Two remarkable new photographs of what may be a Florida Skunk Ape have been discovered through an interesting chain of events by Sarasota resident and animal welfare specialist David Barkasy. Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America overviews how these photographs were taken, how this find surfaced, the first reactions and analyses, and some tentative conclusions. For the time being, certain supportive notes will remain, here, available and online
Here is the December 22, 2000, letter signed “God Bless. I prefer to remain anonymous” mailed to the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department.
Newspapers in Florida, the Art Bell show, and other radio programs during mid-February, decided to talk about the Myakka photographs. The hope is that the woman photographer will be identified.
In the meantime, meaningful analyses of the eyeshine, the pupil diameter, the dentition, the tongue, hair color, and exhibited behavior of this apparent primate is taking place.
These Coleman enlargements and details were created from the first generation color prints scanned by David Barkasy of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department’s originals. These prints show forehead lines, yellow canines, fingernails, hair, and other significant details. Copyright 2001 by David Barkasy and Loren Coleman
At right: A young male Sumatran Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus abelii, American Museum of Natural History.
Below: Concurrent with my thinking, Tony Scheuhamme, a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, pointed out some features on a good photograph of an orangutan by Denise McQuillen. This is not to say the Myakka photographs are of an orangutan, but it certainly assists in identifying features that are found on a known anthropoid that appear to exist on this one too.
The Myakka ape head closeup Copyright 2001 by David Barkasy and Loren Coleman. Compared with a Sumatran Orangutan’s head, photograph at the Cincinnati Zoo by Denise McQuillen, 1999; Reprinted with permission.
The Myakka Ape Photographs are only the most recent of a long history of Skunk Ape and related mystery anthropoid reports. I have files, and letters from people that lived along the east-central coast of Florida (mostly in the Holopaw-Brooksville area) who related to me their series of encounters with apelike animals, especially during the 1963-1968 period. We should not be surprised that the Everglades may not be the key to solving this mystery, but the Myakka area may.
A lot of people have sightings, but they sit on them because they don’t want to look like idiots.’
By Mischa Vieira
It’s been nearly nine months and there’s been no reappearance of the Myakka Skunk Ape. At least no official reports.
This past February newspapers throughout the Southeast caused a supernatural frenzy when they ran stories about the appearance of a smelly ape nearly seven feet tall in a backyard east of I-75 in Sarasota. Some writers quickly dismissed the idea of Florida’s answer to Bigfoot. Others used the opportunity to tell a few jokes, and some suggested, mockingly, organizing a search (i.e. hunting) party to find the animal that resembles an orangutan.
One local man has done just that.
The search David Barkasy is on the prowl. Barkasy was one of the first people to see the photographs of the ape last fall after they were mailed anonymously to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Since then, his curiosity has been in overdrive.
“It’s the possibility of finding something new,” Barkasy says of his search for the skunk ape. “I don’t know if there’s something out there, but the more I hear, the more interested I get.”
Barkasy, owner of reptile wholesaler Silver City Serpentarium in Sarasota, has made more than 30 nighttime trips to the forest east of the interstate hoping to find this legendary creature that was first reported in Lakeland in 1947. Barkasy and friends strung apples (a favored food of the ape according to some reports) with fishing line between trees and sat in the dark waiting for something to happen. Some nights nothing. A few nights they were chased out of the woods by something in the bushes.
“We would sit back and make bird calls, and a few times you’d smell something like dead animals and then we heard palmettos breaking. It could’ve been a bear or coyote, but who knows?” Barkasy, a former mechanical engineer, says.
On his last expedition Barkasy was told to leave the forest by a state ranger. It turns out the land he was on is owned by Southwest Florida Water Management District and managed by the Myakka State Park. For the men to be there after hours, they need special permission from Swiftmud, which Barkasy hasn’t obtained yet, but says he intends to do in order to install motion cameras in the area.
“I want to know what was out there chasing us out of the woods. There’s not too many animals that’ll stalk you.”
Loren Coleman, a noted cryptozoologist (hunter of hidden animals) who has studied the Myakka case, fully believes what was photographed is not a costume or a fake, or even an escaped zoo animal. He’s bent on finding the photographer, so he can figure out where the citing took place and examine it.
Barkasy is helping. He’s discovered that the photographs taken last fall were printed in December 2000 at the Eckerd photo lab at the intersection of Fruitville and Tuttle Roads. He wants to find the elderly woman who took the pictures, but who prefers to remain unknown because she doesn’t “want any fuss or people with guns traipsing around” her house.
It seems the legend of the foul-smelling primate will have to remain hidden a while longer, if not forever, without the help of people who’ve made contact with it. Barkasy believes the number of people who’ve seen this creature is actually greater than one would think.
“Working with animals I hear a lot of things. Cub scout leaders camping on the Manatee River have told me stories, so have hunters,” Barkasy said. “A lot of people have sightings, but they sit on them because they don’t want to look like idiots.”
Excerpts from the photographer’s anonymous letter sent to the Sheriff’s office:
“I heard the orangutan walk off into the brushes. It had an awful smell and was making deep “woomp” noises.”
“For two nights prior, it had been taking apples that my daughter brought down from up north off our back porch.”
“We live near I-75 and I’m afraid this orangutan could cause a serious accident if someone hit it.”
Myakka Investigation Update 25 August 2001
SARASOTA HERALD TRIBUNE [Manatee Edition] 25 August 2001
State officials trying to identify big cat. Myakka City, Florida
State Fish and Wildlife officers are trying to figure out what kind of big cat attacked a horse in Myakka City on Thursday.
Officers took a plaster cast of a cat’s paw print, left behind in the mud, Fish and Wildlife Officer Jeff Babauta said.
“It’s hard to say what it is right now,” Babauta said. “It’s definitely bigger than a bobcat. It could be a young panther. We don’t know right now. The print was not that great.”
The print will be analyzed by a Fish and Wildlife expert. A panther in this area would be a rare find. Babauta has never seen one in his in the area. A resident spotted the cat, but couldn’t say what it was, officials said.
The print will be analyzed by a Fish and Wildlife expert. A panther in this area would be a rare find. Babauta has never seen one in his in the area.
Copyright 2001-2002 Loren Coleman
Thanks to David Barkasy, Hawk Spearman, Rich La Monica, M.K. Davis, and David Bittner for photographic assistance, from which enhancements and analyses were done. Details and enlargements, analyses and the text are copyrighted. Please contact Loren Coleman for permission to reprint. Thank you.