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COUNTY: Collier County
LOCATION DETAILS: South Florida, Everglades, near the area of the Dade County and Collier County line, between Big Cypress and Alligator Alley
OBSERVED: Several months after Hurricane Andrew struck south Florida, five friends and myself were on a hog hunting trip in an area just south east of the Big Cypress Indian Reservation. My friends had a camp there, along with other people who had been there for years. This area is a weekend get away spot were people go to hunt and camp. The area is very swampy and filled with many oak and cabbage palm hammocks and cypress heads. To get around the terrain you must have a four wheel drive swamp buggy with good clearance. On this particular day we had drove many hours in search of hog tracks. We used dogs to sniff out the hogs, by driving on the swamp buggy trails. I had noticed a certain trail that had not been used for quit some time and no visible buggy tracks. I came up to a big puddle in the road and notice that the animals in the area had been using it to drink from. I saw hog tracks, deer, turkey, raccons, birds. Noticing the hog tracks I drove completely around the pool of water to save this a as a marker to return later in the evening. Around midnight we drove two buggies into the area that I suspected hogs would be hiding from the midday sun. We drove all night crashing down palmetto bushes that had grown up in this area on the trails. During this time no other human sign had been observed until the next day. At the pool of water where I saw the animal sign I returned and found some strange tracks. I appeared to be human shaped, bipedal. One was very big and the other very small like a child's or possibly deformed. The tracks had a stride of approximately six feet, with a depth of two to three inches . I tried to imitate the step and stride and could not. I would fall over and barely broke the surface of the mud a half inch. When I stomped my foot into the mud I still could not reach the depth of the suspicious tracks. I went back to the camp and told my friends what I had found. We then returned to the location later that evening and to my amazement new tracks were found. The maker of the tracks had returned after my departure. It may be noted that myself and friends are veteran law enforcement officers who have seen it, done it and got a T-shirt . We don't believe what we hear and half of what we see. At this point we were very suspicious and concerned about what we had stirred up out of the swamp the night before. We had a 8 mm vhs camera and video taped the tracks and the comparison of our tracks. Three out of five of us believed that we had found the tracks of an escaped gorilla , being that the hurricane had damaged the Miami zoo and reports of escaped monkeys had been reported. Or the tracks of a skunk ape. Being police officers you don't run back to town and tell everyone that you saw skunk ape tracks while on a vacation. We left the area in amazement and discussed the possibilities of it being a skunk ape. While riding back to camp approximately 3 miles from the suspicious track location on a hard dry road bed we found another set of tracks. The track impressions were as deep as the ones found near the mud. At this time we were convinced that no human had made these tracks because of the lack of other vehicle tracks and the fact that someone walking 3 miles barefoot in this terrain with one bad foot was unlikely. We video taped this track spot as well. Upon returning home a couple of us were convinced that this needed further investigation. I spoke with some of the old timers that had hunted this part of the country and they laughed about my tale. Later in the spring I returned to the area to try to locate the tracks again so that I could take casts and photos if I found anything. The area was like what I had found prior to driving in the swamp months earlier, no tire tracks just the local inhabitants, hogs, deer ,turkey. These woods are thick and I do believe that an intelligent creature could sneak around undetected from civilized man. The land is rich with food and shelter. I have moved away from my home in the Glades and often wonder if I had scared a skunk ape from his hiding spot in that pristine oak hammock during the fall of 1993 or was it a prankster. We never told anyone out side our circle of friends and never read about mysterious tracks found in the Everglades and or spoke with anyone down there that might have seen the same tracks. I guess it will!
be my own little my life's mystery.
OTHER WITNESSES: hunting hogs and driving swamp buggies
ENVIRONMENT: swamp terrain with oak hammocks and cabbage palms