TAMPA, Fla. — In early January, the published photographs of a rather static Bigfoot-like creature half-submerged in the waters of a Florida swamp attracted the attention of millions of internet users. These pictures, image analysis experts suggested, had most likely been Photoshopped in a probable prank attempt. The popular story also prompted the interest of Tampa’s mayor Bob Buckhorn, publicly commenting on the subject.
On Monday, another Florida man contacted Cryptozoology News about a new sighting that had allegedly taken place at the same location, the Hillsborough County Lettuce Lake Park.
Matt M., a Wimauma resident who disclosed his full name but requested to remain anonymous, also provided an exclusive video taken with an iPhone 6 that contains what he reportedly saw Sunday, Jan. 25.
“I was canoeing some of the swamps around Lettuce Lake Park and saw what I thought was a bear,” the tree service worker said in an interview with Cryptozoology News. “I have been here before, but did not venture in the little side rivers. I’m just not looking for attention.”
The 42-second-video shows what looks like a dark, seemingly bipedal hominid-like silhouette wading the swamp as the men on the canoe paddle their way out of the area.
“It looked like a bear in color and texture but it had long, swinging arms,” said Matt. “I couldn’t see the face very well other than being hair covered. I didn’t get very close.”
Since the purported creature was in the water, says the videographer, he couldn’t estimate its height, but he believes the animal was “definitely hefty” and that it “seemed to lumber along”.
“We were there for a few minutes but didn’t film the whole time. It moved through very thick swamp with ease. I think it noticed us at the end when it walked into deeper water and disappeared. We paddled up and didn’t see anything. No sign of it. The water where it disappeared went from about 4 feet deep to about 10. My paddle couldn’t reach bottom with my arm fully extended.”
Matt says he doesn’t really know what it was, but that he “never put much faith in the old Skunk Ape legends”.
Also known as the Swamp Ape, the Florida Bigfoot or the Myakka Ape, the Skunk Ape is a primate cryptid reputed to inhabit the Sunshine State.
In 2000, two clear photographs of the purported creature were mailed to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department. A message was included in the mailed envelope to explain that the eyewitness had taken the picture in her own backyard and near the Myakka River. She claimed that the animal was attracted to the apples on her trees.
Bigfoot investigator AJ Marston theorizes that there’s a relationship between apples and Bigfoot.
In 2013, a man and his son said they were driving across the Myakka River State Park when they spotted a strange animal running across a field and were able to capture it on video.
In November 2014, a woman told BFRO investigator Jim Sherman that she had encountered a “Bigfoot” while driving on Florida State Road 72. The beast, she said, was as wide as her “momma’s dodge”.
Matt, who claims to have shown the footage to a park ranger, said he doesn’t believe it was someone playing a prank on him and his canoe companion.
“The park ranger said that bears don’t generally get into the swamp. She said she didn’t know what it was. If the sightings over the last few weeks are someone playing a prank, then they are either morons or completely insane. What I saw walked, swam and dove comfortably in an area where there are hundreds of 12-foot gators and water moccasins everywhere,” Matt said.
On a call to the Lettuce Lake Park staff, a park ranger told Cryptozoology News that they are “not allowed to talk about the park during winter time” and that we “need to understand this.”
But bears do get in the swamp, according to Harry W., a retired forest ranger Florida.
“No doubt about it. That is a Florida black bear,” he says about the video. “The way it stood up is just what a black bear would do. I’ve seen it many times. Their shoulders are lower and it can make their arms look longer.”
Further research confirmed Matt’s identity. Additionally, Cryptozoology News was able to obtain the coordinates for the exact location where the video was filmed.