US police's hunt for escaped monkey evokes laughs

CLEVELAND - In an escape worthy of popular cartoon monkey "Curious George," police in Minerva Park, Ohio, have alerted the public to a simian on the loose.

First spotted by a police officer on Thursday in the heavily wooded Columbus suburb in central Ohio, the suspected "medium sized" howler monkey has evoked chuckles in the community while local and state officials search for an animal they suspect may have been someone's pet.

A Facebook post by the Minerva Park Police Department included a photo of a howler monkey with the explanation "the below photo has been picked by the witness as the monkey they saw."

One person responded with what he said was a sketch of the suspected owner, posting a cartoon picture of "the Man with the Yellow Hat," the anonymous owner of the popular monkey in the "Curious George" children's book series.

Another person expressed relief that the police had posted the monkey picture so he could "differentiate it from all the other monkeys on the loose in Minerva Park."

The monkey was seen again on Friday morning by a newspaper delivery man, Minerva Park Police Chief Kim Nuesse said. "He flagged down an officer and told him he had just almost run down a monkey."

Female howler monkeys can reach up to 20 pounds (9 kg) and males up to 40 pounds and they eat mostly leaves and live in the rain forests of South and Central America, said Tad Schoffner, curator of animals at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which has seven howler monkeys.

Schoffner worries about the monkey's survival given the cold weather, and even wonders if it is actually a spider monkey.