A male skunk ape footprint casting, left, and female casting.

LAKELAND – They’re known around the globe by a variety of names – Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Grassman, Momo, Honey Island Swamp Monster and others.

But in the Sunshine State, they’re known as Skunk Apes, one of the various groups of ape-like creatures that purportedly inhabit the forests of North America. 

Whether these subspecies of hominids actually roam the fragmented segments of the few wild lands left in Florida or whether they’re just funky Florida folklore has yet to be positively determined. But the possibility will be thoroughly discussed in the first Great Florida Bigfoot Conference on Saturday in Lakeland.

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From 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the RP Funding Center’s Youkey Theatre, Skunk Ape experts, cryptozoologists, investigators, myth-busters and Bigfoot-related vendors will gather in a day of discussion and panels. The focus will be on Bigfoot, but more specifically, the elusive Florida Skunk Ape.

Martin Pippin, Great Florida Bigfoot Conference organizer, has promoted the event since 2017. By phone en route to Lakeland from his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, he said the conference would encompass all genetic branches of Bigfoot.

“Well, that’s why we always have fun at these events,” Pippin said. “We’ll find a certain number of people who swear up and down the different Bigfoot branches have absolutely no relationship, are completely different paths. The others say they’re variations of the same creature.”

In Florida, there is no definitive statistics on Skunk Ape sightings, but The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization lists 332 Skunk Ape sightings in Florida, most recently in January. Pippin said that number may have risen to about 350 by now. And of those, Polk County has 30, most recently in August 2017, when a “large brown figure was seen standing in water near Lake Wales.” In spring 1995, there was a “possible daylight sighting by fisherman near Bartow.”