Beloved Mikee the monkey, known on the East Side and beyond, passes away

photos courtesy of Roy Carlson Mikee the monkey, as he was known by many in the Twin Cities, passed away suddenly on Sept. 1. His “Papa,” Roy Carlson, said Mikee was just shy of 20 years old when he died of a heart attack.

Carlson and Mikee traveled much of the U.S. together, pictured here at the Hoover Dam in Nevada.

Mikee, five months old in this picture, was adopted by Carlson in 1998 from a breeder in Las Vegas. He was a fifth-generation domesticated pig-tailed macaque, a primate native to Southeast Asia.

Mikee, pictured at the Earl Street Dairy Queen, loved ice cream cones, although he was only allowed a bit of ice cream, as sugar wasn’t good for his health.

Carlson said Mikee loved other animals and would often groom the cats that lived with them.

A celebration of life gathering will be held Nov. 5


“The highlight of my life is gone,” said Roy Carlson, also known as “Papa” to his Mikee, who recently passed away.

Mikee was much like any other child — he would pick out his own clothes, diligently eat his and fruits and veggies, and he loved car rides and walks around Lake Phalen.

The only thing was that Mikee was not a human child. He was a pig-tailed macaque, a primate native to Southeast Asia and India.

Mikee died unexpectedly on Sept. 1 from a heart attack. He was 19 years and 10 months old, Carlson said. He would have been 20 on Nov. 7. Carlson, 68, said it’s taken him two months to be able to be composed enough to talk about his loss. 

“It’s been so rough on me,” said Carlson. “He was one of my kids.”


Local celebrity

Mikee was pretty well-known in the Twin Cities. He and Carlson would often be spotted taking walks around Como Lake and Lake Phalen, with fellow walkers and joggers stopping to ask questions. 

Carlson, who currently lives in Maplewood, said he and Mikee were in at least 75 local parades representing St. Paul-based Budget Towing Inc., which Carlson owns and operates. 

He said Mikee loved meeting new people. They would take walks in many neighborhoods, including those on the East Side, and neighbors would come out asking questions.

Mikee’s favorite treat was an ice cream cone from the Earl Street Dairy Queen, which was really mostly cone and not much ice cream, since sugar isn’t the best nutrition for macaques. Carlson laughed remembering how Mikee would tug on his shirt when they would drive past the landmark, asking to stop.

When word began to spread of Mikee’s passing, many people posted their condolences on social media, sharing memories of meeting Mikee; Carlson said he was always well-behaved and respectful.

“I never had to raise my voice,” Carlson said.

Lillie Suburban Newspapers staff recounted a visit Mikee made to the newsroom, in a 2008 story. Mikee became overwhelmed by all the people in the small conference room, shaking and banging the table. 

All Carlson had to do to soothe him was to count to three and Mikee was “transformed,” burying his face in Carlson’s chest and instantly becoming calm.


19 years, 10 months of memories

Macaques have a life expectancy of 35 to 40 years and Carlson said he fully expected Mikee to outlive him, which made his sudden death that much harder.

Despite his grief, Carlson is left with endless happy memories of Mikee from the near 20 years they spent together, every moment of which Carlson said he is grateful for. 

Carlson and his wife Beverly adopted Mikee when he was an infant from a breeder in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1998. 

Mikee was a fifth-generation domesticated macaque, so he was far removed from life in the jungle. After the Carlson’s kids grew up and moved out, the two of them had talked about adopting a child. But when the wait for adoption became too long, they adopted Mikee instead.

Carlson said when he and Beverly first adopted Mikee, he was very much attached to his wife. As Mikee grew older though, Carlson said he began to warm up to his “Papa” and “wanted to be a macho man,” going everywhere with Carlson.

From that point on, Carlson and Mikee were often spotted together across St. Paul and the metro area, 52-pound Mikee always on Carlson’s shoulder — which, Carlson would joke, gave him quite the workout.

Something that sticks out to Carlson is Mikee’s compassion, both for other animals and for humans.

Carlson said Mikee loved cats and would gently groom the felines that lived with Carlson. If he saw roadkill, he would often hang his head in sadness. 

“He was so compassionate,” Carlson said. “He was as human as you could get.”

He understood the concept of death, Carlson explained, telling the story of a former St. Paul police officer and friend of Carlson and Mikee’s who died earlier this year from cancer. When he told Mikee what happened, he hung his head.

“He would pick up on everything,” Carlson said.



In 2005, a law went into effect in Minnesota banning exotic animals, following a series of animal abuse cases. The law allowed animals acquired before 2005 to be grandfathered in, which was the case with Mikee. 

Carlson went to great lengths to take care of Mikee. He had to equip his home with a security system, as a macaque like Mikee could have been worth anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 on the black market. 

He kept Mikee up-to-date on all his shots, bringing him to be examined each year by a primate expert. Every time he came back with a clean bill of health.

The vet would tell Carlson he was doing all the right things regarding Mikee’s health — feeding him fruits, vegetables and fish — which made Mikee’s sudden death so shocking. 

But as Carlson deals with the light of his life going out, he finds comfort in the joy Mikee brought to others.

“He made people’s lives better,” he said, adding that Mikee, as the two of them met people around the metro, “put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.”

“He had a great life.”

A celebration of Mikee’s life will be held on Sunday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 7 p.m. at C.S.P.S Hall, located at 383 Michigan St. off of West Seventh Street in St. Paul.


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto

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