Mystery monkey captured in St. Petersburg

Tranquilizer dart slows monkey for trappers

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The mystery of Tampa Bay's mystery monkey has been solved, and the wild animal is now out of a St. Petersburg neighborhood and into a clinic in Safety Harbor for examination.

The monkey had successfully eluded Florida Fish and Wildlife officials and trappers for years.

After seeing a tranquilizer dart fired into the monkey, and then watching the animal carted away in a cage left Elizabeth Fowler tearing up.

"I was very emotional, and I started crying," Fowler said.  The resident of the Lake Maggiore neighborhood has a unique relationship with the monkey.  Several weeks ago she was bitten on the shoulder by the rhesus macaque, after she was startled when it climbed on her back.

"It was like somebody scaring somebody else," Fowler said.  "And we kind of went 'whaaa'!"  She felt guilty that the attack led to an intensive search and the eventual capture.

Fowler's granddaughter was among many in the neighborhood who was used to seeing the monkey scamper through the trees, into backyards, and sometimes onto porches.

"He'd sit back in the bushes and just eat a banana," said Sky Cowan, 8, who said the monkey wasn't afraid to get close to homes.  "He'd come up to the window," she said.

Veterinarian Don Woodman fired the tranquilizer gun that allowed Fish and Wildlife agents to catch the elusive primate. Woodman also gave the monkey a name:  Cornelius, for a character in the 'Planet of the Apes' movies.  

Cornelius was taken to the Animal Hospital of Northwood in Safety Harbor, where he'll undergo a physical examination and be quarantined for 30 days.  After that, a sanctuary with other rhesus macaque monkeys will likely adopt him.

The mystery monkey Facebook page had more than 86,000 likes as of Wednesday night.  Many people leaving comments complained that the monkey deserved to be left alone.  Others said they hoped he would have the chance for a better life.

For those St. Pete residents who became used to his antics, Cornelius was a novelty that won't soon be forgotten.

"We're going to miss him," Fowler said.  "But you know, he deserves to have a family, too."


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