While you may have heard of the search for Bigfoot, have you heard of the Skunk Ape? Jack and Dave Shealy have devoted their lives to searching for Skunk Ape, a Bigfoot-like creature known for his apelike appearance and skunklike smell. The Shealy’s operate the headquarters and campground in Ochopee, FL. Their headquarters sees visitors every year from all over the country. It has been featured on Discovery channel, History channel, Animal Planet, The Smithsonian Magazine, and many more.
At the headquarters, you’ll find memorabilia and evidence they’ve collected over the years, including photographs and a plaster cast of the elusive beast’s footprint. The legend of Skunk Ape has a history hundreds of years old through stories passed down through generations of indigenous people and settlers in the Florida Everglades. Dave Shealy became devoted to following the legend in 1997 when he captured a photograph of the legendary creature that was spread virally in media around the world. Dave describes the creatures as six to seven feet tall and 350 to 450 pounds, and guesses that there are between seven and nine of them in the area.
The center has a small display in their headquarters of newspaper clippings of Dave’s interviews, prints of some of his photos, and a prized plaster cast of a Skunk Ape footprint. The site also hosts a number of exhibits including giant alligators, turtles, and one of the largest snakes in captivity in the world, which is a 350lb+ reticulated python named Goldie. There’s also a gift shop offering officially licensed Skunk ape merchandise and a variety of alligator products as well as local native crafts.
The HQ also serves as the office for the Trail Lakes Campground, where visitors can camp in their RVs or tent or stay in one of the chickee huts (thatched-roof dwellings built by local Miccosukee Native Americans) that overlook the surrounding swamp and grassland. There’s a number of events held throughout the year at the campground including the Everglades Skunk Ape Festival held every June with a Miss Skunk Ape contest and a “Skunktoberfest” in October.
Entrance fee to the center is $12 for adults and $6 for kids ages 4-12. Camping starts at $30 a night for a tent site and ranges to $179 for the Chickee huts. For more information on the Research Center and get tickets, visit their website. To book a campground, check out their campground website.
Find the Skunk Ape Headquarters at 40904 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL on the Trail Lakes Campground property.