Monkey on the lam in east Tampa

TAMPA — A monkey on the loose near Rowlett Park got away clean Wednesday night, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials.

Investigators stopped searching for the member of the macaque family just after 5:30 p.m., after spending half the day trying to identify and catch the primate.

It was first spotted in a residential community near E Sligh Avenue and N 30th Street at 11:07 a.m., said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the agency.

The then unidentified animal had climbed high into a tree, startling neighbors.

Eleven months earlier, the wildlife commission had been searching for a rhesus macaque in Clearwater, and ended up having to suspend the hunt when tips from the public didn't turn up the monkey.

Officials said then that Clearwater's monkey, last spotted Jan. 14, "seemed very streetwise and apparently knows how to avoid people."

In Tampa, an expert climbed up a ladder and got a good look at the animal and determined it was a monkey in the macaque family, Morse said.

"We have no idea where it came from," he said.

Morse said it fled from the tree where it had been hiding, and is believed to be in the area of Rowlett Park.

It's unclear when the wildlife commission will suspend its search.

Morse said the animal poses a safety risk because monkeys can carry serious diseases. And if it is accustomed to humans, it might let a person get close enough to infect someone, which is why owners must have a permit to keep a monkey.

"We just hope we can chemically subdue the animal," he said.

The agency has been in contact with several permitted monkey owners in the area, and no one is claiming responsibility for the wandering primate.

Investigators will make a decision about continuing the search Thursday morning, Morse said.

Monkey on the lam in east Tampa 11/11/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2009 1:01pm]

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