What is the punkeys’ latest tactic? Become an economic drain to humans! Apparently in Plant City, FL (Occupied Territory) escaped monkeys are stealing feed and killing tractor batteries. From Tampa Bay Online:

Ray Clark first noticed corn vanishing at an alarming rate from deer feeders on his 600-acre Polk County ranch.

Then he discovered someone – or some thing – tampered with the switches and knobs on his tractors, draining the batteries on both.

The tiny footprints helped unravel the mystery. The remaining patas monkeys that escaped from nearby Safari Wild in April have turned to his property for a refuge from trappers, a reliable source of food and, it appears, a playground.

“You don’t think about monkeys in this part of Florida,” said Clark, a retired agriculture teacher from Plant City High School. “It’s really pretty funny, actually.”

Safari Wild owners Lex Salisbury and Stephen Wehrmann are hopeful the monkeys will all be captured, but state wildlife officials said the most elusive could become permanent residents of the area.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has ended its investigation of the monkey escape. Two warnings were issued to Safari Wild’s owners, but no fines, said Gary Morse, a fish and wildlife spokesman.

Morse said Thursday that warnings are a common punishment for first-time animal escapes, though he admits the monkey incident is unique.

About a month ago, Morse reviewed Safari Wild’s history and found no other animal escapes from the yet-to-open exotic-animal park.

The monkey escape led to particularly intense scrutiny of Salisbury, who is president and CEO of Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Salisbury is on paid leave from the zoo while auditors determine whether he inappropriately used the zoo’s staff, resources and animals for Safari Wild. Several zoo board members said they didn’t know Salisbury owned a private exotic-animal park until the media coverage of the fugitive primates.

Six months ago, 15 patas monkeys swam off a man-made island days after arriving at Safari Wild and bolted into nearby swamp and ranch land. Four adult monkeys and one baby remain on the loose.

The fish and wildlife officials have no role in trapping the monkeys and said it’s up to Safari Wild to round up the rest.

“They are very hard to capture,” Morse said. “Any little disturbance will cause them to flee.”

Scads of false reports have also complicated Safari Wild’s effort to capture the monkeys, Wehrmann said. Patas monkeys grow to about 10 pounds and are the fastest runners of any primate, reaching speeds of nearly 35 mph.

“People don’t know what they are,” said Wehrmann, a St. Petersburg veterinarian. “People think they are squirrels.”

Clark can vouch for their quickness and spooky nature. He’s never seen one closer than 100 yards. The slightest disturbance sends them bolting for safety.

He reported the monkey sightings to the fish and wildlife officers after going through several hundred pounds of corn in his deer feeders during the past few months.

“I don’t think they believed me,” Clark said. “No interest at all.”

So Clark installed game cameras near the deer feeders that are triggered by motion detectors. Hunters and wildlife aficionados use them to capture images of rare species.

It wasn’t long before he had dozens of photos of patas monkeys climbing all over the deer feeders and tinkering with the mechanism that releases the corn.

He was amazed how brazen and relaxed the animals appeared.

“They are smart, very smart,” Clark said.

And troublesome, too.

Clark tried to start his two tractors about three weeks ago and nothing happened. He jump-started one, and found it odd that the lights were on and the knobs were in strange positions.

The other tractor couldn’t be jump-started. It fired up after he installed new batteries that cost $180. Again, the lights were on and switches were in unusual settings.

He figured it out: the monkeys.

“It didn’t bother me too bad until I had to start buying batteries,” Clark said.

Around that time Clark’s 10-year-old grandson came up with a solution. The young sportsman wanted to shoot one of the monkeys and mount it in his bedroom.

No, let’s not do that, Clark told his grandson.

Clark has opted to coexist peacefully with the monkeys.

He’s not sure they’ll ever be captured and has become impressed with their craftiness. “They’ve kind of made themselves at home.”

Safari Wild staffers continue to lay out traps with food to capture the remaining primates.

Will it work? “I just don’t know,” Morse said.

Nothing will work against these punkeys. They are an unstoppable force waiting to erupt on the unsuspecting human population. Keep an eye out for them…if they can invade Florida, they’re already more dangerous than Cuba and the Russians ever were!

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