Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Skunk Ape Hunt

In an earlier post I mentioned Adam Howe's difficulty with the Society for the Preservation of the North American Skunk Ape (SPNASA) and how the contretemps spurred me to look for skunk apes in my area, as Florida is ground zero for such cryptids.

However, after last weekend's events, I'm afraid I'm going to have to swear off such explorations for safety's sake. As a husband and father I have responsibilities, and I can't just risk my neck the way I used to as a young man.  Let me tell you what happened.

Recent rains had brought a relative coolness to the weather (high 70's instead of high 80's, but you take what you can get out here), so when my wife and son went on a neighborhood bike ride, I drove into the swamps to catch another glimpse of the elusive Florida skunk ape.  I had no desire to capture or hunt one, mind: simply to see it and get further photographic evidence of its presence in my part of the state.  So, with my trusty cell phone camera and bottle of Zephyrhills Spring Water, I parked the car on a fairly dry patch of ground near an overgrown trail and went exploring.

While I didn't get lost, exactly, I will admit that after an hour of wandering the swamps I couldn't find my car again.  I had taken a picture of where I'd parked (a trick I learned from parking at the airport so often: if you photograph where your car is, you don't have to remember after your trip where you parked it), but getting to where the terrain resembled the picture presented some difficulty.  As the afternoon shadows lengthened toward evening, my concern became anxiety.  Wasn't this the grove of palms where I left the car?  No.  Not even tire tracks.  Damn it.  Was I going to have to call 911?  How embarrassing would that be, to call for help?

And that's when I smelled it.  Not quite feces, exactly.  Not quite gone-over tomatoes.  Not quite the buildup of bodily fluids on a hairy, unwashed animal, but something that combined all three into a stench that had me gagging.

I hadn't found a skunk ape: one had found me.

Panicking, I made my stumbling way across pools of slimy algae and sunken mangrove roots, frantically looking between the picture on my phone and my surroundings.  Where was my car?  Where was it?  If the skunk ape was following me I didn't hear it over my own labored breathing.  My car had to be somewhere here.  It had to.

Something in the trees above uttered a low, hollow grunt.  It was followed by a shriek and another grunt.  Were there two of them?

I reached into my pocket to hit the panic button on my keychain, and to my relief, my car's horn blasted across the swamp in staccato bursts.  There!  I must have passed by it at least twice, judging from the footprints.  Why hadn't I seen it before?

The alarm didn't put off my pursuers.  In fact, it incensed them: they shrieked louder.  Nevertheless, emboldened by the proximity of a safe haven, I spun, took a few hurried pictures behind me, and hauled the car door open.

I was on the road a few minutes later with the air conditioning on full blast and my hands shaking from the adrenaline dump.  The only picture that came out is a bit blurry, but it very clearly shows one of the creatures chasing me; I've circled the relevant part on the photo.

So I'm done with skunk apes for the time being.  Best to let the experts deal with them.

In fact, the safest and best thing to do is get Adam Howe's Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, an excellent anthology of three novellas that includes Damn Dirty Apes, a hilarious story of skunk apes, redemption, and the desire for fame.

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