The Everglades Skunk Ape has gained world wide attention. Researchers from around the globe visit the Everglades hoping to get a glimpse of these magnificent creatures.
If you are traveling to south Florida by air, both Miami International and Fort Myers International Airport are in close proximity of the Everglades region and prime Skunk Ape habitat.
Check out Everglades City
Everglades City is also in close proximity to Skunk Ape habitat. There are several small hotels/motels for those seeking more modern accommodations. If your plans include exploring the 10,000 Islands of Everglades National Park, canoe and boat rentals are available in Everglades City. Back country camping is permitted in the National Park at designated sites only, reservations are required.
Explore the rural roads
Plan to explore rural roads. US Highway 41 crosses directly through the Everglades from east to west. This paved highway is recommended as there are multiple rural gravel roads that allow access into the interior of the Big Cypress National Preserve. Back country camping is allowed throughout the Preserve, however certain regulations apply.
Talk with the Locals
Take every opportunity to speak with the “locals” as this can be a good source of information. There are two tribes of Indians that live in the Everglades, Seminole and Miccosukee. These Indians consider Skunk Apes to be sacred animals. You may find these Indians reluctant to speak about Skunk Apes. In order to obtain any information from the Indians you must first gain their trust. This may be difficult.
Get a current map of the area
Another source of information can be found at the National Park Visitors Center. A map of the area can be obtained over the counter. The importance of a good map can not be over emphasized. In recent years many roads and trails that criss-cross the Everglades have been closed to vehicular traffic. Make sure your maps are current to avoid confusion.
Stay Safe and dress appropriately
Many potential dangers exist in the Everglades. Poisonous insects, plants and snakes are indigenous to the area. Loose fitting clothing is your best protection against poisonous plants and insects. Snake boots are a good idea but not essential. Your best defense against snakes is to keep a sharp eye. Summer months are wet, hot, muggy, and buggy. Winter months are drier, cooler, and breezy.
The Everglades is also home to the Florida panther, black bear and both the American alligator and the Florida crocodile. All of these species are protected. Alligators, although protected, are by no means endangered. Approximately one million alligators inhabit Florida swamplands. Alligators have accounted for many human deaths throughout Florida in recent years. Never enter an alligator’s cave in search of Skunk Apes. Not only could you be trapped by submerged roots and drown, you could also be bitten and possibly dismembered or killed. The best method for determining if Skunk Ape’s are frequenting an alligator cave is to look for tracks and droppings at the cave’s entrance. IMPORTANT NOTE: Poisonous snakes are frequently found in the vicinity of these watery depressions, USE CAUTION.
- Map of the Area
- Flare Gun/Whistle
- Flashlight/Strobe Light
- Snake Bite Kit
- Lima Beans (1 lb dry)
- Ladder Stand
- Leaf Rake
- Rope (30′)
- Personal Locating Device
- Plaster of Paris (5 lb)
- Bucket (5 gal. w/handle)
- Plenty of Water
- Magnifying Glass
- Insect Repellant
- Pocket Knife
- Survey Tape (2 rolls)
- Duct Tape (1 roll)
Ladder stands come in many varieties and can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. Be aware that comfort is very important. Ladder stands not only give an advantage of a better view, they also keep human scent up and away from wildlife. These stands are useful in keeping your feet dry and offer some protection from insects due to their height. In order to prevent injury, always wear a safety harness. Most modern ladder stands come equipped with this device. If not included, purchase one separately. Plan on spending many hours or days in your ladder stand using field glasses to scan the Everglades’ vast horizon.
Locating tracks in standing water is virtually impossible. The majority of the Everglades is flooded with water during the summer months. Under these conditions look for trails through parted grass. Fresh trails can be identified two ways. If a Skunk Ape has recently moved through, the water in the trail will appear muddy. The second way would be to scan the surface of the water for bubbles. For researchers arriving during these summer months locating high ground is difficult but not impossible. Pine lands and palmetto hammocks are slightly more elevated than the flat grasslands. The remainder of the year is considerably drier and allows for more opportunity to locate tracks.
Making a Plaster Cast
It takes approximately five pounds of plaster in order to cast a single track. Once you have located the tracks of a Skunk Ape they can be easily identified by their prominent four toes and rounded heel. Tracks range in size from 7-18 inches. Clear away any leaves that have fallen into the tracks. A stick border should be built around the tracks to prevent plaster run off. Using the five gallon bucket, mix plaster according to directions. It is very important to use fresh clean water. Never use brackish or salt water as this could cause the track to disintegrate over time. Allow plaster to harden for at least two hours. Use caution when lifting your cast. Suction occurs under certain conditions. Using a stick, clean the dirt out from around and beneath the track. This should cause the suction to break, allowing easy removal.