An article published Dec. 17 1969 in the now-defunct Campbell River Courier describes the escapades of a ‘charming but timid’ monkey wearing a brown jacket. Image courtesy Museum at Campbell River

Fifty years of monkey escapades in B.C. city

At least two previous monkeys on the loose since 1969, including restaurant rampage

A stray monkey has been spotted in the streets of Campbell River in recent weeks. But it’s not the first time an escaped monkey has roamed the streets of the Island city.

There have been at least two previous cases of runaway monkeys, according to news archives and interviews with longtime residents. In one case in the 1970s, a monkey ran amok in a local restaurant. Another in 1969 involved a monkey dressed in a handsome brown jacket.

The latest monkey sighting was first reported by a taxi driver early on the morning of June 14.

READ MORE: Monkey spotted on late-night jaunt in Campbell River

Alyx Hazlett, a dispatcher, posted a note about the sighting that night on a local Facebook group for lost and found pets. The post generated dozens of comments as residents compared notes about the wayward monkey.

A few days later, on June 19, local resident Lillian Woods spotted a monkey and posted a note about it on Campbell River Rant, Rave and Randomness, a popular Facebook forum.

Story continues below image.

A capuchin monkey is shown in a 2016 file photo. Interviews and archives reveal at least three cases of escaped monkeys in Campbell River since 1969. Photo by Bob Brawdy/The Tri-City Herald via AP

She was driving home from work at around 9:15 p.m. when she saw what at first appeared to be an “odd-looking raccoon,” she said in a Facebook message to Black Press.

It crossed the street before scooting under a trailer and into a yard. Woods said she reported the encounter to the BC Conservation Office.

The animal, which she described as brown with a small head and long puffy tail, was clearly a monkey, even from a distance of about 50 feet, she said.

Coincidentally, a monkey escaped from her grandmother’s home decades earlier.

The late Marie Childs had several pet monkeys. And in the 1970s, one of those rhesus macaques escaped and went on a rampage.

Ringo on a rampage

Woods’ mother, Lillian Finch, 81, recalled the incident involving a monkey named Ringo in an interview.

“The monkey escaped and went all the way downtown, you know, swung himself downtown,” Finch said.

Ringo ended up at a restaurant that’s no longer in business, believed to be called Fred’s Fine Foods.

The monkey swung from the rafters and trashed the place before he was apprehended.

“He wrecked everything in there… grabbed people’s hats and grabbed the food off their plates,” Finch said. “He completely wrecked the place.”

Either the police or animal control officers eventually arrested him, Finch said, adding “my mom had to go and bail him out.”

Finch said the story was covered in the local press, including a photo of the monkey behind bars. It’s unclear what year the incident took place, posing a challenge for archival research.

She added that Ringo was “vicious” and described him as “like Curious George, only bad.”

No time for foolishness

At least one other runaway monkey previously made headlines in Campbell River. An article published Dec. 17. 1969 in the now-defunct Campbell River Courier describes the journey of a timid but charming monkey wearing a brown jacket.

His owner, identified only as Peter, lived in a cabin on a farm in North Campbell River. The monkey isn’t named in the article.

“Apparently, the monkey got out Wednesday night when the gale was blowing, and was scared and just took off,” the article says.

Peter had owned the monkey for about two years and was “quite distraught” after it went missing for a period of about 24 hours.

The article describes how a Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Coubrough encountered the well-dressed monkey around their home in the middle of the night, “but without the benefit of alcohol so they really knew they weren’t imagining it.” The monkey was chased away by their dog.

It later “took up residence in the porch of Mr. and Mrs. R. Milne,” where it was found by a schoolboy named Ted Milne. His mother reportedly disbelieved his claim that a monkey was on the porch, saying “I’ve no time for your foolishness this morning.”

The article continues: “However, there it was, curled up in a corner of the carport by the storm door. He turned out to be a charming little fellow, though rather timid, said Mrs. Milne. It stayed all day, and she fed it bread and milk.”

The monkey was apparently trained, and performed “a little act of climbing ladders and sitting on a bicycle and amusing the youngsters of the neighbourhood. It wasn’t too popular with the cat though.”

The monkey was reunited with his owner after departing for the now-shuttered Discovery Passage School, located about 100 yards away. Principal George Rennie “phoned around and finally located the monkey’s owner.”

READ MORE: Monkey escapes Vancouver Island animal sanctuary

Monkey mystery

As for Campbell River’s latest escaped monkey, conservation officers say that no sightings have been reported since mid-June.

One Facebook user claimed on social media that the monkey was his. In another post, he said the monkey was found. He didn’t reply to a Facebook message from Black Press.

The posts, including a photo of a small monkey, were later deleted. Woods said she believes the Facebook user is an Internet troll whose claims are fake, adding the monkey she saw was darker in colour than the one in the photo.

She urged anyone who sees the monkey to call the BC Conservation Officer Service using their 24-hour tipline at 1-877-952-7277.

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