PALMETTO -- Where is Palmetto's mysterious monkey?
Palmetto city government officials and Palmetto Police Department officers said Tuesday they had no idea as to the whereabouts of the roughly 70-pound monkey reportedly sighted several times in the Palmetto area, including Snead Island.
A visit to the lush tropical backyard of Dave and Sue Hecker, who live on the corner of Fourth Street West and 12th Avenue West in Palmetto, where the monkey was reportedly seen last week, didn't turn up a sign of the mysterious primate the Heckers have named "George."
"I think it's moved on," Dave Hecker said of the monkey, which his wife saw sitting on a branch near their swimming pool. "My guess is that it's probably a couple of miles from here."
Sue Hecker saw the monkey when she was on the telephone.
"Dave, there's a monkey in our yard!" she yelled to her husband.
"I didn't see it at first because of the camouflage of all our trees," Dave Hecker said Tuesday. "But then it moved and I saw it. It began to run as I went outside."
Dave Hecker described the monkey as brown and standing about 3-feet tall. He said it could be a macaque, but he is not sure.
"It was not little," Dave Hecker said, using his hands to describe the animal he saw.
The monkey is causing quite a bit of buzz in Pal
metto. City Hall officials said they have heard of it but there have been no recent sightings.
Palmetto's code enforcement officer, Mike Williamson, did see the monkey last week, according to Palmetto officials.
Monkeys are not mentioned in the city codes specifically, but livestock, including swine and goats, are not allowed in city limits.
Sophie Hecker, 9, the Hecker's youngest child, had two friends over Tuesday on a no-school day: Olivia Husnick, 10, and Emily Urban, 10. Their monkey search in the backyard proved fruitless, but the girls did have fun on a rope jungle gym. "He would have lots of places to play here," Emily said of "George."
The Heckers' yard is packed with 100-year-old vegetation, including African and royal palm trees, a tree fort, rope jungle gym and a zipline through lush trees.
Dave Hecker, a stay-home dad for daughters Sophie, and Anne, 11, and son, Adam, 14, built all the playthings. Sue Hecker works at a law office.
Dave Hecker thinks the monkey got the message to leave after authorities with the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission came to trap it.
He thinks monkeys will not stay in one place if there is any tension.
"I think they probably won't catch it," Dave Hecker said. "Just as well. I just hope it finds another monkey. I think it will keep moving until it finds another primate.
"No one has claimed it as a pet, which doesn't surprise me," Hecker said. "No one wants to have the liability of a monkey on the loose."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.