With Stephen Colbert and in Smithsonian Magazine. 

"I am the world's expert on the Skunk Ape," says Shealy. "I have been doing this a long time. I am the last of dying breed of cryptozoologists from the 1980s. I'm 52, but I started at the age of 10, when I saw a Skunk Ape in the Everglades where I live."  

He's seen it four times in his life and captured it on camera three of those times. In 1991, he shot video "that clearly shows the skunk ape at close range in an open field for nine minutes. That's what started the media coverage."

Of the new footage, Shealy said, "What I saw looked like an animal hiding behind some bushes." Still, "the last thing I'm going to do is discredit fellow researchers who are spending time in the field. I can see there's a living creature behind the bushes. It looks like the brow line of what appears to be a black bear." 

Shealy says there are certain "distinguishing features" that could be used to tell a skunk ape from a bear: "It doesn't have a long, Roman nose — more of a flat nose. It doesn't have protruding ears that stand up on top of its head." 

But the video from the Green Swamp "doesn't give the viewer the opportunity to make a definite conclusion," Shealy says. "It looks like a bear, quite honestly, but I'm going to give the guys the benefit of a doubt — they know the area they are in." 

Shealy said another good Skunk Ape researcher is Tim Fosana, a Tampa-area cabdriver and Skunk Ape fanatic who regularly looks for the ape during nights spent in the swamp and posts videos to YouTube. "Nobody's worked harder than him," Shealy says. "Some people think he's a little crazy; you've got to be a little crazy to go in the swamp every weekend looking for a monster."  

Shealy believes there have only been seven to nine Skunk Apes in the state — and he's always happy to see people interested in them. "Hopefully laws can be passed to protect it. They probably have the lifespan of a human being. The State of Florida is setting up wilderness corridors that interconnect [big tracts of habitat] — so with that, I'm hoping [Skunk Apes] can get together and breed. This is their last stand in the Everglades." 

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