ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In the hours after a monkey on the lam fell into a woman's pool and then swiped some fruit from her backyard tree, fans of the wily primate cheered it for avoiding capture.
''Go little monkey, go! No cages for you,'' wrote a guy named Jack on the ''Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay'' Facebook fan page. There were more than 21,000 fans of the elusive monkey as of Wednesday morning.
''I sure hope 'they' don't catch you!'' wrote a woman named Kathleen. ''Why can't 'they' just leave you alone?''
The rhesus macaque monkey has avoided capture for nearly a year. Authorities don't know where the animal came from, but some believe it could have gotten separated from a troupe of wild monkeys in an Ocala-area state park, some 118 miles north of St. Petersburg. Another possibility: the animal could have escaped from an owner who doesn't have a permit and is therefore not registered with authorities.
The creature has captivated people in Tampa Bay and beyond -- possibly because of his ability to outwit the humans trying to catch him.
''It's something that you can kind of cheer for,'' said Amy Ellis, a Pasco County employee who has become a fan of the monkey on Facebook. ''Every day there's so much bad news. He's kind of like a little hero.''
The monkey was even featured two weeks ago on ''The Colbert Report'' with host Stephen Colbert poking fun at the creature, who has been shot numerous times with tranquilizers, apparently unfazed. One trapper claimed the monkey was becoming a ''drug addict'' because of all the shots.
''You took a monkey on the lam and put a monkey on his back,'' Colbert wisecracked.
Wildlife trapper Vernon Yates has tracked the monkey through three counties, and heard reports of it rummaging through trash bins, scaling the wall of an apartment complex and even hanging out by a pool behind a foreclosed home.