Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Behind a vow of silence, Mystery Monkey lives out his days in St. Petersburg neighborhood

ST. PETERSBURG — For much of past year, the monkey was unavoidable.

Tampa Bay's elusive rhesus macaque made headlines the world over, was featured on Comedy Central's Colbert Report, appeared in a National Geographic television special. He amassed more than 81,000 fans on Facebook.

But over the past six months … nothing.

Did he leave? Get hit by a car? Eaten by a coyote?

Actually, calls of monkey sightings are still pouring in to Vernon Yates, a local trapper who tried to capture the monkey for years. He knows exactly where the monkey is, but it seems no one wants him to do anything about it.

In fact, many insist he stay away.

Wildlife experts say the monkey, who appears to be a young male in good health, is most likely lonely and needs to be in a safe place with one or more female companions.

Instead, he continues to spend his days in solitude, living off of the kindness of neighbors who prefer to keep the monkey under wraps.

A couple of weeks ago, some guy called Yates to say he saw the monkey crossing the street. Yates asked for the address. The guy balked.

"He said, 'I'm not giving you my address,' " Yates said. "I said, 'Then why did you call me?' He said he just wanted to let me know the monkey was crossing the street."

Yates sighed.

"There's no end to it," he said.

• • •

The Facebook version of Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay, created by local entrepreneur Bill McArdle when the monkey was at his hottest, is a fun-loving character. He wears Photoshopped Tampa Bay Rays hats and cheers on the Lightning. He drinks banana daiquiris and, according to his bio, just wants "to be FREE!"

Yates and other state wildlife officials have long warned that feeding or housing the monkey is wrong, and that a life in captivity with other macaques would be much healthier than a life on the streets.

But it may be too late. The monkey has taken on a life of its own, whether it resembles the real monkey or not. And tens of thousands of fans around the world have bought into it.

"He was in my yard last night, and NO I'm not telling where I live," one fan wrote on the Mystery Monkey's wall. "I don't believe he should be caught … he doesn't hurt anyone or anything." The Monkey thanked her.

The Monkey, who is presumably McArdle behind the scenes, tells followers to go "easy on giving away the location, if you don't mind," and carries on an air of Florida sun, fun and freedom. Adoring fans delight in this, and those who have actually spotted the real monkey keep mum.

McArdle, who also sells Mystery Monkey T-shirts that partly benefit the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, did not return calls or e-mails about the monkey.

• • •

By all accounts over the past eight to 10 months, the monkey has been spending his time roaming between Coquina Key and the pink streets of southern St. Petersburg. One woman recently called Yates and reported seeing the monkey nightly in her yard.

She wanted the monkey to be captured and safe, Yates said, but wanted guarantees the monkey would not get hurt.

Yates couldn't guarantee that. He has hit the monkey with a tranquilizer dart before, which didn't work. He now has a different formula of tranquilizer, and with all drugs used on animals, there's always a risk.

"She didn't like that at all," Yates said. The woman declined to have Yates come out, and asked that he not report the sighting to the state wildlife commission or to anyone else.

Yates visits the area from time to time, tending to other wild animal calls.

"Any time I'm down there, believe me, my eyes are wide open," he said. "We still want him. Is there a massive monkey search going on? No. Are we still looking for him? Yes."

One Facebook fan who claimed the monkey visits her property from time to time wondered what would happen if he's never caught. Would the monkey die of loneliness, something the experts claim is possible?

The responses were a string of jokes and winks.

"He won't die of loneliness," one fan said. "He's got 81,000+ likes on his page!"

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Some experts say the so-called Mystery Monkey could perish from loneliness but his protectors aren’t buying it.

Photo courtesy of Rick Coffey

Some experts say the so-called Mystery Monkey could perish from loneliness but his protectors aren’t buying it.

Behind a vow of silence, Mystery Monkey lives out his days in St. Petersburg neighborhood 06/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2011 1:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.
  2. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  3. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

    World

    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    In their third year with pitching coach Neil Allen, the Twins have been one of the surprises of the American League.
  5. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond

    Crime

    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.