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Marauding macaque monkey a source of stress in central Japan

August 30, 2010 |  4:49 pm

Monkey Crossing TOKYO — Residents of neighboring resort towns in central Japan are waging a battle against a marauding monkey that has bitten dozens of people in the past few weeks -- and the monkey is winning.

Nearly 60 people in the towns of Mishima and Susono near the scenic Izu Peninsula and Mount Fuji have been chomped by the macaque since mid-August, mostly on the calves. Mishima now publishes a daily "biting monkey" alert on the town website, posting where the primate was most recently spotted and warning residents to keep doors and windows shut.

Fed up with the troublemaker, a group of about 130 officials -- including police and zookeepers -- conducted a massive monkey hunt Sunday in hopes of capturing the animal. Despite the show of force -- many came armed with binoculars, nets and tranquilizer guns -- the search was fruitless.

"We ended up not being able to catch a monkey, or find one, today," Susono town official Yuki Omori said.

He noted that no attacks have been reported since Friday, and officials suspect the monkey may have retreated to the wooded mountainside on the Mishima side, where it is believed to have come from.

"Local monkeys have caused crop damage in the past, but they are usually peaceful and never have attacked people," Omori said. "It must have come from outside the town."

Officials in Mishima are continuing their monkey watch and have set up traps in case the animal returns.

The monkey is a type of macaque that is one of the most common wild mammals in Japan and can reach nearly 3 feet (a meter) tall when standing on its hind legs.

The monkeys have for years been a nuisance in rural areas in Japan, where they damage crops and even steal food from grocery stalls. In recent years, they have occasionally been spotted in downtown Tokyo.

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-- Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press

Photo: A "monkey crossing" sign (not photographed in Japan). Credit: MacGuffin / Your Scene

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