SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. - The elusive 'Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay' has been caught. We caught sight of him mid-afternoon Wednesday at the Animal Hospital of Northwood, where he was brought by the veterinarian who tranquilized him earlier.
It was shortly after 3:00 this afternoon, when we first got our at-long-last-look up close at the up-until-now elusive mystery monkey.
"There he is…" said Dr. Don Woodman,pushing the cage-on-a-cart contraption toward the eager eyes and lenses of Tampa Bay broadcasters gathered outside the clinic.
"He looks tired…" I offered, asking the first question amongst a group of gotta-get-the-facts journalists.
"He's sleeping it off."
For Dr. Woodman, who fired the tranquilizer dart that brought the on-the-lam primate down for awhile, it was the end of a long quest.
"We know he's been hanging around the Tampa area for roughly three years," he said. "We've been chancing him for three years."
"This is a pretty resourceful simian, isn't it?" I asked. "He is a very resourceful little monkey," replied the Veterinarian, "isn't he."
The now imprisoned primate looked sorta sad as his sedatives wore off, surrounded by the phalanx of photographers and reporters and even the steady stream of curious onlookers who came by -- once word of the capture spread. But rest assured animal lovers -- and followers of the "mystery monkey's" exploits -- this was the best possible outcome for all concerned. At least according to those who've kept up with the monkey's comings and goings since 2009.
"Dr. Woodman will now go through taking blood from him and testing him to try to make sure that he has noting contagious which will help the woman who was scratched at by him so that the whole problem of him jumping on her will be ended," said animal tracker and trapper Vernon Yates. "And at that point we're also gonna check him for any kind of microchips, tattoos or anything that may led that he belongs to somebody and then then he'll be held for 30 days roughly to make sure that no one claims him."
The animal expert continued, "At that point, we will then proceed to try to find him a home where he's gonna live."
"So the bottom line is that this monkey will not have to be put down?" I asked.
"There is no reason whatsoever to at this point," said Yates -- looking relieved. "Unless we find some highly bad contagious disease that he has that he would be put down."
The wild rhesus macaque has become famous in the Tampa Bay area. It has a Facebook page and has been featured on Comedy Central's Colbert Report. The elusive monkey has been spotted numerous times in the Tampa Bay area in recent years.
Officials have warned the public in the past against feeding the monkey. They believe the monkey was cast out of a colony in Silver Springs near Ocala.
"It was the best possible scenario," said the Dr. Woodman, referring to the capture of the monkey this afternoon -- and the hoped for return to a troop of other rhesus macaques.