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Mystery Monkey's snarky fan page a hit on Facebook

CLEARWATER - Bill McArdle was surfing social media sites March 3 and listening to a TV news report about a renegade rhesus macaque on the loose in the Tampa Bay area. "This monkey was pretty popular talk in the news and on Facebook, so I checked to see if anyone had set up a profile for him," said McArdle, 46. "No one had, so I made one." A few clicks later, the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay fan page was off and running. As of Monday, the page had more than 58,000 fans.
Authorities don't know where the fugitive monkey came from, but some think it could have gotten separated from a group of wild monkeys in a state park near Ocala. That's about 118 miles north of St. Petersburg, where it was last spotted March 21 swinging from a tree, falling into a pool and stealing grapefruit from Renee Barth's backyard. Among the facetious likes McArdle lists under personal information on the monkey's fan page are "swinging through the trees, messin' with the po-po (police), flinging feces and screeching at the top of my lungs." His snarky status updates during the past few weeks have attracted fans that grew first by the hundreds each day, then by the thousands. People from around the world interact with McArdle on the page as if he were, well, the monkey. "If you're passing through Georgia, stop by," Terry Deushane recently posted to the page. "We will buy you a beer and a banana." Things really took off after the page was mentioned on several national TV shows, including "The Colbert Report" and the "Today" show. McArdle, who owns a video and Web site production company in Clearwater, said he is shocked by the popularity of the fan page, but he's having a good time with it. "This is an absolute riot," McArdle said. McArdle is trying to make the most of the fan page's success. He's selling Mystery Monkey T-shirts for $18 and donating at least $5 from each shirt sale to the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor. "I'm not trying to get rich," he said. The man behind the monkey posts a quick status update every few days on Facebook and Twitter, where he has about 400 followers. The posts often take jabs at the monkey's nemesis, wildlife trapper Vernon Yates, who has popped the monkey twice with tranquilizer darts. Both times the animal managed to shrug off the sedatives and escape. Linda Adams wrote on the fan page wall Saturday, thanking McArdle for the effort. "My husband passed away Feb. 20," Adams wrote. "But we all need to have a little laughter in our life."

Reporter Laura Frazier can be reached at (813) 627-4767.

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