Thursday, July 03, 2008

Moe's Tracks May Have Been Spotted

moe chimpMoe the chimp's trek through the wilderness might have brought him into contact with bears, rattlesnakes and nudists.

Four volunteer firefighters searching for the missing primate quite possibly encountered the chimpanzee's tracks near where the bears were sighted Saturday, officials said Wednesday.

"Right now we're trying to decide whether or not to bring in dogs," said Michael McCasland, a spokesman for Moe's owners, LaDonna and St. James Davis. "But the problem is whether handlers are willing to put their dogs at risk. The area is inundated with poisonous snakes."

Moe escaped from his locked cage at Animal Exotics - a company that supplies the entertainment industry with exotic animals - Friday afternoon and has not been heard from since.

The Davises kept the chimpanzee at their West Covina home for decades, but city officials eventually forced them to relocate the animal.

One of the top dangers posed to Moe comes from poisonous snakes.

"There are poisonous snakes, coyotes, mountain lions and bears that could pose a potential threat," Brian Cronin, division chief for San Bernardino County Animal Care and Control, said.

Moe might have encountered a family of bears that a helicopter pilot reported spotting while searching for the missing chimpanzee. They've also seen a bobcat.

In the five days that have passed since Moe went missing, searchers have yet to find any unequivocal evidence that Moe remains in the area.

"Friday, I was told he was seen down at the nudist colony," McCasland said.

However, Deer Park Nudist Resort Office Manager Lea Bush said she had not heard anything about Moe roaming the grounds. The camp has been at the same site since 1935 and has about 60 residents throughout the year and no chimp sightings in its history.

Fifteen animal handlers have been scouring the San Bernardino National Forest day and night in hopes of locating Moe.

"I spent Monday night on the mountain," Raymond Garcia, animal handler and volunteer searcher, said. "The terrain is rough. It's hard to handle even with four-wheel drive."

Searchers remain optimistic that Moe may still be in the area and living off an abundant supply of water and foliage.

"He's eventually going to come down looking for food and human contact," Garcia said.

While Moe may be able to survive in the San Bernardino National Forest, the likelihood of a safe return decreases as each day passes.

"Every day at about 3 or 4 (p.m.) Moe likes to hoot and holler," McCasland said. "He's loud. It's discouraging that we haven't heard any of it."

Moe may have already wandered into one of the homes that scatter the San Bernardino Mountains.

"Someone might have him locked in a room around here," McCasland said. "We've been going door to door asking if anyone has seen him and kind of peeking in."

Another possibility is that Moe may have caught a ride on one of the numerous freight trains that passes within several hundred yards of his enclosure.

"He loves riding in the car," McCasland said. "If he hopped on the train he'd be thinking, `this is great."'

McCasland directed any persons interested in helping to find Moe to meet at 10 a.m., at the Shell gas station in Fontana on the 15 Freeway at Sierra Avenue.

Despite the high price tag and dwindling funding, the search efforts for Moe will intensify over this weekend.

"We're broke," McCasland said. "We need volunteers to work as spotters."

Story here.

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