OWENTON, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources officers are trying to figure out how a capuchin monkey got to someone’s home in Owen County, Kentucky.
A family in Owenton, Kentucky, said they noticed the monkey on their back deck on Sunday.
“It’s unusual. On the list of animals you may find under a porch, a capuchin monkey is probably not going to come first to mind,” Kevin Kelly, the chief communications officer with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said.
Conservation officers received a report the monkey was underneath a family’s porch at their house. Audrey Lewis’ grandfather was the first to notice the monkey on Sunday.
“I was sitting at home with my dad and my grandfather calls him and says I’m not sure how to tell you this but there’s a monkey on my porch,” Lewis said. “And we both just start laughing with eachother like okay whatever you say go put your glasses on. We thought he was joking with us or something.”
Her grandfather wasn’t joking. He called other family members and told them the same thing. Lewis said she finally went over to his house on Monday afternoon with her mom to check on him.
“So I was sitting with my back to the porch and [my mom] was standing across from me looking out the window. And all of a sudden her face just goes white and she her eyes get huge and she’s like ‘oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.’ I’m freaking out like what the matter? Is there something on me? And she’s like ‘no there it is!’ And we turn around and the little monkey ran up and was just looking in the window at us. And he was real! We were like you’re not crazy, we believe you. There was a monkey.”
The family, unsure of where the monkey came from, started leaving food on the back deck for the monkey, anything from crackers to cookies to peanuts.
“I tossed some crackers out on the porch,” Lewis recalled. “He came up and eats them looking at us.”
They tried to put food in a kennel on the patio to get the monkey inside to able to turn it over to conservation officers.
“[The monkey] was very smart,” Lewis said. “He would go in the kennel and he would sit and eat but his eyes were on us the entire time. If we opened the [back] door, he would run out of the kennel. He knew.”
In a short amount of time, the monkey started to cling to Lewis, wanting her to stay outside and play.
“We were pals,” she said. “He would climb on me. He was picking stuff off my sleeves and playing with my jeans. He was super super friendly.”
Lewis showed WAVE 3 News several videos of the monkey sitting in her lap. She said managed to get the monkey inside a blanket and put the primate in the kennel.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officers picked up the monkey and took it to the Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville.
Lewis said it’s all still so bizarre. Growing up in the small town of Owenton, Kentucky, it’s not unusual to see wildlife, she said. The town and the county are known for their rolling hills, deer hunting and being outdoors.
“Definitely lots of outdoor activities: hunting, fishing, kayaking, people are constantly outside,” Lewis said.
Owen County ranks third in the Bluegrass region of the state for deer harvest, according to Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife data.
“Our woods are pretty well traveled which is why it was sort of like where did this monkey come from? Because nobody had seen him before,” Lewis said.
In the state of Kentucky, it’s illegal to have a primate as a pet.
“Kentucky primates are considered inherently dangerous wildlife, so it’s illegal to import or possess monkeys or any primates here in the commonwealth,” Kelly said.
The Lewis family noticed the monkey had a collar/harness on.
“Which begged the question again where did this monkey come from? Why is he here?” Lewis said.
Lewis said when she tried to touch the harness, the monkey wouldn’t let her.
Conservation officers are now trying to figure out where the monkey came from.
“In this instance, officers are still investigating,” Kelly said. “We don’t know how how the animal got to his home in Owen County. We’re looking into who owned it, where it might have come from. These are all things our officers are interested in. If anybody has any information about where this monkey might have come from, how it got to Owen County, we’re certainly interested in that.”
The monkey is now at the Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, where it will stay for life.
The center’s executive director Eileen Dallaire said she believes the monkey is a female and is only about a year old.
“At this point in her life in the wild she would still be clinging to her monkey mama and not trailing far from her,” Daillaire said. “It’s so important and so vital for [the monkeys] to stay with their mothers and stay where they are supposed to be. And as much as might want to or think they are adorable, in the end it’s actually not what’s best for them.”
The Primate Rescue Center is a nonprofit organization that provides lifetime care to primates who have been rescued by biomedical research institutions and the pet trade.
“We work to not only provide that lifetime came but to create an environment for them where it’s just more suitable to what their needs to versus a home environment where most of their needs cannot be met even by the most well-intentioned individuals,” Daillaire said.
The rescue center has not named the monkey found in Owenton, yet. Their focus right now is making sure she’s comfortable and giving her the best life they can.
“She a little bit skinny so our focus is all about her,” Daillaire said. “It’s not about anything other than what she needs and what’s best for her.”