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Monkey killer gets up to seven years

The 22-year-old man who broke into Zoo Boise and killed a Patas monkey in November has been sentenced to two to seven years in prison, KTVB-TV reports. Michael Watkins of Weiser admitted to the drunken incident and apologized; you can see KTVB's full report here. The Idaho Statesman reports here that the judge retained jurisdiction, meaning Watkins could get out on probation if he successfully completes an intensive 9- to 12-month program.

Two new female Patas monkeys bound for Boise Zoo, to join survivor

Boise's city zoo will welcome two new female Patas monkeys within the next few seeks, the city announced today; they'll join the zoo's sole surviving Patas monkey, a male, who was left on his own after his cagemate was killed in a bizarre break-in at the zoo Nov. 17. The zoo is planning a new 1,500-square-foot exhibit for the monkeys, with indoor and outdoor living space and three large viewing windows for the public.

"As Boise has done so many times in the past, we are going to turn a tragedy into a positive new beginning," said Mayor Dave Bieter, "and prove that no single event can dampen our spirit or discourage us from believing in Boise as a truly wonderful place to live." The Friends of Zoo Boise, a volunteer group, has pledged to raise $209,000 for the new exhibit.

Prosecutors say 22-year-old Michael Jacob Watkins broke into the zoo to steal the monkey, and that he beat it to death with a tree branch after the monkey bit him. The Weiser resident is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 5. Click below for the full announcement from the city.

Zoo break-in suspect’s dad defends son, says not ‘malicious monkey murderer’

The father of a 22-year-old man accused of killing a monkey after breaking into an Idaho zoo said he believes the tragedy was a drunken prank that got out of hand and "turned into a horrible situation," the Idaho Statesman newspaper reports. Michael J. Watkins was arrested Monday and faces at least two felonies: burglary, for allegedly breaking into Zoo Boise; and grand theft, for allegedly taking the monkey and beating it so severely that it later died. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday. Watkins' father, Jerry Watkins, defended his son to the newspaper, saying he is "not a malicious monkey murderer;" click below for a full report from the AP and the Statesman.

Idaho Animal Cruelty Law Insufficient

Here is the Idaho Statesman editorial that will run Wednesday re: monkey killing at Boise Zoo:

It isn’t the early morning break-in at Zoo Boise that outraged a community and drew national attention.  It’s what happened after the break-in. When authorities searched the zoo for the intruders, they heard groaning — but could not tell if they were hearing the sound of a human or an animal. Outside a primate cage, they found a 35-pound Patas monkey that had suffered blows to the head and neck. The monkey died from the beating. But on Monday, when 22-year-old Michael Watkins of Weiser was arrested in connection with the killing, animal cruelty was not among the charges. Watkins instead faces two felony charges of burglary and grand theft. … Why no animal cruelty charge? Because Idaho’s recently rewritten animal cruelty law is so embarrassingly weak that it borders on useless. More here. (Boise Police Department booking photo of Michael J. Watkins, 22, a suspect in bludgeoning death of monkey)

Question: Does this case underscore the ridiculousness of Idaho's weak animal cruelty laws?

Suspect in monkey killing charged with two felonies

Michael Watkins, 22, of Weiser, has been charged with two felonies, burglary and grand theft, in connection with the death of a Patas monkey at the Boise Zoo early Saturday morning. He was arrested this afternoon in Washington County, where he is currently in custody; click below for the full Boise Police Department news release.

"I know the community demands and deserves answers to the many questions that surround this senseless crime," Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson said at a news conference this evening. "This case is long on emotions and short on facts, for the time being." More information will come out during the court process to come, he said. "We obviously have more information than we are able to provide tonight. Our detectives have done an outstanding job."

The arrest was made around 2 p.m. today, Masterson said, following up on a citizen tip received last night, and the suspect's seeking treatment at a local hospital where "the story did not seem to mesh with the injuries."

Masterson said the second person sighted outside the zoo has been identified and contacted, but not charged. The suspect who was arrested had injuries to his upper torso, the chief said. A gray baseball cap that was recovered inside the zoo "was found to be the hat that the individual, the suspect that we arrested, had worn that evening," Masterson said. He added, "These may not be the only two charges that this individual faces."

