Everyone is rapt with wonder at the so-called mystery monkey. You love it! You hate it! You have bananas ready for it! But pssst. Here's a secret. Local monkeys have been living on the lam for decades. The Internet whipped the latest from obscurity to folk hero status. But many came before it, old-school simians not afforded the luxury of a Facebook page and worldwide fandom. Here's a look back at Tampa Bay mystery monkeys of yore.
A monkey got out of a Largo pet shop and lived it up for four days at an apartment complex. Residents tried to lure it with bananas. The pet shop owner, Bob Longfellow, finally chased the monkey through the complex, grabbed it with a flying tackle and brought it back to the store. Not before giving it a scolding glare.
A yellow monkey leapt from roofs to trees in St. Petersburg until someone forked over a slice of bread smeared with peanut butter. But the wise monkey grabbed the bread and made a break for it. It posed for photos in a tree before running into a garage. The homeowner locked the garage and called an animal shelter.
Workers went to a Highland Avenue house in Clearwater to cut down a dying oak tree. They didn't expect to find a 2-foot spider monkey named Chico inside. Chico was not pleased. He ran to the roof of the family's birdhouse and hollered at the tree workers. Then he calmed down and settled into his teenage owner's lap for some petting.
An elderly woman felt a tiny hand on her foot as she checked her mail. It was a spider monkey she'd seen around before. "On my clothesline, on my car, on my jalousie door," she said. She called police, who traced the monkey back to a neighboring house. Its owner admitted to letting it out because it always came home.
Clearwater police officers spent more than an hour trying to capture an elusive monkey named Rumples (short for Rumpelstiltskin, natch). Rumples ran away from his home on Reynolds Street and jumped all over cars. Officers hog-tied the monkey, but Rumples broke free.
A monkey rampaged through a quiet Clearwater neighborhood, swinging through trees, running across roofs and yards for seven hours, evading police officers and dogcatchers. Animal control briefly caught the monkey, but it jumped out of the cage, hit a worker in the chest, climbed an 8-foot fence and got away.
A cinnamon ringtail monkey escaped from Tiki Gardens, ran down Gulf Boulevard, then went to the beach. Pursuers forced the monkey into the water and grabbed it. The monkey bit a man's finger and ran off again. Police eventually coaxed the monkey into a trash can and got it home safe, but the chomped guy had to get stitches.
Police called it a monkey. Witnesses called it a fox squirrel. "But he makes a very large squirrel," said one. The animal went into a Pasco County Winn-Dixie until employees chased it out. Then it tried an Eckerd drugstore and climbed into the shopping center's rafters. The next week, customers in Eckerd saw it staring into the window.
A Capuchin simian named J.J. climbed a tree in St. Petersburg's Yacht Club Estates and refused to come down. A man squirted a garden hose at him. A woman got it down for a second by flashing food. A veterinarian finally shot J.J. with a tranquilizer. Someone came forward with pictures of his pet and took it home.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857.