It was supposed to be a normal Sunday bike ride. Then came the monkey.
Natani Daehne was on the ninth mile of her ride on the Pinellas Trail Sunday afternoon when a ball of fur flashed from behind a fence and beelined toward the bike path.
A group of handlers from the nearby Suncoast Primate Sanctuary, raising their nets and maybe a prayer, ran after the escaped animal.
Doing what most would do when a surprise monkey interrupts your weekend workout, Daehne started recording.
“A monkey escaped from the primate sanctuary, and they’re trying to round him up,” the 37-year-old narrates in the video sent to the Tampa Bay Times. In front of her, you can hear a handler yell, “Alright, just let him come this way!”
All efforts to capture the monkey were futile: At the end of the recording, the 6-pound, 30-year-old black-capped capuchin monkey, named Jack, darts into the bushes. Gone in an instant.
“Good luck, guys,” Daehne says.
Jack had escaped because of “human error,” according to Nancy Nagel, a Suncoast Primate Sanctuary board member. Handlers were trying to fetch something from his cage when their net got snagged on the wall. Seizing the opportunity, Jack slid out of the cage’s main door.
He spent the night in the wild, before handlers finally captured him Monday morning around 10 a.m., Nagel said. Another board member, Christy Holley, captured Jack with her hands and a towel a few feet from where he originally escaped. A bicyclist who had stopped their ride on the trail flagged the monkey’s handlers.
Wildlife experts with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were also on the scene Monday. Non-wild Monkeys can prey on Florida native species, or stress their populations by competing for the same food sources, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The Times had called Nagel two minutes after the capture was made.
“We got him back!” she said over the phone, panting. “He was close by, thank God. It’s a miracle!”
Jack was never a threat to other animals or humans, Nagel said. At six pounds, he’s fairly timid.
His fate was still unknown to Daehne when she ultimately turned around 20 minutes after filming her video on the trail Sunday, leaving behind any resolution on the runaway primate. When she heard the update Monday that he had been safely captured and returned to the sanctuary, she was elated.
“That’s good news!” she said in a phone interview. “Though I was kind of rooting for the little guy and his little adventure. But I’m glad he’s not roaming the neighborhoods or terrorizing any pets.”
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“A happy ending,” she said.