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Elusive wild monkey is spotted in St. Petersburg, chased by woman with banana

ST. PETERSBURG — The wild monkey that has captivated the Tampa Bay area for the last year or so has been seen zigzagging through St. Petersburg neighborhoods over the last few days.

Pam Gaylor, a Bahama Shores resident, spotted the monkey in her back yard about 11:30 a.m. Monday.

The primate, believed to be a young male rhesus macaque, darted across the grass on all fours, then went around to the side of her house, crossed Second Avenue S and climbed up a neighbor's banyan tree. Gaylor said the monkey was in her line of sight for at least two minutes.

"I grabbed a banana and went outside and was chasing after him," Gaylor said. "I thought he just looked like he needed food and I felt sorry for him."

Since late 2008, the monkey has been seen everywhere from Hudson to Temple Terrace to Clearwater to Gulfport. Officials believe the monkey came from the only known breeding ground for such monkeys in Silver Springs near Ocala. It most likely was picked on by larger monkeys and is now seeking a new group of monkey friends, which is what it would do in its native Asia.

Before the sighting Monday morning, the creature was spotted over the weekend in St. Petersburg's Pinellas Point pink streets.

Neighbors along the tree-lined streets reported seeing the monkey darting through yards and across roads. Seminole wildlife trapper Vernon Yates said he got calls Sunday afternoon from people saying the monkey was in mangroves near the southernmost tip of St. Petersburg. He did not try to trap the monkey.

"He's in a mangrove," Yates said. "It'd be a waste of time."

The monkey was also seen last week near 22nd Street and 54th Avenue S in St. Petersburg, sparking a media frenzy and a Facebook fan page supporting the primate's plight.

Scott Albee, who lives in the Pinellas Point neighborhood, said he got a frantic, breathless call at work Friday afternoon. His children, 7-year-old William and 6-year-old Lynne, were watching cartoons when they looked outside and saw the monkey sitting in a large oak tree in their yard.

"(William) said he saw the monkey and he was so excited, he thought his guts were going to bust out of his stomach," Albee said. "The kids bought into the hype last week, so they were already on heightened monkey alert."

Bahama Shores residents are on heightened monkey watch as well. Richard King, who lives a block from where it was sighted Monday morning, was out searching for signs of the creature in his neighborhood.

"I heard it was around here so I got my binoculars, got on my bike and went looking for it," King said.

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452 and Tania Karas can be reached at tkaras@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8707.

Seen the monkey?

Call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's toll-free hotline at 1-888-404-3922.

Elusive wild monkey is spotted in St. Petersburg, chased by woman with banana 03/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 8, 2010 9:33pm]
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