An animal authorities believe could be a howler monkey might be on the lam in northeast Columbus.

An animal authorities believe could be a howler monkey might be on the lam in northeast Columbus.

The animal -- first observed last week by a Minerva Park police officer -- might have been seen a third time the morning of Monday, Feb. 8, according to the Columbus Division of Police, but no other sightings were reported as of ThisWeek's press time Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Police spokeswoman Denise Alex-Bouzounis said Columbus officers responded to a call about an animal resembling a monkey in the 2000 block of Stonehenge Drive in northeast Columbus a little after 10:30 a.m. Feb. 8, but they found nothing on the scene. Stonehenge Drive is about a mile away from Minerva Park.

Alex-Bouzounis said the caller reported the creature ran into the woods.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture, which has been working to identify and catch the animal, set up trail cameras over the weekend but footage reviewed earlier this week revealed nothing out of the ordinary, according to ODA spokeswoman Erica Hawkins.

"We saw some squirrels and people," she said. "No monkeys."

Hawkins said ODA personnel would try to be "a good resource" for police and provide whatever services needed, including capturing the animal. As of Tuesday, Feb. 9, she said, ODA officials were waiting for further instructions from the police departments.

She said ODA personnel did some initial tracking Feb. 2 and 3, but didn't come up with anything, and no one from the ODA was trying to track the animal in the snow Feb. 9.

A recent photo taken by a resident didn't give a clear indication what the animal could be, Hawkins said.

Authorities have warned residents not to approach the animal and to call police at 614-525-3333 if it is spotted.

Minerva Park police Chief Kim Nuesse said no more sightings were reported in her village since a resident reported seeing a monkey near Valley and Minerva Lake roads Friday morning, Feb. 5.

"At this point, we have nothing more to go on," she said Feb. 9. "Friday morning was the last reported sighting.

"We are continuing to patrol and keep an eye out at the most likely locations. We are asking residents to call if they see anything."

According to Nuesse, a village officer was patrolling Lakewood Drive around 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, when he saw an animal that fit the description of a howler monkey.

"He was shocked by it," she said. "He thought it was strange and he pulled up to take a closer look and saw that it was a monkey. He got a good look at it before it fled and we didn't have any information on any exotic pet owners of monkeys in the area."

The department called Franklin County officials, who contacted the ODA, which is tasked with sending animal experts to help catch exotic animals on the loose.

"They didn't have anything in their database as far as registered monkey owners in the area," Nuesse said.

Although the officer did not immediately know what kind of monkey he had seen, Nuesse said, he was certain it was a monkey. She said police officials concluded it was a howler monkey after looking at pictures on the Internet.

Hawkins wasn't as sure.

"Howler monkeys are pretty rare in general," she said. "There are some monkeys that are more common, like a capuchin, and those don't have to be permitted. So there are likely more of them in the state than any other monkey."

Hawkins said the ODA has not recorded a confirmed case of a monkey loose in Ohio for years. Most calls, she said, are wrong.

"We do get a handful of calls a year throughout the state to go out and try and track down some animals that have been seen in the wild," she said. "It's pretty rare that anything comes of those. But there have been cases."

Nuesse said authorities do not believe residents are in danger unless they try to approach the animal.

"After talking with the ODA, we've concurred that the monkey fled, so it is afraid of humans," she said. "We don't think it's going to be a danger to someone unless they try to approach it and catch it. We don't know if it's somebody's pet that didn't register it or if it's been out here for a while. We just don't know."

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