There's a monkey on the loose who has dodged trappers, crossed county lines and appears to have traveled up to 30 miles in just one week.
A rhesus macaque, native to Asia, was spotted last week along the Pasco County coast. It was seen near Aripeka and by Hudson Beach, hanging out Oct. 26 along the residential boat docks, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Then the new Mystery Monkey was spotted the next day across the Pasco-Pinellas county line, in a subdivision in Palm Harbor.
That should sound familiar to Tampa Bay residents. Cornelius the first Mystery Monkey once led wildlife officers on a 4-year hunt.
Cornelius spent years on the lam, building a social media fan base and infuriating trappers again and again before he was finally captured on Oct. 24, 2012 — four years to the week of this most recent sighting. That was also a presidential election year, by the way.
So is this Mystery Monkey: The Sequel? FWC officers believe the monkey spotted in Pasco County and then in Pinellas County are one and the same.
Last week, when Hudson Beach's Rick Akins spotted the monkey-that-will-be-named later, he thought it was a big cat sitting on a seawall near his dock.
"As soon as it started walking," he said, "I realized it was a monkey."
The monkey kept testing the water, Akins said, then finally leaped in for a swim. He saw it swimming south. Days later, a monkey was spotted in Palm Harbor.
"He was on a mission," Akins, 62, said.
Wildlife officers are still investigating where this new monkey came from, said FWC spokesman Rob Klepper. "That's one of the things we hope to determine when we capture it," he said.
Officials believe Cornelius was forced out of a colony of monkeys in Silver Springs, near Ocala, before he became a local legend. Now he lives in Dade City's Wild Things zoo, where he settled down and became a father.
Rhesus macaques are medium-sized monkeys, typically about 1½-feet tall weighing 12 to 17 pounds. And what if anyone should spot such a monkey roaming around Tampa Bay?
"Do not approach it, do not feed it and call us," said Klepper. "Those are the top three things."
When asked what he'd name the new monkey (if given the opportunity), Akins suggested "Nasdaq."
"Like the stock market," he said. "Because he keeps getting lucky."
Contact Sara DiNatale at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @sara_dinatale.