Where Did the Monkeys Go?!

12 Apr

A couple of days ago, Cincinnati Police received several 911 calls about monkeys loose in an area just northwest of downtown. No monkeys were found. So what was moving so fast? And why did local residents think they were monkeys?

Cincinnati, being at the edge of what we call “the South,” is not known for its monkey population. Before I get too snarky, the Cincinnati Zoo is not far from the area that the police got a call in from. Or there are several yahoos who probably own monkeys in Cincy… whether legally or illegally. Just being in an urban area is not necessarily a disqualification. The monkeys of Delhi are very adept at living off humans–just trying to get a burger at McDonalds in Connaught Place can be tricky. So what was the culprit?

The best guess anyone can come up with is wild turkeys. Now I could go many directions with this post, humorous with some reference to Wild Turkey Whiskey, or historical with Ben Franklin’s suggestion that it, and not the bald eagle, should be the national symbol. (The actual story is more complicated.) But let’s go with the fact–that I didn’t know until today–that wild turkeys nest in trees.

We’re so used to thinking of turkeys as these large ponderous birds that can fly, but not very far, because their bulk makes that difficulty. The problem is that those are domesticated turkeys. Wild turkeys are leaner, meaner, and… well, they’re big birds, well-adapted to the ground for feeding, but can still fly. So of course they would be nesting in trees. However, at night, if you’re walking your dog next to the woods near a cemetery, you don’t know what the heck those crawling things going up and down the tree is. My mind would probably jump to monkey first, and try to figure out how you got a monkey in Cincinnati second.

There’s actually footage of this that some people took and… yeah, in the dark, zoomed in on a phone camera, with this strange hissing noise, that’s a frickin’ monkey. Three reporters who did their homework on this story actually figured out that the Ohio Department of Agriculture says you can legally own marmosets, capuchins, lemurs, and squirrel monkeys… just don’t breed them and have adequate housing.

So why does the average Cincinnatian think monkeys first and wild turkeys a far, far second? Simple–they have more experience with the monkeys. Considering wild turkeys are native to that part of Ohio, that shouldn’t be the case, but as city dwellers, we are divorced from our environment. I used to live in Cincinnati, so I’m a lot more forgiving of my former neighbors than most. Now I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and just outside my window, I’m seeing trees and grass and hearing the honking of Canadian geese. Apart from the fact that it’s 70 degrees at 7 am in April, there’s no reason I couldn’t see the same thing out my window in Ohio. The sheer amount of trees and grass create this illusion of the transplanted Midwest (this was done on purpose). But all I have to drive up 15 minutes to South Mountain park and… deep desert, geckos, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll see a coyote. Then I remember… oh, yeah, I live in a desert. Water has to be drained from the rest of the state (and several other states) to create this little oasis.

Coyotes are very clever and have adapted to urban life well, but wild turkeys? They prefer to stay on the margins–in forested areas–and in Ohio, there’s a lot less of them than they’re used to be. So when we create these parks that have more trees than most of the surrounding farmland, yeah, those turkeys are going to plop there. My son has more experience reading Curious George than hunting wild turkeys. People saw monkeys because (they think) they know monkeys, whereas they don’t know turkeys. It’s a perception problem, not an optical illusion.

On a side note I should explore later, I lived in India for three years, and I can tell you from personal experience that monkeys are not cute. They are mean pack animals that will run you down in the market for your ice cream. However, your mileage may vary–what’s your experience with monkeys? Have you see an alien in the distance and it turned out to be a deer? Let me know in the comments below! And if you want a weirder story, check our my books. However, if $1.99 is too weird, go ahead and download one of my stories for free, that should just be weird enough. 🙂

One Response to “Where Did the Monkeys Go?!”

  1. rebecca s revels April 12, 2021 at 7:13 am #

    I have no personal experience with monkeys, but my personal opinion, for what that’s worth, is that all wild animals should remain in their habitat, in the wild.

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