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Mystery Monkey caught in St. Pete

News Channel 8
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 07:02 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 eventual 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 was first 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 and became a huge hit. 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 the animal and treating it as more of a pet. The monkey began to become more aggressive, lunging at people and showing its teeth.

Recently, it jumped on a woman and bit her back, causing her to have to undergo a painful series of rabies shots.

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

The monkey woke up in a veterinarian's office. Veterinary workers checked out the monkey's health, which seemed to be fine.

Betsy Fowler is the woman who was bitten by the monkey. She said she holds no anger toward the animal and is just glad it is safe.

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

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

"Any place willing and able to take care of the animal," said Baryl Martin, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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