Arrest made in monkey killing at Boise Zoo

Police have arrested one person in connection with the death of a monkey at Zoo Boise, the AP reports. Police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said no other information was immediately available, but officers and a representative from Zoo Boise were expected to hold a press conference Monday evening. The Patas monkey was found dead of blunt force trauma to the head and neck early Saturday morning, shortly after a zoo security guard frightened away two male intruders. The death left zoo workers shocked and devastated, zoo director Steve Burns said, and prompted an organization called Crime Stoppers to offer an award of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest of the culprits. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Slaying of monkey at Boise Zoo leaves zoo fans stunned; reward offered

Sad news surfaced over the weekend in Boise, with the news that intruders at the Boise Zoo had killed a beloved Patas monkey. The future of the monkey's cagemate, shown here, is uncertain, as the social primates don't like to be housed alone; the Boise zoo may get another, or may have to find a new home for the remaining monkey. The AP reports that police are following leads in the search for the two intruders, and that it's not yet clear whether the zoo break-in early Saturday morning was a prank that turned violent or something done with more sinister intent.

The monkey was found outside its exhibit, near the perimeter fence of the zoo, shortly after a security guard scared off two intruders; it had a head injury, and died shortly after. The zoo was closed for most of the day Saturday as police searched for evidence. You can read KTVB-TV's full report here, including a clue - police found a gray ballcap that may have been left by one of the intruders; and the Idaho Statesman's full report here; this AP photo of the remaining Patas monkey is by the Statesman's Katherine Jones. A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon, Boise Police announced that they've made an arrest; they scheduled a press conference for 7 p.m. to release more information.

Wolverine study training volunteers in Sandpoint

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Volunteers with skills to travel deep into the backcountry on skis or snowshoes are being trained for monitoring bait stations involved in an Idaho-Montana wolverine research project.

Wolverines are a backcountry-loving secretive member of the weasel family protected by the Endangered Species Act.

A "Bait Station Leader" training course will be held Saturday, (Dec. 3) from noon to 5 p.m. at the Sandpoint Ranger District offices at 1602 Ontario. (Another is planned for Jan. 14.) The program:

  • Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists Michael Lucid and Lacy Robinson will hold a session on bait station construction and maintenance.
  • Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will give an avalanche training.
  • Hang out with mustelid and winter tracking expert Brian Baxter in the classroom and then in the woods and learn more about who you are sharing the forest with. 
  • A talk winter travel basics also will be presented.
Interested? RSVP by Thursday to mustelids@scotchmanpeaks.org to take the Bait Station Leader training.
If you are interested in helping with this project, but would rather not be a Bait Station Leader, please respond to info@scotchmanpeaks.org
The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness group is giving the wolverine research a big boost by helping to secure funding as well as providing manpower.

Wolverine study gets boost from Scotchman Peaks group effort

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Wolverine research in North Idaho and northwestern Montana got a big boost Friday from an online voting campaign spearheaded by the Friends of the Scotchman-Peaks Wilderness.

The group generated enough enthusiasm and web clicks from supporters to win a public vote for a $29,700 grant from Zoo Boise. The wolverine study proposal written by FSPW executive Phil Hough will enable Idaho Fish and Game Deparment researchers to continue their study and upgrade their research on the reclusive creatures in the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains.

Job opportunity: The grant will help fund a part-time wolverine study coordinator.  Check here for the job description and application.

Vote online to boost wolverine study in Idaho Panhandle

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are asking people to vote online before Oct. 28 to help them garner nearly $30,000 in grants from Zoo Boise that would be applied to wolverine research in North Idaho.

Visit the Zoo Boise projects website for details. Review the the wolverine proposal and the seven other finalists and then vote for your two favorites in each category. The four projects with the most votes will each receive a grants. One vote per person is allowed.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness has partnered with Idaho Fish and Game and the Idaho Conservation League on a proposal for an Idaho Panhandle Wolverine Study.

Wolverines (Gulo gulo) were recently classified as ‘warranted but precluded’ for listing as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Only about 35 breeding wolverine females are roaming the lower 48 states.

Read on for more details about the North Idaho project.