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Mystery Monkey caught in St. Pete

From staff reports
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 07:08 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

The Mystery Monkey will roam free no more.

Wildlife officers and a local veterinarian used a tranquilizer gun to capture the rhesus macaque on Wednesday in the St. Petersburg neighborhood where the monkey's celebrity status had both aided him and made his capture inevitable.

"It was predictable that he was going to become emboldened," said Don Woodman, the Safety Harbor veterinarian who shot the monkey with a tranquilizer gun. "It was predictable that people were going to feed him. We did predict it. It was predictable that he was going to attack somebody."

No one knows exactly where and when the monkey first was sighted in and around St. Petersburg, but the search for him has been going on for about three years. The more the attempts failed, the more the monkey's fame grew.

A Facebook page popped up. The media became infatuated with the chase, delighting in each time the monkey outwitted its pursuers. The monkey's saga was featured on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report."

But as the monkey settled into a life in a quiet St. Petersburg neighborhood, residents began feeding it and treating it as more of a pet. The monkey began to become more aggressive and recently bit a woman.

On Wednesday, Woodman and several wildlife officers staked out an area in St. Petersburg's Lakewood Estates. They spotted the monkey, and Woodman shot it with a tranquilizer dart.

"I was worried because their last resort was going to be to put the monkey down; we didn't want to see that," said Betsy Fowler, the woman who was bitten by the monkey. "Because he is lonely."

The animal eventually will be placed permanently in some sort of animal rescue shelter, wildlife officials said.


News Channel 8 reporters Peter Bernard and Mark Douglas contributed to this report.

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