ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- The Mystery Monkey's days may be numbered.
At about 40 pounds and less than 3 feet tall, the Mystery Monkey has stirred up a St. Petersburg community and gained national attention. He's become part of the neighborhood and some homeowners want him to stay, but is that what's best for the Mystery Monkey, who's not so much of a mystery anymore?
Saturday morning in the south St. Petersburg neighborhood the monkey frequents went on as usual, whether it was a day on the greens, a morning work out on the bike, or a walk with the dogs. But one resident preferred hiding in the woods.
"He's like the mask bandit you can't find," said golfer Bill Buttner.
Known as the "Mystery Monkey," the rhesus macaque has become more like a neighbor who drops by unexpected. "He's been on our roof couple of times, our lanai a couple of times, in the back yard. A year ago, he was on a window ledge peeking in," said Jerry Bishop.
"He's not threatening," said Buttner.
The monkey did not appear dangerous until he bit a homeowner on the shoulder, but was it an attack? Wildlife rescuer Vernon Yates said no. "I don't think it's fair to say it was an attack. The monkey got on her shoulder, she freaked, he freaked, they couldn't separate from each other," said Yates. "What it does prove is the monkey is becoming more socially accepting to people, which does create a bigger danger."
It's clear the monkey is being fed. Along the wooden fence where many golfers say they see him sitting, there are pieces of fresh half-eaten apples on the ground.
Traps with food have been set, but Yates said they don't work because people disturb them. The next step is a trap using a 1-year-old macaque as a lure. Yates is confident this will work "because he's socially starving for his own kind."
Yates believes people are the monkey's number one enemy right now. "For his own well-being, they need to not to make eye contact with him. They need to not feed him. They need to leave him alone," said Yates.
If you encounter the monkey, his behavior from showing teeth to lunging at you should not be thought of as playful, but a warning. "In his own language, it's him telling you to back off," said Yates.
If the monkey bites another person, Yates said the outcome will not be good. "At that point, he will become a public danger. No question he will be shot."
When the trap using the live monkey is set, Yates said it will be watched 24/7 to make sure no one tampers with it. Once the monkey is captured, he will be sent to one of two private wildlife rescue facilities.
Recent Mystery Monkey stories:
Mystery monkey attacks elderly woman
VIDEO: Mystery Monkey appears, attack victim speaks out
Trapping the Mystery Monkey
Mystery Monkey finds home in St. Pete
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