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COUNTY: Polk County
NEAREST TOWN: Brewster
NEAREST ROAD: Hwy 37
OBSERVED: Just watched a TV show which made reference to the Skunk Ape/Bigfoot of Florida. As I have seen one, I was interested in learning if other sightings had occurred in the same area. While searching for this info, I came across your web site.
Even though my sighting was 30 years ago, I remember every detail as if it were yesterday. It was early morning (8-ish) New Years day 1978. My sister had picked me up at the Tampa ariport the day before. I was home on leave from the Army. We had spent the evening with friends in Lakeland and set out (6:30-ish) for Ona.
We were driving south on Hwy 37 and had just started across a bridge over the Alafia River. In the passenger seat I had a clear view of the river. On the south side of the river, squatting at the edge of the water was a large dark haired skunk ape. He was splashing water over his shoulder. I yelled for my sister to stop the car as I opened the door to jump out. I ran to the bridge rail. He looked up at me. His features were more human than ape like. He stood up, seeming not afraid at all, looked at me for a moment and then turned and climbed up the bank into the woods. My sister saw him as he entered the woods and was concerned he would come onto the road after us, so we returned to the car and left.
He was big, well over six feet, had a massive chest and arms, and was covered in shaggy dark hair. His face was not as hairy as his body. I did not feel threathened at all.
OTHER WITNESSES: one
TIME AND CONDITIONS: Around 8 o'clock in morning
it was a bright, clear day
ENVIRONMENT: Rural, wooded area with small flowing river
Follow-up investigation report by BFRO Investigator Caroline Curtis:
This area was rural and in phosphate mining territory. Close by were agricultural fields, nurseries and railroad tracks. Both feet were in the S. Prong Alafia River when it was splashing and she thought it was possibly bathing. The witness has read gorilla or ape-like descriptions in reports but when it made eye contact with her she saw a very human-like face. Lighter colored skin was seen thru the dark brown/black hair, especially on the chest. The body was muscular, shoulders and chest were "massive" and it had a thin waistline. Descending from generations of central Floridians, she grew up hearing stories of the skunk ape.
I went to the bridge despite thirty years have passed. We take this now very busy SR37 south to the beach and I wanted to take a look. The steel guard rails on the bridge she remembered looking thru and holding on to have been replaced with concrete barrier rails.
About BFRO Investigator Caroline Curtis:
- Worked as an Assistant to a Circuit Court Judge in Florida for thirteen years
- An avid outdoorswoman, growing up in the UP of Michigan on a family-owned fishing and hunting resort. Currently lives in the Hiawatha National Forest
- Certified Visual Tracker, Level 1
- Attended and assisted with numerous public and private BFRO expeditions
- She and the Florida BFRO organized South Florida Expedition 2008, North Florida Expedition 2008 and Central Florida Expedition in 2009.
- She and the Michigan BFRO organized the Lower-Michigan Expedition in 2011, Michigan UP Expeditions in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018 and Wisconsin 2018.