It's a `jungle' out there

Monkey: A woman says a monkey bit her in a Columbia back yard. County officials are warning residents to avoid the animal.

June 01, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Curious George was a cute, fictional monkey who could never stay out of trouble with humans - but at least he didn't bite.

Debbie Frederick said she met a cute, real spider monkey in her sister's Columbia back yard yesterday, but it bit her after snatching a piece of bread from her hand, then ran screaming into nearby trees.

Frederick, 38, said she's staying with her sister's family for a few weeks until her new home in Pasadena is ready.

She was drinking coffee in the quiet, leafy back yard in the 9400 block of Old Man Court in Oakland Mills about 9 a.m. when she was startled by something screeching from the low branches of a nearby tree.

"There's all kind of birds here, but without my glasses I couldn't see what it was. It just looked like a furry ball," she said.

After retrieving her glasses and a piece of bread from the house, she returned to the yard and saw a small monkey, hair matted with leaves.

"By the time I realized what it was," she said, the 30-inch-tall monkey jumped down, ran over, grabbed the bread, and as she turned to look at it more closely, it bit her on the left upper leg and ran off. She and the monkey were both screaming by then, she said.

Frederick said she isn't sure if her skin was punctured, but she was bleeding under the skin and may have to get a series of rabies shots to guard against disease.

"I'm not Jane, and this ain't the jungle," she said. "I'm scared to death" about the possibility of getting rabies shots, she said before going to see a doctor yesterday.

She called Howard County police, and county animal control workers came to set a wire trap baited with food, but no one saw the monkey again yesterday, nor had they seen it before, she said.

"I want the kids to know," she said, worrying that her sister's three children, ages 3, 11 and 14, could be bitten by the monkey as they walk home from school.

Gilbert Myers, a senior animal keeper at the Baltimore Zoo's mammal house, said monkeys are social animals, and one separated from familiar surroundings and people would be very frightened.

"The animal is running scared," he said. Being primates, monkeys are also susceptible to many diseases that afflict humans, he said.

And although they are not naturally aggressive, a frightened, hungry animal could be a danger. Never offer food or approach such a monkey, Gilbert said. Avoid it and call authorities.

County police said anyone who sees the animal should call 410-313-2929, 410-313-3700, or Animal Control at 410-313-2780.

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