Florida's Mystery Monkey in Custody After Years on the Lam

J.M.Garg/CC BY 3.0

Since he was first spotted in 2009, residents of Tampa Bay, Florida had nearly grown accustomed to sharing their city with one of the country's most famous animal outlaws -- a 'mystery monkey'. With a wrap-sheet as long as a banana leaf, this one rogue Rhesus macaque soon caught the attention of local wildlife authorities, though catching him in person proved almost impossible.

But now, after eluding authorities for years despite a string of brazen fruitbowl thefts, unlawful loitering, and most recently, nipping at a grandmother, the mystery monkey has finally been nabbed.

Although Rhesus macaques are native to Southeast Asia, a small colony has been living feral in central Florida since they were inadvertently released in the 1930s. The mystery monkey is thought to have originated from this group before setting out on his own towards Tampa Bay.

There, he found more than a touch of stardom, having been featured in a spot on The Colbert Report, and other media outlets. In fact, he has a Facebook page devoted to him, with more than 85 thousand fans.

But none of that could keep him from the grip of the relatively short arm of the law.

Earlier today, officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission were able to narrow in on the monkey in a wooded stretch of St. Petersburg. To lure him closer, they brought in another Rhesus named Doc, but the mystery monkey's curiosity hardly piqued. Then they laid traps baited with bananas, but he managed to steal them without getting caught, reports WTPS News:

In the end, it was patience and persistence that paid off. Wildlife officials tell CBS News they were able to finally nab the monkey after a three-hour stakeout near a wooded area in a south St. Pete neighborhood.

"We concealed ourselves in the area," said Baryl Martin, spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, "and we waited for the monkey to approach."

Then the monkey was shot with a tranquilizer dart.

With that, the mystery monkey's life on the lam came to a close. Although he's now destined to live out his years in the safety of an animal sanctuary, his prowess at mastering urban life won't soon be forgotten.

"In some ways I'll give him credit," said wildlife expert Vernon Yates, who aided in his capture. "He knows not to get up into power lines. He'll run to a road, he stops and looks both ways for traffic before he runs across it. This is one of the most intelligent monkeys that I think I have ever seen."

Tags: Animals | Florida

Best of TreeHugger