Tampa’s Defiant Fugitive Monkey

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If you liked Harrison Ford in “The Fugitive,” a few years back, here’s an real-life animal story that you’ll really love. For the past year or so, the Tampa “mystery monkey”—to be more specific, a mystery rhesus macaque–has been eluding animal control authorities and startling local homeowners by paying them surprise visits. This recent St. Petersburg Times article, for example, describes how a local woman, Renée Barth, was shocked to see the hirsute one-foot, eight-inch desperado open a screen door, walk in and swing onto a tree in her pool enclosure.

 “It was crazy,” said Barth, 40, who lives in the Tropical Shores neighborhood in southeastern St. Petersburg. “It was exciting.”

 Barth said the monkey “freaked out” a bit before he found his way out of the enclosure, banging the screen and even falling into the pool. Long after the monkey was gone, Barth checked other parts of her property. Some grapefruits were missing.

There have been multiple sightings of the mystery monkey in several nearby counties—he’s been spotted rummaging through trash bins, scaling the wall of an apartment complex and even hanging out by a pool behind a foreclosed home. Although his species is native to India and China, nbody knows where he came from, although this Washington Post article speculates that he is either an escaped pet or a refugee from a troupe of wild monkeys in a state park 118 miles north of St. Pete. One thing’s for sure: He’s been pretty smart about staying on the move to elude the wildlife authorities who say they have been trying to catch him for his own protection. He’s actually been shot numerous times with tranquillizers, which don’t seem to faze him. According to the Post, veteran wildlife trapper Vernon Yates has become an admirer of the wily creature’s survival skills.

 “He is an extremely intelligent monkey,” Yates said. “He is very, very street-wise. He knows to check traffic. He knows to look both ways so he doesn’t get hit by cars. He knows to stay out of power lines.”

The mystery monkey has become something of a folk hero—his Facebook page has attracted nearly 25,000 fans.

From Tampabay.com, here’s a video clip of an animal control official discussing the difficulties of catching the mystery monkey, featuring an unexpected cameo by the defiant little primate himself.

This isn’t the only monkey causing trouble. Nat Geo Wild’s Rebel Monkeys follows a gang of monkeys that rule a small town located in India. Rebel Monkeys premieres next Wednesday March 31 8P et/pt.