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Florida officials must stop the monkey business

A rhesus macaque monkey has been on the loose in the Tampa Bay area for more than a year now, and it is time for authorities to stop wasting energy and resources and call off the fruitless hunt.

The same pattern has repeated itself over and over: the monkey is sighted, authorities arrive and the monkey escapes. Meanwhile, hundreds of pictures have been taken of the elusive monkey swimming in pools, climbing on roofs and eating fruit.

The monkey’s ability to escape capture has earned it international popularity and made local and state wildlife officials the subject of mass ridicule.

Comedian Stephen Colbert highlighted the situation in his “Monkey on the Lam” segment of “The Colbert Report.” The monkey has more than 60,000 fans on Facebook, which has led to its own Web site selling “Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay” T-shirts.

Local wildlife trapper Vernon Yates, the Elmer Fudd to the monkey’s Bugs Bunny, wants the public to stop laughing and take this matter seriously.

“Yeah, wait until someone snaps a photo of the monkey eating a baby bald eagle,” Yates said on a Miami radio show. “We’ll see how people feel then.”

Lines like that will not convince the public to take the situation seriously, but there is a serious side to the issue. Countless hours and plenty of taxpayer dollars have been squandered on this wild monkey chase.

Yates said to 10 Connects News that tracking the monkey is getting to be expensive. “We’ve had sheriff’s department helicopters involved, financially there’s been thousands of dollars already spent on this thing.”

Yates has hit the monkey with tranquilizer darts several times, but it has proven surprisingly resistant to the drugs.

“We’ve increased the dosage every time that we’ve shot him,” Yates said to the Tampa Tribune. “What we’re really doing is turning him into a drug addict.”

Authorities need to cut their losses, give up the search and leave the monkey alone. If monkeys in Florida are such a problem, state wildlife officials may have better luck going after the hundreds of other wild simians living in the state.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are established populations of rhesus, vervet and squirrel monkeys in the state. Rhesus monkeys have been here since the 1930s.

Officials believe the mystery monkey may have come from Silver Springs, where the rhesus monkey population may be in the hundreds.

But it has yet to hurt anyone or eat any national icons, so the search needs to end.