The 2001 Myakka Skunk Ape Photographs

One of the purported pictures of the Myakka skunk ape

One of the purported pictures of the Myakka skunk ape

In mid-February of 2001, a number of newspapers in Florida began publishing stories of an unnamed woman who had seen an unusual ape-like entity stealing apples off of her back porch, near the Myakka River in Sarasota County.  Apparently exasperated by the intrusions of this unusually nosy animal, she finally sent a letter, including photographs of the creature, to the local sheriff’s office.

The second included shot of the supposed skunk ape.

The second included shot of the supposed skunk ape.

According to a column written by Steve Otto of the Tampa Tribune, the letter, in part, read:

Enclosed please find some pictures I took. . . . My husband thinks it is an orangutan. Is someone missing an orangutan?

It is in a crouching position in the middle of standing up from where it was sitting. It froze as soon as the flash went off. . . . I heard the orangutan walk off into the brushes.

I judge it as being about six and a half to seven feet tall. As soon as I realized how close it was, I got back to the house.

It had an awful smell that lasted well after it had left my yard. The orangutan 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. It only came back one more night after that and took some apples that my husband left out in order to get a better look at it.

We got a dog back there now, and, as far as I can tell, it hasn't been back.

I don't want any fuss or people with guns traipsing around behind our house. At the very least, this animal belongs in a place like Busch Gardens.

Why haven't people been told that an animal this size is loose? . . . Please look after this situation. I don't want my backyard to turn into someone else's circus.

Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman had the photographs analyzed, and the creature captured on film had some structural similarities to an orangutan; although Coleman doesn’t necessarily believe that it is one.

“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,” wrote Coleman in his blog. “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.”

Not every cryptozoologist agreed on the veracity of the pictured skunk ape, and researcher Bobbie Short used her website Bigfoot Encounters as a platform to express her disbelief.

"...more than three veteran sasquatch investigators in Florida have investigated and determined that the Myakka photograph was a masked individual in a baggy-leg costume and deemed a hoax. The imagination of creative cryptozoology writers ran away with themselves on this one, it's wishful thinking, wholly a misidentification, a hoax, call it what you like -- there is no mysterious Myakka creature in Florida, there are no fossil records of apes in Florida. Apes are quadrupeds while the bigfoot aka sasquatch or skunk ape is a biped, classifying it a homin not a pongid. Even if there were feral or escaped apes from primate facilities or circuses managing to live off the fruitless Everglades, they are not related to Florida's hominoid upright walking, hairy creature," wrote Short.

"In addition, a May 2006 letter from Mitsuko Choden, primate specialist in Japan revealed the Myakka ape is a costume familiar to them in assorted colors, with plastic teeth molded in the fashion of the great apes. She went on to say the subject in the Myakka photograph expressed no body, arm or leg definition that would lend itself to the great apes."

And yet there are many who believe that the creature in question could be the legendary skunk ape.  Skunk ape sightings aren’t even that unusual in the area, as it turns out.  In an article from 2014, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that there had been at least a dozen sightings of the cryptid around the Myakka River from the 1960s into the 1980s.  Sightings in the area continue to this day, and so, too, persists the mystery of the Myakka skunk ape photos.