No pet macaques were reported missing around Tampa Bay — there wasn’t even anyone licensed to own one in the immediate area. Yates, who is called by the state wildlife agency to trap two or three monkeys a year, was struck by how “streetwise” this particular one seemed. Escaped pet monkeys tend to cower and stumble once they’re out in the unfamiliar urban environment, racing into traffic or frying themselves in power lines. But as Yates loaded a tranquilizer dart into his rifle, this animal jolted awake, swung out of the canopy and hit the ground running. It made for the neighboring office park, where it catapulted across a roof and reappeared, sitting smugly in another tree, only to vanish again. Yates was left dumbstruck, balancing at the top of a ladder. “There’s no way to describe how intelligent this thing is,” he told me recently.
He is a folk hero, a colorful visitor to the back patio, a recluse, a symbol of governmental over-reaction, a source of anxiety, an object of controversy. Is he better off living in the wild, or living in captivity with a female macaque? It’s an intriguing and offbeat story, related recently in an offbeat way by The New York Times. I hope the publicity does not hasten his demise.