Two reported sightings of a monkey jumping through tree canopies had police and animal control officers searching the city for signs of a wayward primate.
The search had been called off Tuesday evening without a monkey being found, but with officials still saying they believed reports were credible and under investigation.
“We’d take it seriously no matter what,” said Sarah Haywood, director of Bayou Animal Services. “We’re hoping it’s not a hoax, because that would be a severe waste of time.”
Authorities first received a report about a loose monkey on Monday evening near 24th Street and Bellaire Street, a residential street south of state Highway 6 and west of FM 646, police department spokesman Greg Boody said.
On Tuesday morning, the police department received a second report about a monkey sighting near the intersection of 19th Street and Avenue O, Boody said.
The two independent reports within the same general area made the sightings seem credible, Boody said.
Officials hadn’t personally seen any monkeys, however, he said.
Bayou Animal Services called people in the area known to own monkeys and other primates to confirm their animals were accounted for, Haywood said. It also enlisted a drone from the League City Police Department to help search tree tops for the animal, she said.
“We covered a lot of ground, but if it’s scared and hiding, we’re not finding it,” Haywood said.
As the first reports about the search spread just after noon Tuesday, officials found themselves trying to knock down or confirm rumors about the situation, Haywood said.
Officials do not know what kind of monkey they were looking for. While initial reports described it as a chimpanzee, which is an ape, not a monkey, Haywood thinks the animal might be smaller, such as a capuchin monkey.
“It’s not a chimp,” she said. “From what we know, it’s not a chimp.”
Police initially said officers had seen a video of the monkey, but later said they didn’t know the origin of the video.
One news website attached a stock video — file footage that’s not directly related to the story to which it’s attached — to its report of the monkey, which may have added to the confusion Tuesday afternoon.
Police and animal control officers also have reached out to people on Facebook who claimed, without evidence, to have been approached or attacked by a monkey. None of those people responded to the questions, Boody said.
The animal shelter urged people to stay calm and act responsibly if they do see a monkey.
“Do not approach, chase or try and catch a primate if you have sighted said loose monkey,” the shelter wrote in a Facebook post updating residents about the status of the search.
If people spot the monkey, they should take a picture of it and call animal control as soon as possible, the shelter wrote. A photograph will help authorities identify the animal and keep it safe if it needs to be tranquilized.
The shelter was working with experts from Texas Primate Owners United, an advocacy group, to help track and capture the animal, Haywood said.
If residents see searchers out looking for the monkey, the best thing they can do is stay out of the way, she said.
“Do not interfere,” the shelter wrote. “Do no attempt to help. They are professionals and know what they are doing.”